I quit my job. I went to Italy. I made a no-podcast rule and wandered around Rome. I didn’t sleep. I took the subway on a weekday morning with commuters and pretended to anxiously check my email so I would blend in. I saw the Colosseum at sunrise and had the place to myself, then jumped a train to Orvieto to climb a medieval bell tower and look out over peaceful wine country. I sat at the Trevi Fountain when it was so deserted I could actually hear the water (it made me have to pee). I lost track of how many caffe macchiatos I drank — all of them standing at the bar, as the Italians do; most of them just because but at least some because I was miles from my hotel and had to use the restroom. I sent my grandma a postcard from the Pope, postmarked from Vatican City. I found an amazing gelato place down the street from my hotel — which had crazy flavors like black sesame and gorgonzola — and I think I am singlehandedly responsible for the woman behind the counter increasing her English vocabulary to include the phrase “only two tastes then you buy.” I went HAM at a pork store (they vacuum sealed sausage and proscuitto, which added about 30 pounds to my carry-on). I ate nothing but pasta and cornettos my entire trip. On my last day I figured out how Italians manage to down an entire cornetto without getting a single crumb on their clothes (the trick: always hold the pastry with a napkin over the plate on the bar) (yes, that means I got crumbs on my clothes every other morning of the trip). I would eat a plate of pasta for lunch, then walk until I managed to gin up an appetite for pasta dinner. I averaged about 30,000 steps each day and wore out a pair of sneakers. I took my meals alone, and by the second night it was empowering. But I also missed the BF terribly — each time I held up just one finger to a hostess and mumbled “uno per la cena” but also when I would walk around a corner and be stunned to see ancient ruins or beautiful architecture, which happened constantly and I know is the thing he loves most about traveling. It was the first time I traveled alone and it was occasionally lonely, but I can’t wait to do it again.
What did I make as soon as I got home? Salad, obviously. Specifically, Ina Garten’s flawless greek salad full of tomatoes and cucumbers, zested up with a red wine vinegar-based dressing. There will be time for pasta — I don’t start my new job for another week and a half and I have a ton of Roman-inspired ideas swirling around my head. But for now, I’m crunching on cucumbers and tomatoes, and I’ll toss the leftovers with farro to make a hearty springtime grain salad. I’m glad to be back, guys! Ciao!
- 2 cucumbers, peeled and chopped into ½-inch dice
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half long-wise
- ½ red onion, sliced in very thin half moons
- 8 oz. feta cheese (not crumbles), drained and chopped
- ½ c. kalamata olives, roughly chopped
- ½ bunch parsley leaves, roughly chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 t. dried oregano
- 1 t. whole grain mustard
- ¼ c. red wine vinegar
- 1 t. kosher salt
- ½ c. olive oil
- Toss salad ingredients together in a large bowl. In a glass jar with a lid, combine all dressing ingredients and shake until well-combined. Pour dressing over salad and toss thoroughly. Taste and adjust salt. Serve immediately.