This is the second part of the blog on Antonella’s story of coming to America…
One night I went to the grocery store since I was craving Caprese Salad. I wanted to buy some Mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, olive oil and basil. I had gained 10 pounds since being here and longed for my normal Italian food.
Although I was able to purchase similar items for my salad, after eating the meal I was disappointed. The salad did not have the same taste, and I realized just as I was adapting my life to America I needed to adapt my food to survive.
How did I adjust to living here, grocery shopping healthfully and avoiding further weight gain?
I remember my first time at the grocery store, which was both exciting and overwhelming.
The store was enormous compared to what I was used to with multiple brands of the same product, and multi-ethnic foods on every shelf.
Grocery shopping in Italy is far different with small stores that have fewer items. In addition, most Italians go to multiple stores each week including the bakery for daily bread, the fish market for fresh fish, the butcher for meat and poultry, and the dairy farmer for milk, yogurt and cheese.
The other point of interest for me was seeing “organic” labeling on products. Most southern Italians have gardens or families with gardens and therefore have access to fruits and vegetables grown organically year round.
In Italy you don’t see organic labeling that often and I liked being able to know where my produce was coming from in America.
Since I came here, I gained 10 pounds and I wondered if I was eating more trying to satisfy my old tastes. The tomatoes tasted different, the cheese was not the same and there was no fresh bread in my neighborhood, and I was eating much more quickly.
Here’s how I westernized myself while maintaining my Italian roots:
- I still spend time cooking my own tomato sauce each week and make sure to buy Italian olive oil even if it costs more than I’m used to paying
- I still go to multiple stores to make meals that are close to my Italian heritage
- I discovered adding avocado to my meals adds flavor to my food, something I did not use much in Italy
- I’m exercising more than I did before which is helping to avoid further weight gain
Now my Caprese Salad is made with avocado instead of just cheese, tomatoes, olive oil and basil and I actually love the new taste. Being here has opened my eyes to a different way of cooking and healthful living. I can now enjoy many types of foods which I had no knowledge of before, still enjoying my own cultural foods and mixing the two to evolve into my new independent self.
This blog was co-written by Dietitian and RD Intern Antonella Rica and Susan Dopart