Of coffee cups and caprese, of hazelnuts and things

IMAG0377My ugly American moment coming back from Rome (an odyssey that involved a two-hour delay leaving Rome, rebookings in Heathrow, and frantic sprinting through the Vancouver airport to make my connection to Seattle, not to mention middle seats on every flight including being stuck next to a friendly but elbow-happy and beer-swigging (Northern?) Englishman on the transatlantic one–)

Uh, let me start over.

My ugly American moment coming back from Rome came as I tried to navigate Vancouver’s beautiful but confusing airport, and I spotted a Starbucks shop, and inwardly sighed contentedly at the sight. There’s not a single Starbucks in all of Italy — the nearest one is in Cannes, France — and I kind of missed it.

(Somewhere, my sister just shuddered in horror and isn’t sure why.)

I actually really, really enjoyed the cafes in Italy. In Rome, at least, they take their food slowly and their coffee quickly; the etymology of espresso, according to Wikipedia, is linked to the English word “express,” in both the senses of “specific” and “fast.” When you walk into a bar, you order café for a single shot of espresso served in a tiny cup, usually with sugar on the side. You drink your espresso standing up at the bar. Sitting at a table costs an extra €0,40 or so, usually, and the coffeeshop culture doesn’t encourage the sit-down-for-hours-with-your-laptop behavior American coffeeshops do. Sitting and kibbitzing for a while is certainly welcome, though.

Continue reading