We all remember the days of elementary school lunches or for that matter cheap, gross food called “mystery meat.” My kids had a traumatic experience during one of our evening meals in the hostel in Cortona.
First, I’d like to diverge for a second and just talk about portion sizes. There is a huge difference between Italy and the United States regarding portion sizes. The most notable difference lies with pasta dishes. Italians think of pasta as one part of the meal and limit the amount of pasta they give between 80 and 100 grams. That’s around 3 ounces for you Americans out there. Whenever I go to Italian restauarants in the USA, I feel like I’m drowning in pasta. Also, Italians will walk off every bit of that pasta just getting around. Below is a rough illustration of the difference in portion size that I’m talking about.
Now of course these pictures are hardly scientific. But, I would bet that people who studied abroad with me and kids on my trip would back me up on this observation. Anyone want to weigh in?
Back to the story in question. That night, we had a delicious “primo piatto” or first plate of pasta with a fresh tomato sauce. Then, came the mystery meat. Now, to be clear, the meat did not resemble the color, texture, taste or anything of the mystery meat from elementary school days past. But, the kids had no idea what it was.
I had spoken to Sergio beforehand, so I knew. It was chicken that he had prepared quickly by breading it and frying it on the stove. It was good. The kids, however, wanted to debate and had no bloody clue. I decided to let them sweat, and figured I would eventually tell them. Then, the magic happened.
In walks this sweet, older lady who does some cooking and cleans the hostel daily. She speaks no English, but is very anxious to communicate with the kids in whatever way possible. She approaches them, notices they haven’t finished the meat and reassures them. What she says is, “Gato. Meow!” Gato, of course, means cat.
I wish you could have seen the color drain out of their faces. Some of them looked as though they were going to vomit. I prepared the kids for a lot, but eating cat? Well, what she meant was, “Don’t worry if you don’t finish because I’ll give the leftovers to the cat.” I communicated this and they went back to eating. Some color returned to their faces.
Perhaps some of them remember how one Italian chef got into hot water earlier in 2010 for his culinary choices. Yum!