A vegetarian in Umbria by Michiko Fujii
Karpathos | Ascension Island | Venice | Disneyland Paris | Faroe Islands | Umbria | India | Prague | Zakynthos
As part of a working holiday, I stayed with an artist and her family in the small hilltop town of Trevi in Umbria. Although none of the people I stayed with were vegetarian, they were at least slightly accommodating to my ‘strange’ ways. While Italians are known to be passionate for their Parma ham, rather than their Parma Violets, there were at least enough vegetable dishes in Italy to keep this veggie happy.
What’s quite impressive about the Umbrian landscape is how well-cultivated it is, considering the scorching summer climate. In the house where I stayed, there were at least fifty olive trees growing in the back garden. In fact, I walked up to what I thought was a water tank in the kitchen to discover that they had extra virgin olive oil on tap! When I started to look closer, I also discovered that the strong, earthy-tasting lettuce I had eaten in the previous evening’s salad had come from the back garden, as had the onions and the huge beef tomatoes. I later found peaches and figs growing at the back of the garden. Free, fresh fruit and vegetables on your doorstep…. fantastic!
I was also introduced to the home-cooked delights of Parmigiana di Melanzane, a vegetable dish of deep-fried, battered melanzane (aubergine) layered with a special tomato sauce and cheese, which is then baked in the oven. Although, typically Italians like to use Parmigiano (Parmesan) cheese, which contains animal rennet, the cheese can be substituted with vegetarian cheeses, such as mozzarella or removed completely. You can also add other vegetables such as zucchini (courgettes) or peppers to the mix!
There was a huge range of pizzas with many different vegetable ingredients to choose from. I had a lot of fun trying to work out each pizza topping which was naturally written in Italian and the pizza did not disappoint. In fact it was probably one of the best pizzas I’ve ever eaten!
Like most Latin countries, in Italy you won’t find a menu that doesn’t have an abundance of meat or fish. However, if you’re lucky, you may find a decent selection of fresh vegetable dishes and salads which you can combine to create your own deluxe veggie buffet!
Useful Italian phrase
I’m vegetarian: Sono vegetariano / a