I've always inwardly rolled my eyes when friends tell me they're going on a crash diet, trying to skinny down for an event in a week or so. How can the human body in all its majestic complexity adjust to your whims in such a short time? Surely all the processes that go on in there to keep us functioning are far too evolved and essential to be diverted to melting the flab off our upper arms just in time for the wedding photos. Yes, exercise and diet could make a difference over a period of months - even The Biggest Loser contestants have that long to shed the pounds. But really, how fast can your weight change?

It turns out that it takes fifteen days. In Italy. For gaining it, anyway. I'm quite amazed, given my former ignorant sneering, that it is entirely possible to go up a couple of sizes in a fortnight. My holiday in Italy with Maurizio's family can be viewed as a tasty version of the Super Size Me experiment. Following a well-planned and strictly adhered-to regime of eating loads of really good food all day long, it takes fifteen days to put on the weight. It only took eleven days to become a broken, tubby mess, and actually say: thanks, I won't have seconds.

The thing is, over-eating in Italy doesn't feel like too much. The food is all good and fresh and tasty: bread is made by bakers, meat comes from the butcher, vegetables are grown on the farm, herbs are picked from the balcony. The food is the main topic of conversation, always - my morning coffee was taken out on the balcony to be drunk during the discussion of What To Have For Lunch, and at each proper meal, the benefits and failings of rival suppliers and cooking methods are picked over with the antipasti. The food is prepared with love. It would be foolish not to eat lots of it, all the time. And then there does tend to be lots of it. Look at these pictures. So much amazing food, all gone now. Although luckily I only need to prod any protuberance on my body to remember it.

"May I have something to nibble on with my beer please?"

Porquetta at the corner shop. You CAN order it by the slice, apparently, but it would be rude to do so. Rude and ungrateful.
Pasta from pans this big. What to do?

A tree of prosciutto, a decorated officer, and a nurse from the past.

Ordered a prosecco mid-morning? You get a bowl of parmesan with it.

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