Italian for Beginners

The title of this blog posting refers to a Danish movie from 2000, and my current activity. “Italian for Beginners” is a lighthearted entertaining movie about Danes who want something a bit more interesting in their lives so they go to Italian class. Romance and “viaggio” to Italy ensue.

Learning Italian is a bit topsy turvy for me as Italian is, in many ways, the opposite of English and Spanish. For example, the “che” is a “kah” sound and the “ci” is “cheh” sound as in “ciao.” The double ell in Spanish is spelled with a “gli” in Italian but the double ell like in “bello” is a really forceful ell sound. The ñ in Spanish is spelled “gn” in Italian so that “gnocchi” is “ñ-o-key” — and so on.

Actually, the phrase I’ve learned the best is “attenta su pronuncia” – watch your pronunciation.

But, it’s most important to say hello, goodbye, please, and thank you. So far I’ve learned that the Italians are very formal so one should not use “ciao” unless you are family or you are close friends. (Also, “Ciao” derives from an old Venetian saying for “I’m your slave.”)

Hello: “buongiorno” (bwon-jorno) until sundown and then it’s “buona sera” (bwon-ah sarah)

Goodbye: “arrivederci” (a-riv-eh-dare-chi)

Please: “per favore” (pear fa-vore-eh) or “per piacere” (pear pah-chair-ee)

Thank you: “grazie” (gra-ts-ee-ay)

Excuse me: “scusi” (skoo-zee) is the formal form and “scusa” is the informal.

One thing I have learned about Italian is how to say “good luck!” Contrary to direct translation, it is not “buona fortuna!” Instead, it’s “jump inot the mouth of the wolf!” Or “In bocca al lupo!” This is the equivalent to “break a leg” in Italian.

Danish Pastry

IMG_3797.JPGIn Danish, a danish is a “viennese bread” because it was brought to Denmark in the 19th century by immigrants from Vienna. There are many names and many types of pastry sold in Denmark and the bakeries, although no longer on every corner, are still to be had (today, 7-11 bakes fresh every few hours).

My favorites are actually not the well-known pretzel shaped “kringle” or the “duck breast” or “snail” but, one that is hard to find and the other that is more common. My favorite one is so popular that it’s sold at the airport. It’s called a “tebirkes” or “tea poppy seed” and it’s a rectangular shape with a covering of poppy seeds. Inside, the bottom layers are held down by a thin layer of almond paste mixed with sugar. The tebirkes isn’t overly sweet and I like to splice it open, slather it with Lurpack butter and a slice of smelly strong cheese. The second pastry that I always get, if I can, is called a “rosenbroed” or “rose bread”and it’s made from the basic kringle puff pastry but in a long plank shape. It’s covered with a thick layer of icing and sliced into long strips. Pure sugar, butter, and puff pastry!

Denmark is known for its Danish and in the U.S., there are a few places that claim to do the original kringle or Danish. But, Danish pastry is like New York pizza… it’s something in the water… if you can, go to the source.

 

 

Danish Strawberries

Once upon a year, in a little tiny land, at the top of Europe, there are strawberries so ruby and sweet. They arrive just after the sweet pea season. Visit Denmark in late August and you may may be able to get both. The strawberries are red like claret in the sun. Eat them fresh or covered in fresh cream. img_3802

Then, if you can find sweet peas in the pod, enjoy them as they are as succulent as crisp morning dew. But nuttier.img_3834

Oh, and they are healthy for you. How sweet is that!

The Bread Lover’s Guide to Dhaka

From King's.
From King’s.

As someone who loves good bread, I find it hard to find European-style yeasty bread in Dhaka. There is plenty of pillowy naan, stretchy rhumali, chewy paratha, and flaky dhosa. When I want European style bread, I go to the following places:

Kings Confectionary: This is where to get long baguette-like hoagie or subway rolls. Plus, the sugared doughnuts are chewy, doughy, and sugary.

German Butcher: They bake their own bread. They call it black bread but it’s more of a whole wheat blend. You can even buy a half loaf if you want to start out with that.

Do Mi Ok: The best sliced white bread in Dhaka. It’s doughy. If you squeeze it, it will hold your finger imprint. They also sell a few other types of fresh bread but it’s the white that I like.

Le Souffle. It is slightly ridiculous how expensive they are. They have a bakery and sell French baguettes and other types. The bread is hard crust sourdough style. They sell croissants and cakes as well.

Nordic Club: They do great cinnamon rolls… the black bread has too much molasses and tastes slightly off.

Antique bread tins.
Antique bread tins.

Airport Reality

A real bed-like bench in Copenhagen airport.
A real bed-like bench in Copenhagen airport.

Having been to a fair number of airports, I wish many things of them. One is a flat padded surface for sleeping. Copenhagen Airport is actually one of the ones that is beginning to address the realities of travel. Kudos to Copenhagen for providing padded leather benches the size of a bed. Plus, they have good shops. Singapore airport is another great airport and not just because of its free foot massage machines. Sometimes, a completely bed-like bench is all I need. That, and free WIFI. Please, my deep veins beg you.

Bucket List Foods – Fresh Hazelnuts in Denmark

Some people have places they must see before they die on their bucket list. To me, certain interesting people and certain foods are the destination. Fresh hazelnuts in Denmark is a destination.

Hazelnuts in shell and two ready to eat (one I have started…). These are not completely fresh.

Fresh hazelnuts are juicy and crisp. Try them. Make it a part of your trip if you are in Denmark in September.

Thank You for Loving Bacon

Danish bacon frying up in a pan.

I was wrong. In recalling Danish bacon, I simply remembered that it was my favorite kind of bacon. When I got to Denmark this time around, I set out to fry some up. When I cooked the pack of bacon, all 250 grams of it,  and realized that no fat came sputtering out of it because the bacon is much more  akin to pancetta, thin and not woodsy in smell… (the Danes have their own breed of pigs called the Antonius). When I ate the first crinkly mahogany strip, I realized that I had been utterly wrong. The Danish bacon was much better than the bacon of my memory.

The sticker says “thank you for loving bacon”.

 

Buttered Bread in Denmark

Four halves: potato, pork roast, fish filet, and “vet’s night snack.”

Open faced sandwiches are called “buttered bread” in Denmark. I have some favorites. It is harder and harder to find a place where you can buy ready-to-eat sandwiches but there are still a few places where this can still be done. One goes into the store, takes a number, and when it’s one’s turn, one orders “four halves” or however many sandwiches one wants. Then you can order them by name if you know what they are called (only some have special names like “the vet’s night snack”) but mostly, you can point.

Gravad lox sandwich made at home.

One can, of course, make sandwiches at home. I love the Danish open face sandwich because just like Peking Duck or a Korean Bulgogi lettuce wrap, there is something about the alchemy of certain flavors together that play my taste buds like a xylophone.