Swiss Pride

Swiss Flags

Boy oh boy, do the Swiss love being Swiss!

There’s a lot of Swiss pride going on here. They just really dig their culture, heritage, language(s), and food. The Swiss flag can be seen everywhere, people are genuinely happy when you show an interest in trying out some new Swiss aspect of life, and a product being Swiss made - whether it be cheese, an electric razor, or underwear – is a definite added value.

Made in the USAIt sort of reminds me of the USA. Not that there are that many things “made in the USA” nowadays, but we do have a strong sense of patriotism. The Americans and Swiss are proud to hail from their respective countries and will brandish their flag with fervor.

Italians, on the other hand, seem to always look down on their own country and even feel embarrassed to be Italian, which is a shame since it’s such a great place. In fact, the only time during my time living there when I really ever saw Italian patriotism was during the World Cup.

Gennaro Gattuso

The topic of Swiss patriotism came to mind because today is Swiss National Day! That means that Swiss flags are popping up all over the place in celebration. It takes me back to growing up in my hometown when my Dad would decorate our front yard with tons of little American flags whenever it was Memorial Day or the 4th of July. So cute!

1. August-WeggenThe supermarkets here in Zürich are particularly decked out. There’s all types of Swiss paraphernalia and even this special bread called 1. August-Weggen (August 1st bread) with the Swiss flag’s cross baked into the top. In typical “Garrett loves all things authentic” style,  I’ll definitely be trying some today! Most likely on the Swiss paper plates and accompanied by the Swiss paper napkins that I bought.

Here are some pics I took for you guys from my local Migros. I got chided for taking pictures, but when the security man heard my horrible (read: nonexistent) German, he said “Ok. Tourist. You can take a few photos.” so it all worked out for the best.

Happy August 1st! In an effort to unite the blog title with the topic of today’s post, I’ll be sporting these bad boys:

My Swiss Underwear

My Swiss Underwear

Yes, they’re made in Switzerland! :-)

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Time to change my underwear

Unpacking in our new apartmentHow often do you guys change your underwear? My mother would expect the answer to be “every day”. I guess she’d be appalled to know that I’ve finally just changed my underwear again after a little more than seven and a half years. About time, huh? ;-)

Ok, ok, I’m not talking about real underwear, and if you thought I was then I’m pissed at you for thinking so low of me (although sometimes I do skip a day … or two … sorry Mom!). I’m speaking in the metaphorical sense. I mean “changing underwear” as “stepping into a new culture“. My very first blog post initially talked about this (and sort of explained the title of the entire blog). I think it’s kind of a cool way of thinking about it, though if you asked me for some riveting story behind how I came up with that metaphor, then you’d be sorely disappointed. I was just brainstorming for a name for my blog and happened to have my own pair of stars and stripes undies and a pair of Italian boxer-briefs that I had bought to take home to my brother as a Christmas gift. I thought to myself “well, it’s certainly more fun than taking a picture of myself with two flags”, and there you have it. A blog was born! But I digress…

My original blog banner ... it's gonna have to be reworked now

My original blog banner … it’s gonna have to be reworked now

Crazy but true. After all these years I’m leaving Italy. Actually, I’ve already left. As a matter of fact, I’m writing this directly from our new apartment in Zürich, Switzerland!Zürich Map

What happened? Did I get sick of Italy? Certainly not! I love Italy very much and it will always have a special place in my heart. What happened is that my boyfriend got relocated for work. I’m always up for new adventures (that and the fact that we’re in love and want to stay together). So here I am in the land of chocolate, skiing, and fondue.

What does this mean for the blog and for you, dear blog readers? It only means more exciting stuff! The blog shall go on! It’s going to have to undergo some restyling graphically and in terms of its set-up, but we’ve come too far now to just let it fall into online obscurity! I’ll still be writing about life and experiences in Italy because I’ve still got lots to say about it. However, there will also be posts on life in Switzerland as well. Bonus! I’m also going to try and add a German Phrasebook to the Italian one, but you guys have to give me a bit of time with that one. I mean, I’m just beginning to learn German myself!

Thumbs UpAnyways, I want to thank all of you for your support, comments, and inspiration. I need to ask you for a bit of patience these days as I get my life sorted out and settled into Switzerland. I promise that I have not forgotten about you and there is definitely good stuff on its way.

I’ve had a litte more than seven and a half great years in Italy. I’ve fallen in love, made amazing friends, experienced and learned so much, and had a ton of laughs along the way. Grazie Italia. Grazie di tutto!

Now, let’s get into this new pair of underwear and see what it has in store for us!Swiss Underwear

Italian Food Facts: Cappuccino

Pouring CappuccinoCiao ragà! It’s time to learn some more cool stuff about the Italian foods (or beverages, in this case) that we all love.

Hot n’ frothy! No, it’s not the name of an adult film … well, actually it probably is … but that’s not the point! Today, we’re talking about cappuccino!

Ok, so you know what a cappuccino is, right? Sure you do! You’re a card-carrying citizen of planet Earth! How could you not? But do you know the meaning behind the word “cappuccino”. No, no you don’t. That’s why you need me.

The word “cappuccino” means “little hood” in Italian. No, I’m not talking about a small urban area known for its tough streets. I mean “hood” in the, “head covering attached to a sweatshirt” sort of way.

Capuchin MonksThis famous Italian coffee concoction got its name because of its light brown color – the result of the espresso and steamed milk coming together. This shade of brown is the same as the one found on the robes of the Capuchin monks, they themselves being named after the hood on their robes. See the connection? There are tons of pictures I could show you of real Capuchin monks to illustrate this point. I, however, have opted for the salt and pepper shakers that my grandparents used to have.

These sure bring back memories!

These sure bring back memories!

A few more quick points on cappuccini (note the correct plural form in Italian is “cappuccini” and not “cappuccinos”):

  1. Good luck trying to order a cappuccino in Italy after 11 am or (horrors!) after a meal! That’s sort of against the rules here. Something to do with Italians believing that milk will block your digestion.
  2. Have you ever gotten a cappuccino with cinnamon on it? Mamma mia! It’s good stuff! Try it!
  3. There are some real cappuccino artists out there. Baristas who decorate the top of the cappuccino with the foam or cocoa powder. It always puts a smile on my face when I order one and it comes with a little extra care put into its aesthetic quality. Here’s a few examples of cool cappys!

Instagram Addiction

Instagram ItaliaRagazzi, I have to tell you something. I’m addicted to Instagram. I first hinted at my addiction in a previous blog post, but now I think it’s full blown! I need help! I feel compelled to photograph everything I see, play around with filters and frames, and share them with the world. I think I’ve even gotten to the point where I actually consider myself a real photographer – one of the last symptoms of somebody with this type of addiction.

This addiction, unlike many others, does have a positive side to it: you guys get to see a bunch of pictures of Italy! So, revel in my dependency and enjoy the photo gallery!

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This is garbage!

I love the 80's The 80′s are totally back! For sure! 

I don’t know if it’s the same right now in America, but in Italy the 80′s are back with a vengeance! Fashion-wise, things like bright neon colors, retro printed tees, and bangle bracelets are all the rage! Music seems to be referencing the 1980′s more and more too with synthpop tunes that are best listened to on oversized 80′s-style headphones. Even some 80′s toys are back, like GPK (that’s Garbage Pail Kids to those of you not in the know).

Adam BombGarbage Pail Kids are these crude sticker-cards that feature gross-out situations and aptly named kids. I loved them when I was young. In fact, I still have a box full of them in storage somewhere in my parents’ house. I was thrilled to find them here in Italy too, especially because they’re even cooler since they’re in Italian! Toilet talk is just classier when it’s in another language!

Cerno-BillGarbage Pail Kids were originally launched in Italy under the name Sgorbions (playing off of the Italian word sgorbio, meaning ugly and freakish). The version I came across is the re-released edition that are called Kakkones (playing off of the Italian word cacca, meaning poop). For some interesting history on GPK in Italy click here.

 

I took a few pictures of Italian Kakkones and a re-release pack of American GPK that I picked up back in the USA. I wanted to delve into the different ways that these two cultures treat barf, snot, zits, and flesh wounds. This is some truly groundbreaking stuff and I expect to be asked to speak at some honorable universities around the globe on this very topic.  ;-P


One last point. Having a more unusual name like Garrett is neat-o, but it always meant having a harder time finding keychains and decorative license plates with my name on it. It also meant that I never found a Garrett Garbage Pail Kid. That’s something I’ve always yearned for. I would get mad at my friends when we found a card with their name on it because I was jealous. I mean, it wasn’t my fault that my parents were more creative than theirs! Butt-bit Brandon? Screw you! Messy Melissa? Unfair!

Some online research unveiled this one here below, but it’s spelled with only 1 “t” so that doesn’t count.Gassy Garret

Luckily, some creativity and an iPhone app have finally made it possible for me to chase down one of my dreams. I leave you today, ladies and gentleman, with the world premier of the Garrett GPK!

Grody Garrett

Grody Garrett

The simpler the better

Fancy ForkThe United States is brimming with swanky, chic Italian restaurants. Walls, napkins, and candle holders in trendy colors like burnt umber passion or titanium flambé. Artfully displayed and long-winded dishes like mahi-mahi penne with a Napolitano ponzu sauce reduction or mini pesto torts topped with a whipped brie and artichoke chutney. Creative restaurant names like “Linguini & Tinis”, “Scampi 38″, or “Ciao Bella Fashion Lounge”. There’s nothing at all wrong with these types of places. The food is creative and tasty and the atmosphere is funky. It’s just that you’ll have a hard time actually finding similarly lavish places in Italy … at least, that is, if you want the food to be any good.

There are some cool, “in”, expensive looking restaurants in Italy, especially in Milan. However, if you’re looking for properly priced delectable dishes I highly recommend going to a “hole-in-the-wall” place that looks like it was last refurbished in 1973, perhaps by somebody fond of tacky wood panelling and frightening tchotchke. These places are where the real Italian dining experience is to be had.

Italian restaurants – good Italian restaurants – offer no-frills service and atmosphere. I’m talking no music, simple decor that borders on ugly, and a straightforward menu lacking any unpronounceably trendy words. No squinting at the menu through mood lighting. No having to ask the waiter what a “zucchini ribbon nest with a Pugliese compote” means. No pushing open 8 different doors (Oops! Broom closet! Oops! Kitchen!) to find the one to the delightfully ambiguous bathroom. Just food. Honest, good, and lovingly prepared.

Red Checkered TableclothIf you’re picturing those oh-so-stereotypical red checkered tablecloths in your mind’s eye, then you’re getting the right idea.

One great example of a down-to-earth Italian restaurant in Milan is Trattoria Bolognese da Mauro. This restaurant, opened back in 1969, mostly serves dishes from the Bologna region, which are, in my humble opinion, the best of the best. If you are ever lucky enough to eat there I recommend, nay, insist, that you try the salsiccia gramigna. Strepitosa (amazing)! Honestly, I make a mean salsiccia gramigna, but da Mauro’s is 10 times better than my own. Not only is the food spectacular, but it’s boatloads less expensive than most restaurants in Milan and the people that work there are welcoming with a hint of bohemian kindness. I just dig the whole vibe of the place and think it really sums up the concept of what a real Italian restaurant is all about.

Good eatin' goes on here!

Good eatin’ goes on here!

Here are some pictures I took of my last trip to Trattoria Bolognese da Mauro. Hungry yet? Jealous? Wanna be me? :-P


So remember, when it comes to Italian dining in the home country: the simpler the better. Oh, and grated parmesan goes with just about anything!

Grated Parmesan Cheese

Italian Tidbits

Today I just have 3 quick and random things that I wanted to share with you. These lil’ tidbits aren’t really substantial enough to merit blog posts unto themselves, so I’ve decided to stick ‘em all together here for a lovely *guazzabuglio of Italian things.

1) McDonald’s, Italian Style

Beer at McDonald's

Beer at McDonald’s

There are two things about McDonald’s in Italy that would never function in the USA. Firstly, you have to pay for condiments here. Not on the sandwiches themselves, but like, if you want extra dipping sauces for your nuggets or even ketchup and mayonnaise for your fries. Americans love their condiments and sauces way too much for such a thing to work. While an Italian can pay ten cents and make do with one ketchup packet, Americans need to drown things and would probably spend more money on the sauces than on the actual food itself. The other thing is that Italian McDonald’s serves beer! Good stuff, too! Peroni! Italians are more responsible than Americans when it comes to drinking. They can have one beer with their value meal, and move on. In America, beer at McDonald’s would turn into a sh!tshow and there would be people puking in the ball pit.

2) Gucci Fashion Map

Gucci Map

Gucci Map – Front

Gucci Map - Back

Gucci Map – Back

Everybody knows that Milan is a European fashion capital. But did you know that Gucci has actually made a sort of fashion map to help you find their various stores around the city. Crazy, right? And this map only includes the actual Gucci stores and official retail spots, not  stores where Gucci happens to be sold together with other brands. I just think this is so cool! In fact, I had one hanging up in our bathroom for a while! Talk about taking a fashion shower!

3) Shutter Holders Thingys

Italian Shutter Holders

Italian Shutter Holders

I’m not sure exactly how to call these things in Italian or English, but they’re the things that you use to hold window shutters open and flush against the house. I’ve really Googled the crap out of these things to try and find out more information on them, but have been largely unsuccessful. Besides learning that they are popular in France too, I haven’t been able to figure out much so I’m just going to have to go on what I’ve heard from other people regarding these things. Looking at the photo, you’ll note that when the shutter holder thingy is in the up position you can see the face of a man, and when it’s down you can see the face of a woman. Cute, aren’t they? Well, rumor has it that these faces are supposed to represent Giuseppe Garibaldi and Anita Garibaldi. I haven’t been able to “officially” verify this, but at this point my blog is all the authority you need, right? ;-P

* If you don’t remember what guazzabuglio means, click here for the Italian Phrasebook.

Urban Penguins

Pao Penguin Kaleidoscope Little known fact: penguins are native to the city of Milan.

Well, ok, not real penguins, but urban ones!

The Milanese street artist Pao is famous for spray-painting adorable little blue penguins all over Milan. The dome-shaped cement blocks, used for keeping cars from driving up on the sidewalk (even though Italians find a way up on them anyway), are transformed into something much cuter!

Pao Penguin in Via Tortona, Milan

The penguins have become considered Pao’s “classic” street art examples, at least in my mind, but he also does other characters and forms of art like paintings, sculptures, and graffiti murals.

The courtyard of Wow Spazio Fumetto in Milan

The courtyard of Wow Spazio Fumetto, Milan

My own lil’ Pao Penguin

I really enjoy seeing  Pao’s artwork all over town, and I’ve even picked up a mini penguin replica for my apartment. I think it’s  fun and colorful, plus I’m supporting local art!

I’m  curious to know which of the 4 Pao creations above, you guys think is the best one. My vote def goes to Penguin! Let me know in the survey here below!

That’s a lot of oil!

Italian Olive OilExtra VirginIt’s no secret that Italians love their olive oil. They use it all over over the place in the kitchen: drizzled over bruschetta, mixed into sauce, and used with balsamic vinegar to dress a salad. Olive oil is to Italians like butter is to Americans (which I think says something about our comparatively different waistlines).

Some home remedies also see olive oil used to heal chapped lips, get car grease off your hands, polish furniture, and as a home-made bath scrub when mixed with sea salt. An all natural cure-all!

I obviously knew all about olive oil before living in Italy, but I was totally unprepared for how many different types of olive oil there are here! I mean, we have half a supermarket aisle dedicated entirely to Italian liquid gold! There’s even this cool wine and olive oil shop called La Vineria that’s part of the classic tour I bring visitors on. The nice guy that works there lets my friends sniff the various vats of olive oil that they have, and I’ll be damned if different types of olives don’t produce oils with different smells – spanning from roasted tomatoes to fresh-cut grass. It’s amazing!

Back in Roman times, there was so much olive oil used, that it contributed to one of the largest ancient spoil heaps in the entire world.

AmphoraeMonte Testaccio, in Rome, is a huge pile of crushed amphorae (that’s a fancy name for old earthen pots). These pots were used for transporting and containing oil back in  ancient Rome. The used amphorae were smashed and then placed on the carefully planned spot where Monte Testaccio still stands today. It’s estimated that the hill is formed by 53 million olive oil amphorae. Mamma mia! That’s a lot of olive oil! 6 billion liters, to be exact! To give you a better idea, this hill covers an area of 20,000 square meters and is 35 meters high!

Nowadays, Monte Testaccio is overgrown with plants and trees and is surrounded by the houses and shops of the neighborhood, but it’s still cool to think that under it all lies the olive oily remains of many, many tasty Italian meals.

Monte Testaccio

Monte Testaccio

I hate the word “nougat”

Classic Italian TorroneNougat” is a gross word. Like “moist”, “plump”, “fondle”, or “panties”, I hate even pronouncing it. *Bleargh* :-(  However, I’m going to have to tackle the word “nougat” in order to take on today’s Christmas blog post. Ah, the things I do for you guys. ;-)

There is a very typical Italian Christmas candy called torrone. It’s basically made of honey, sugar, and egg whites to form a ….. *sigh” … nougat. (I just puked in my mouth a little bit…) Then things like hazelnuts, almonds, candied oranges, vanilla, and chocolate can be added to create different variants. 'Nilla & H-Nuts

My first experience with torrone happened back when I was young. I remember my Italian Consolazio grandparents bringing it to our house every Christmas. They brought bite-sized pieces of torrone, individually packaged in little boxes with an Italian bakery guy on ‘em, and there were flavors like classic, orange, and lemon.

One great place to pick up torrone, here in Milan, is the Oh Bej! Oh Bej! Christmas market. The name of the market means “Oh So Nice! Oh So Nice!” in Milanese dialect. That’s usually where I get my torrone to bring home at Christmas. If I dared show up without any, I’m not sure if my parents would even let me in the house…

The Milan Christmas Market

The Milan Christmas Market

Since my parents will probably read this (they better!), I’m gonna have to prove that I’ve already picked up this year’s supply. Here’s a picture of me below with the torrone I got. So, Mom & Dad, hang my stocking by the chimney with care, because I’m coming home … with nougat!

Italian Torrone - American Boy

Italian Torrone – American Boy

MERRY CHRISTMAS