I’ve just returned from an amazing Sicilian vacation and to say that I miss family, friends, both new and old, would be the understatement of the year.
No sooner than we touched down in NYC, I found myself driving to the office. Yup. Seventeen blurry hours later I was planted in front of my computer, tucked away in my remote corner of the world, gray walls and frigid air conditioning blowing against my back. No palm trees, no mountains, no crystal blue water, no distant giggles from my daughter playing with her cousins, no fish or fruit vendors announcing their goodies throughout town, no church bells, no mopeds zooming by, no welcome breeze, no pasticiotti, no cornetto, no granita con brioche…niente. Nothing could even come close to the paradise I experienced for two whole weeks.
It was a tad traumatic. Funny thing is, on that morning the above mentioned wasn’t what got me all wet behind the lids. It was simply the fact that my breakfast included what little remained of the homemade biscotti al latte I brought back, the sacred stash that my mother-in-law and I slaved, baked, and laughed over in her mod red kitchen (tale and recipe to come).
But Sicilian desserts are sweet bliss, a welcome toothache if you ask me and worth the extra effort when made from scratch. And to slowly transition myself back to reality and avoid serious foodie depression, I decided I was going to keep this sugary breakfast tradition alive.
Now if you travel to Italy with the intent of visiting family, you know that eating is practically a 24-hour run, an Olympic sport, a physical and mental challenge of the highest degree served with a side of severe guilt. From the aperitif to the main course, if it’s not your aunt, it’s your grandmother, if it’s not your grandmother, it’s your mother, your sister, your niece or your cousin offering, if not insisting on seconds or thirds, of what was already “portion control” gone completely out of control. You block your plate, blatantly refuse, beg and plead, attempt to distract, smile under pressure… give in.
Then just when you think it’s over, here comes dessert. Hence the pent up fear upon returning home. You walk down the hall, the curiosity is maddening. You finally reach the bathroom only to make eye contact with (Oh my God I’m sweating)…the dreaded scale.
Forgive me while I laugh hysterically. Guilt rears it’s ugly head every year and like clock-work this ridiculous scenario plays out with the same end result. I finally get on that stupid scale, visions of chocolate decadence dance through my head, I brace for the worst, look down and realize I haven’t gained a pound. That’s right and there’s no mystery behind it.
When on summer vacation in Italy, and especially if you have a little one, the word “sedentary” ceases to exist . You are exposed to, or rather blessed with a country that calls for the highest quality food standards, basically a much healthier diet and plenty of things to see and do. And if you are really fortunate, you have a farmer in the family, or reside in close proximity to a local market. Let us not forget, no work, equals less stress and more play, which grants you a well-deserved siesta every afternoon.
In short, life really is sweet when you don’t have to say “no” to dessert or painfully pay the price in the form of one dress or pant size bigger this fall.
For all of these glorious reasons, I not only kept my transition sweet but also guilt and gluten free. Here’s a delightfully rich, Flourless Chocolate Cake with a touch of sweet vermouth. Share this over breakfast with espresso, late afternoon tea or as an evening treat. It’s easy and beyond worth it. Buon appetito!