Italy: It’s All About the Food

** Guest Post Contributed by Nancy DePutter **

When my husband and I decided to take a trip to Italy last fall I was thrilled to experience a country known and loved for so many things; history,  art, food, culture, fashion, wine, food. Did I mention food?

Let’s back up a minute. 

Food has played a leading role in my health for years. I’ve had a love affair (okay, obsession) for healthy food and all the trends that go with it for  20 years. Anything new and healthy, I was on it. It didn’t matter what it tasted like (and some of it tasted pretty bad) -if it was healthy, it was on my plate. I devoured (no pun intended) any literature I could get my hands on about the latest super food. 

At times I’ve been meat free, gluten free, yeast free, pesticide free, fat free, and dairy free. I was vegetarian and somewhat vegan until our teenage daughters decided to start eating meat again. I’ve super juiced, made everything from scratch and refused to eat anything that was not local or organic. 

Rigid you might say? Of course. But there was a comfort in eating this way too, a sort of delusional guarantee that food would be the first class ticket to good health.

At the time we were preparing for this trip, I was gluten free and vegetarian. Yes, a little anxious about what I could eat. What I didn’t know was that it would be nearly impossible to eat like that where we were in Italy. Pizza and pasta and wild boar was everywhere. Forget rice cakes, veggie burgers and almond flour cookies.

On the second day I knew I was going to have to make a choice between being miserable for 10 days depriving myself of all the local cuisine or leaping off my gluten free, vegetarian wagon and go for broke. Which did I choose? You guessed it.

I ate pizza almost every single day for lunch because it was the best pizza in the world. I ate pasta like there was no tomorrow. I ate salami in a deli in Francis of Assisi that was to die for. And I drank wine like it was water. Reckless abandonment in all it’s glory.

And guess what? I felt great. Gluten coming out of my ears, I still felt great. In fact I felt better than I had in a long time without worrying how much kale I had to eat in one week. I was amazed.

When I came home what I didn’t realize, is that this two week holiday would have a long lasting effect on me. I can not longer get myself whipped into a frenzy about doing food ‘right.’ I started buying whole grain bread, and making lasagnas again. I enjoy meat and it makes me feel better for eating it. I’m passing up the latest findings on the best new healthy food in favour of a new recipe that calls my name, cheese and all.

Have I totally changed? No. And I never will. I truly am passionate about healthy food and am so grateful for the abundance of it all around us. I continue to buy organic food whenever I can, because I believe in it.  I still love my kale. I just don’t worry about eating it for the sake of my health (at least not quite as much). And I believe that food is still a big player in health. It’s just not the only player.

One night in Rome we ate dinner at a communal table that included an Italian couple. After lots of good wine, good food and  laughs, the wife shared their motto.”We have to work, we have to sleep. We love to eat.” 

Amen to that.

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