Tasting Carbonara in Italy

Tuscany-Hills-Farms-1000(I know it’s been a year since I flew to Europe and back – so much has changed since but I owe this to myself and even if it takes me 5 years to chronicle my travel days, so be it.)

It’s funny how Food translates into different tastes in different countries. Sometimes I wonder if any of the food we are tasting today is original. Is it accurate to say that Asian dishes such as the Hainanese Chicken Rice, Taiwanese Beef Noodles, Penang Laksa to the more European dishes such as Schnitzel, English Breakfast and Spanish Tapas have all retained their original taste from centuries (if indeed, they are centuries old) ago?

This question lingers as I unfailingly order Carbonaras in Rome and Florence for lunch- 8 days, 8 plates of Carbonara, 8 different recipes. It is amazing how this dish is prepared and served in Italy. The experience begins once I am seated down. Plain white bread is the norm – don’t ask for butter, that’s a national offence. Water is always followed by the question of “sparkling or still?”. This question is confusing and extremely disturbing. There is no such thing as sparkling or still water in Asia. What is so special about them in the first place? In the end, sparkling just means carbonated (oh hail this healthily fizzy water) and still means normal bottled water.

So, the allergy-prone me chugged down plate after plate of Carbonara despite protests in the form of red angry rashes just because they were so good. There is no need to ask for more cheese from the waiter – you are guaranteed the smell and taste of it as you devour forkfuls of spaghetti. Once you finish the plate of Carbonara, there is no “soup” (sauce, I mean sauce) left on the plate. I am sometimes still assaulted by the whole experience of Carbonara-eating as I wait for food to be served in quaint Asiatic cafes. I don’t think I will ever be satisfied with the Carbonara served in Asia – one day, Italy, I will come back specifically for your creamy dish.

The soupy dish that they serve in Singapore is, after all, such a shame to the Pasta World – how the hell did Carbonara become such a diluted, meaningless dish? I crave for the richness which embraces the spaghetti and the runny egg yolk – almost raw, but never uncooked – and the sauce which always, always sticks to the spaghetti like a clingy lover unwilling to part. For this dish alone, I will revisit Italy and imagine myself sipping sweet red wine while overlooking the Tuscany Hills.

Well, one can dream.

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