At the beginning of my time in Italy last year, I kept a food diary because I wanted to remember every exquisite detail of what I was putting into my mouth. I thought it was a brilliant idea and I started off well, noting down every single thing I ate…for about five days only. In the end, I only managed to fill half a page of my small notebook before completely forgetting about it.
I’ve always been hopeless at writing in travel journals and have scattered entries going back to the early 2000s. They’re always from the start of a trip and rarely past the first week or so. With my upcoming two-week trip to Sri Lanka next month, I’m going to try to see if I can be a bit more disciplined about it. But I wouldn’t place any money on this happening!
My blog posts tend to be summaries, which are still great as far as recording goes, but when you blog you lose the immediacy of experiences by writing much later on. There’s also something about typing that’s also distancing. Still, at least I’m keeping some sort of record, right? I’ll sometimes read past blog posts I have no memory of. I recently came across an old post featuring a friend and I sent him a text to ask, “Do you remember this night? Who were we with?” His recollection wasn’t much better than mine but what I wrote provided a useful prompt.
It’s TOTALLY worth keeping records of some kind from your travels because you’ll inevitably forget a lot of it. That’s life, of course, but what a pity to not have something. There’s certainly the problem of taking oneself out of the moment but there’s usually the space to steal away at an appropriate pause to jot down things or take a quick photo.
I was once given a tip that if you aim to just jot down a few words each day, it’s more likely that you’ll actually keep it up. Which was the inspiration behind writing down what I ate, instead of just taking photos of food like I normally do.
So with my list from Italy and with no obvious visual cues, does it help? Well, it actually does help jog my memory a little and I know exactly where some of that eating took place. Like the ferro di cavallo, a horseshoe-shaped pastry that’s a regional specialty. I had it for breakfast with an espresso at a corner cafe in the centre of town. I also clearly recall eating gelato from Gelateria La Romana the first time as it went on to become a favourite haunt. But actually, I took photos of that first visit and wrote about it on Facebook at the time, which is probably why I remember eating it so well.
However, the other dishes I’ve written about I don’t easily recall at all, though they sound interesting – spaghetti al cartoccio is served baked in foil, and you’d think I’d remember but I can’t quite imagine in what context that was eaten. Perhaps I was having dinner with some of my friends and it was one of the dishes we shared. I’m also impressed by all the food I ate on the Saturday, where there was clearly a large platter of cheese and meat on offer. One of the words, ‘soppressata’, a kind of dry Italian salami, is written in the hand of one of my Italian hosts. I definitely recall asking him to write that down for me but were they the ones who supplied it to me?… OH! As I write this, I remember now — it was at a gathering at their home that I was there for, and much of that delicious food was brought by their friends. I believe the ‘soppressata’ came from a special market in the town centre and the friend that bought it, I was told, always knew where to get the best stuff there.
It actually surprises me to finally remember this after having no memory of it at all this past day. In any case, one thing’s for sure: I was clearly a big pig at the start of my time in Padova. By the end of it all though, I ate far more modestly because I developed a better sense of the typical rhythm of a northern Italian diet.
Spaghetti al cartoccio, fritto misto, pizza margherita, gelato (yoghurt, banana, lampone)
Brioche, cappuccino, Napoli sandwich, proscecco, moscardini (folpi), trouta, paprika, grissini
Espresso, ferro di cavallo, melanzane alla parmigiana, gelato (yoghurt, miele, crema dal 1947)
Fragole, yoghurt, cafe marocchino, spaghetti, insalata, pizza, panna
Ribbolita, pappa al pomodoro, coccoli, percorino stagionato – semi-stagionato prosciutto, salami, finocchiona, lardo, soppressata, bicchiere