Friday, January 26, 2007

The Things I Miss

After nearly eight months in Italia, we’ve become rather well acclimated to our new surroundings and feel we’ve assimilated pretty well (slow language skills not withstanding). Other than friends and family that we miss seeing and speaking to regularly, there aren’t many things from home that we’ve felt we really, really couldn’t live without.

We’ve heard many laments from expat acquaintances (and friends who formerly lived in Italy) about the things they just crave so much they must have these items brought to them (or incur costly shipping in order to procure them). Cheddar cheese seems to top the list, something that I confess confounds me a bit since there are something like 200 varieties of cheese in this country, and I’ve already found a few types that work well on Mexican dishes, the chief reason for wanting cheddar. Lest you think I’m not an aficionado of Mexican cuisine, refer to the title of my blog. I love the spicy stuff. I figure I’d be able to find replacement ingredients to get a “hot fix”, if green chile is not available to me. Of course, it may be easier for me to say that while I’m still hoarding a stash.

Chocolate chips seems to be a big one, too. My friend Cindy lived in Lucca for three years and complained about not getting the little, perfectly-formed chips. I just chop up a chocolate bar and call it good; I don’t think my cookies suffer. Some want a specific brand of mayo, yellow mustard, and cranberry sauce. I even heard about a lady who brought a whole turkey (the kind with the little pop-up timer) tucked into her suitcase!

But to each her own, and while there are not particular products I feel I need, there are two things that I just can’t obtain here and I can’t import them either: a good massage and a decent haircut.

The haircut thing I don’t understand. There are parrucchiere all over the place. I see women with gorgeous hair. Why can’t I find a competent stylist? I say, “just trim a little” and next thing I know I’m clipped into a retro-punk, spikey thing. Grazie mille. I’ve tried different stylists. I’ve looked up words diligently to make sure they comprehend and have repeated myself, then asking, “Ha capito?” Si si, they always tell me before hacking away. I’d consider flying to the States for a decent ‘do, but I’ve had issues there, too. I guess it’s my universal thorn to annoy me all my days.

The massage thing is a whole other ballgame. I went for monthly massages in New Mexico and had a talented masseuse who worked out the knots and kneaded the muscles to elasticity. Sheeting, draping, warmed rooms, relaxing music…you know, the usual professional massage.

Here, on the other hand, one must check her modesty at the door. Not only is there no draping, the therapist waits in the room while I undress. I must hustle across the cold tiles to jump onto the table, where no modesty sheet awaits. Let it all hang out seems to be the philosophy. Just a tad awkward and unnerving. The first massaggatrice I visited in Anzio allowed me the privacy to undress, but she handed me a little plastic baggy containing a white wad inside. I unfolded it to find a paper thong bikini that I was to put on. I cannot describe how uncomfortable that was. Oil is another issue. They use enough to fry a Thanksgiving turkey, and by the end the table is so slick I dang near slide right off. This is the routine at all three therapists’ I’ve visited so I’m guessing it’s just the way things operate around here. A massage is not the relaxing experience I’m accustomed to.

These are the things that I miss and can’t obtain, so I’ll not judge those who can’t get their coveted cheese or chocolate chips. We all have our comfort zone we want to maintain. Mine has slid away with the massage oil and the paper thong. I think I’ll give up the dream of relaxation and learn to live with a bit of muscle tension for the time being. If any traveling massage therapists or hair stylists happen to be coming this way, let me know if you’ll do house calls.

copyright 2007 Valerie Schneider


Anonymous said...

Oh, no, no, no. CLEARLY you have not been introduced to Alberto at Laboratorio Figaro in Testaccio. He is a hair GOD and I have assisted in converting many of his now devotees. He was my first parucchiere and has remained the only one, 6th year running, and I always get tons of compliments, as does every single person I've ever sent to him, so it can't be a fluke. Since you haven't had any decent experiences yet, with your expectations low, what have you got to lose? Email me and I'll send you the number, we could even go for coffee.

As for a whole turkey in the suitcase, I'd have to see it to believe it. And yes, cheddar is tops on my list. What do you use as a substitute? The best I've come is "provolone piccante."

J.Doe said...

That's very funny how they use enough oil so you practically slide off the table during your massage.

dorshua said...

Valerie, I just discovered your essays on and just wanted to tell you that they are a delight to read. They were an awesome find for an arm chair traveler like myself. Kudos to you both for having the courage to live your dreams in the here and now.
(Queens, New York)

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

I have been lurking at your blog for a minute.

I don't know how far you are from Rome but there is a salon called Noi near Piazza del Popolo that I hear is great. The owners are Italian (he lived in the U.S for years) and American.

Also check out the Aveda Spa near the Spanish Steps mabye they offer massages. I know one of the best ones I have ever received was at one of their spas in NYC.

Good luck!

Valerie said...

Shelley, I'll need to make the 3 hour trip to take you up on that! It's getting desperate and shaggy. Plus it would be worth it to get to meet you :) I have a hard time believing the turkey in the suitcase story, too! As for cheddar you're on the right track, but grate the provolone piccante fine and mix it with equal part of grated Fontal or Casciotta mista. Now we're talking!

J, yes, very funny. Very, very funny indeed. From your side of the table, that is. :))

Dorshua, welcome and thanks for your sweet comments. It made my day!

Ragazza, I'm about 3 hours from Rome. Why didn't I think of an Aveda salon? Of course, they have good massage therapists! Wish I'd thought of that when I was in Anzio, only an hour train ride from Roma. Sigh. I'll need to make a beauty weekend trip.

Mama Jo said...

Valerie, Good luck with the suggestions you've received. Keep trying... there must be both a good salon and a good massage -- after all, it IS ITALY!

As to the 'cravings'-- we delivered (under protest) Kraft mac&cheese, Jello (!!), and Bengay. Another was vanilla extract.
Our cheddar craving evaporated after the 1st year, but must confess we bought extra in trips to England, as that was better than anything in the US.

Valerie said...

Mama Jo - let me just guess who wanted the mac-n-cheese and jello! Ick. I don't eat that junk in the US, I sure wouldn't want it here! I have found adequate substitutes for the cheddar and indulge in the great local pecorinos (I don't know how many varieties there are!) and other great cheeses. Bryan is still on his "gorgonzola on everything" kick; it's like a drug.