La Dolce Vita

I like to think I’m a healthy balance of both ethnicities: My passion and temper are all Sicilian (much to my Papà’s pride). And my love of Kath & Kim, Vegemite on toast, and walking barefoot up the street make me a product of this beautiful sunburnt country. Not to mention the fact that I can recite the entire opening song to Round the Twist.

When I’ve visited Italy, Sicily in particular, there is a part of me that feels like I’m home. My soul feels connected to the land and culture, like someone who meets a long-lost sibling later in life but feels that instant connection. I love spending time there but imagine I could never live in Italy. Everyone moves soooooo slowly! Walking along the beach with the family after a big bowl of pasta is like the march of a 100yr old tortoise. When my cousins came to visit Australia, I took them to Taronga Zoo and kept them to a rather tight schedule to ensure that we saw as many animals as possible. They nick-named me The Sargent! In my defence, they spent 20 minutes watching a bear sleep. Um hello? The Bird Show was starting at 1!

There is one part of the Italian lifestyle that I really wish I could live by and that’s their relationship with food.

I feel like Italians treat food like the truest love of their life, while so many of us treat food like the cheap mistress we just slept with and are pushing out the side door before our wives come home and catch us.

I spent the majority of my life as a dancer and a singer so the word ‘diet’ was ingrained into me from a very young age. I remember being on diets and having nightmares that I would demolish an entire tray of cakes and wake up sweating, before feeling so relieved that it was just a dream I didn’t break my diet.

I lead a very health conscious life. I eat a large amount of vegetables and organic food, I limit my intake of sugar and processed foods, I don’t smoke, I only drink at special occasions and I exercise daily. But I’m the first to admit that I have an addictive personality and if someone in the office announces cake in the kitchen, I no longer a hear a word people say for the rest of the day, all I hear in my head is CAKE, CAKE, CAKE! Until I either give in and shove three pieces into my mouth then spend the rest of the afternoon berating myself or I distract myself by eating a hard-boiled egg.

         (actual footage of my lack of restraint)

The older I get though, the more I count emotional and mental health as just as important as physical health, if not more so. It’s kind of a package deal, as one affects the other. I’ve become more flexible with what I eat in an effort to increase my enjoyment. When I go out with friends, I indulge a little more and try not to think how it will affect my appearance.

I remember reading an article once, where nursing home staff were interviewed about what people said on their death beds. The top ten included such sentiments as “I wish I spent more time with my family”, “I wish I stopped and smelled the roses more”. No one ever said “I wish I worked harder”,I wish I didn’t eat that extra piece of birthday cake”.

How many of you eat breakfast standing up at the kitchen counter, or shove lunch into your mouth at your desk in between calls?

Italians do not.

They sit down and make a ritual out of a meal. Everything is laid out on the table like a feast, with the freshest, aromatic produce such as sliced tomatoes and bocconcini, covered in olive oil and basil, with crusty bread to soak up the juices. You would usually not eat alone either. You would have your family sitting around (enough people to fill a small village) and you would sit together and eat slowly, talking to one another, without the distraction of phones or television.

Image result for the sopranos eating( The Sopranos had a few good meals together before killing each other off)

Remember the scene in Goodfellas when a few of the men were in prison and they had their wives smuggle in salami? They cut garlic finely with a razor blade and made a rich, tomato, pasta sauce and they all sat together and had a feast…in their prison cell. Ain’t nothin’ gonna keep an Italian away from a good meal.

I remember in my childhood, my mum laughing at my Papà because we’d be eating lunch and he’d already be planning dinner. I used to come home on a Sunday afternoon and the smell of garlic simmering in olive oil would be wafting down the street. My Papà would be in the kitchen sipping on red wine and singing Italian Opera music as he cooked. It was, and still is, his true enjoyment.

Another fabulous comparison of Italians v Westerners is from the character Luca Spaghetti in the movie adaption of Elizabeth Gilbert’s biographical novel: Eat, Pray, Love. Luca tells Liz (played by the beautiful Julia Roberts) as she whines about her guilt of eating carbs;

“You feel guilty because you’re American. You don’t know how to enjoy yourself! It’s true. Americans know entertainment, but don’t know pleasure. You work too hard. You get burned out. Then you come home and spend the whole weekend… in your pajamas in front of the TV. But you don’t know pleasure. You have to be told you’ve earned it. You see a commercial that says, ‘It’s Miller time’… and you say, ‘That’s right. Now I will go to buy a six-pack’. And drink the whole thing and wake up the next morning and you feel terrible. But an Italian doesn’t need to be told. He walks by a sign that says, ‘You deserve a break today’… and he says, ‘Yeah, I know. That’s why I’m planning on taking a break at noon… to go over to your house and sleep with your wife’.”

Perhaps this is why there is not a binge drinking culture in Italy. They don’t binge on anything. They enjoy everything, slowly.

It’s my aim to have a better relationship with food. After all, we are lucky to have healthy, nutritious meals at our fingertips daily when so many of our global brothers and sisters are quite literally starving.

I’ve started saying a prayer of gratitude before each meal. Though it doesn’t have to be to God if you’re not a person of faith. Louise Hay (author and Wonder Woman) used to bless each and every meal she ate. She would thank her food for giving up its life to nourish her.

My wish for you this long, Easter weekend is that you savour every morsel of food that you ingest. That you spend time with your loved ones and really listen to everything they have to say.

May you treat your food with the same regard that you’d treat Ryan Gosling lying on Japanese silk.

Buon appetito!

Image result for ryan gosling in bed

Reality, shmeality

I have a confession to make. I have a terrible hangover.

All the symptoms are there. I have a headache, my neck is sore, I’m irritable and I’m way behind in my housework.

And yet, I haven’t had a drink in weeks.

I suspect I’m not the only Australian suffering from this hangover right now. And the culprit…MAFS!

I’ve been known to dabble in the occasional reality show in the past, but I’ve never watched a season of MAFS before this year. I’ve never really had much interest, or I was too busy watching people carry on about their dead grandmother’s recipe on MKR.

A few weeks ago, on an idle Sunday afternoon I was cooking my meal prep for my partner and I for the week and the TV just happened to be on and a catch-up of the previous week’s MAFS was on. Within about 8 minutes; the stove was turned off, my feet were curled up on the couch and I was completely and utterly hooked! The first wedding I saw was Matt and Alycia’s, and the Disney Princess inside me was adamant she was watching a real life love story unfold. Alicia was just beautiful and kind and Matt was all jittery nerves and gentle manners.

Fast forward a few weeks to the final week and I had to grab my calculator to realise that I had spent a total of 48 hours watching this show over a 7 week period! (Grab your calculators now: 4 x 1.5hr episodes a week = a country obsessed). And not only did Matt leave Alycia high and dry with little explanation straight after their honeymoon, but hardly any of the original couples (possibly none) are still together and I find myself feeling betrayed by complete strangers for not trying harder to make it work!

I’m pretty sure I was following each and every MAFS personality on Insta until one by one, they kept pissing me off and I started hitting that unfollow button. There’s homewrecker Davina (#Davina # coconut oil), misogynist Dean (who miraculously had me warming up to him in the end, in spite of him being a 39yr old rapper and skateboarder) poor old lip-licking Tracey (who had every woman facepalming week after week, even with the help of Holy Oprah watching over her) and everyone’s favourite loud mouth Charlene (who started as our Wonder Woman but quickly had us scratching our heads as she screeched at the nicest guy in the experiment to “Be a Maaaan” every time he did what we’re always saying we want our partners to do: share his feelings).

We all got way to invested in the lives of average, Australian strangers who will now return to their own fame-free lives. It was the water cooler chat at every office around the country (not to mention the hilarious recap articles by James Weir) and it even had straight, male, footballers hooked…whether they admit it publicly or not (I’ve seen the insta stories fellas). It was marketing genius and well done to the producers for not only creating a nation-wide addiction, but including contestants who aren’t all white and blonde (I’m looking at you The Bachelor). I just hope next year we see some same sex couples.

I have, however, come to the realisation that not only did MAFS make me unproductive; it made me somewhat anxious. Watching people yell at each other at dinner parties or immoral people prowling after other people’s wives or husbands with little or no regard for their current spouses creates a feeling inside me that is not calm or loving. Even MKR, that is advertised as a reality cooking show, has turned into a bizarre version of Real Housewives that sees contestants hurling more insults at each other than food onto a plate. I’m all for a little light entertainment but pitting people against each other on TV is getting a little out of hand and I worry that it’s becoming the norm, more than making friends with someone in a line at the bank.

I went for a long walk along Cronulla esplanade this afternoon and I smiled at strangers and they smiled back at me. I stopped at the top of the cliff and did some deep breathing over looking the ocean and I felt good. I felt clear in my head.

I am now going on a Reality TV Detox. I have asked my partner to crash tackle me if he catches me having a sneak peek at any upcoming Bachelor shows or cooking shows….but I’ll be damned if I’m letting go of Gogglebox or Travel Guides. That would be un-Australian.