Last week, I was in Palermo, Sicily. A great and lively city, where every local was open to contact and eager to point you to the best restaurants and bars. When I told them I study in Bolzano, they responded with ‘Ah, so you study in Austria.’ The differences between the north and south of Italy are not exaggerated.
In addition to the warmer climate and temperament, the food in the south is also very different. In Palermo, there are plenty of fish and pasta restaurants, while there are hardly any authentic Italian restaurants in Bolzano. And, while there are often vegetarian options on the menu in Bolzano, the road to plant-based food is uncharted territory in the south. A Palermo local who served us asked, in all earnestness, whether I would like pasta with mussels rather than fish. Oh well, what was I thinking, being a vegetarian in Italy?
What was I thinking, being a vegetarian in italy?
In Bolzano, where I have lived and studied for the past one-and-a-half months, I have difficulty switching to the Italian eating pattern. I knew the diet is vastly different from that in the Netherlands, but I underestimated how this would thwart attempts at home cooking. The range in the supermarket limits me much more than I had expected, and especially the Asian cuisine is underrepresented. It required two supermarkets and four tokos to find a can of coconut milk. Moreover, meat substitutes are completely unknown. If you are even able to find a plant-based alternative, two mediocre sausages or burgers will cost you four euros. My favourite Alpro soya milk costs the same as a cocktail and the cheaper alternatives are so tasteless you may as well drink them with the packaging included, as it all tastes the same anyway.
It required two supermarkets and four tokos to find a can of coconut milk
In addition to the limited range in the supermarket, the kitchen we have at our disposal leaves much to be desired. There is only one functioning ring on the cooker, and no microwave or oven. I estimate I am unable to cook 80 per cent of my normal recipes here. All in all, I realise how blessed I am with my fully equipped kitchen at Rijnveste and how easy and relatively cheap vegetarian food is in the Netherlands.
We are fortunate in plant-based Wageningen!
Oscar Delissen is a fourth-year Food Technology student. He is studying in Bolzano, Italy, for the next six months.