After a day, or for a lack of a better term, a complete sh*tshow, with patients dominoeing each others troponins off and stroke-ing out following operations designed to prevent strokes in first place, this photograph, of pastel-toned buildings from summer when I was in Innsbruck, makes me feel as though all is right in the world. Bit odd, I must say, not least because this picture was taken moments before some idiot attempted to burn me with a cigarette butt and steal my camera bag. But anywho, if you’re a house-y like me and things are getting a bit stressful and overwhelming, hang in there! You are stronger than you think! And it does get better, or at least that’s what people say…
And yeah, side note: be alert and smart about your belongings in Europe and all that.
So it was yesterday when I finally got around to using the pizza stone one of my neighbours had gifted me a couple of Christmases ago. Now, I’m not particularly aware of Italians cooking with Pizza stones- I would welcome being enlightened as to whether this is (or more probable, isn’t), the case- but given the fact that I had one, I had to try it out. I went for a very simple margherita with crushed tomatoes (cooked off initially with some garlic, oregano and thyme) and mozzarella on a fairly simple homemade pizza base. This was finished with some basil, parmesan and a drizzle of chilli-infused extra virgin olive oil. And yeah, of course, I’m not trying to pass this off as ‘authentic’- it’s not- or whatever the word ‘authentic’ is supposed to mean in this day. There is a great discussion on the topic of authenticity in Italian cooking in Nigellissima, an Italian cook book by Nigella Lawson, a non-Italian, which I would highly recommend if you’re interested. Would I rate the ‘pizza-stone pizza’? I guess I will go as far as saying the base was more evenly cooked than perhaps on a conventional oven tray, and the crust was marginally more crisp, but only marginally. I feel you can totally do without it. If you swear by one, sound off below.
Above is a snap that I took, sometime in the middle of last year, in Engelburg, a town which as far as I’m concerned, is Switzerland exactly how you had imagined it. And it’s not only because of its quintessentially Swiss architecture, although that is part of it. It is because this town and everything (or at least most of what) there is to it, epitomises one word and one word only: money. And I put this image up here because it reminds me of the new Ariana Grande song that is trending- 7 rings- which is basically all about money and was probably like written with some Swiss chocolatier in mind.
Many of my friends have felt that this song has been a miss for Ariana and demonstrates that she’s completely out of touch with the reality of an average person trying to make ends meet. Granted, the song is catchy and superficial, and those sell in this day and age, of course, but as one of my friends put it: “the relatability factor is just not there”.
Now can I just say, the single has gone on to perform incredibly well- that is incredibly well in bold and italics, if you may- so if there’s anything to be learned from this, it that relatability is no longer a prerequisite to chart-topping success in popular music. And I am, not particularly, a fan, let’s just get that out of the way.
I think we have entered an era where music is no longer a vessel to reflect one’s emotions and state of mind. People are not, in general, looking at music to bounce their emotions off of, or to sob or glamorise their victories and desperations. People are consuming pop music, primarily, as a means of escapism. It has become more about experiencing a state of alternative reality- one that is shinier and sparklier than the one you live in- than it ever has been. It is therefore not surprising that songwriters are increasingly engineering records to specifically meet this demand.
With that said, I feel the success of 7 rings, is only logical.
So anywho, I continue on in my obessession with Italy and above is a picture of one of the many dreamy canals of the beautiful city that is Venice or Venezia, whichever you’d like to call it. I personally prefer the latter at this stage because I’m currently learning Italian and pronouncing it correctly makes me feel very competent.
Now I’m going to be frank and up front here, I spent a total of 4 days in Italy. Please refrain from asking me why. It was just a hectic 12-day tour covering a total of 8 countries or something ridiculous and 4 days is all I got in Italy. I would not recommend it (going to Italy on a tour, I mean); although if you do happen to have booked a tour with a chap by the name of Bernie as your tour guide or coordinator or whatever they call it these days, just go with it! He is like amazing and he’s from New Zealand and I don’t know how you feel about a hybrid Kiwi-Italian accent (that’s the best way I am able to describe it) but his banter is f*cking priceless and I can assure you, it’ll be great.
Anyway, the point that I was attempting to make (prior to the whole Bernie divergence) was I recognise I speak from a very standard “Rome-Florence-Venice” view of Italy, and of course I appreciate that that’s not all there is to Italy. But certainly there was something about Italy, albeit from the four days I got to live in it, that made me fall in love with it. I can assure you, it was not the food or the terracotta colored buildings. I mean, quite frankly, I didn’t have a pizza worth remembering and yeah, the gelato was good, but many of them did not quite fall on par with the ‘icecream in technocolor’ reputation of Italian gelato. And yes, I did make poor decisions and visited the touristy places rather than the shop round the corner that did the good stuff. I get it. That’s not the point.
What fascinated me about Italy was its appetite for life -the fact that the people cared, but not too much. There’s something about the chaos of Italy, as disorganised as it can seem at first sight (if you’ve seen Rome traffic, you know what I’m talking about), that it is somehow magical. And it was in this chaotic traffic, amongst the sort of expected stupid moves by the drivers that were so consistent that it made the roads safer rather than more dangerous, Bernie raised the question as to whether one should live to work or work to live. The Italian philosophy, of course, favors the latter, and dare I say it, I believe subscribing to that philosophy would get me nowhere in my field. But I’m fascinated by it, to the point I wish I had more friends and knew more people who were not so uncessarily serious all the unecesarily friggin time. And perhaps also to that point, I am fascinated enough to have gotten my self to the point of beginning to learn Italian and make plans of visiting Italy again in the near future. What does that mean? I guess it means I am flicking between reading algorhithms for managing life threatening arrythmias and seizures (in a 500 page junior doctor 101 of how to saves lives document) to learning how say ridiculously basic sentences such as “the girl eats an apple” [la ragazza mangia una mela] and “ice-cream is not breakfast” [il gelato non è una colazione].
On that note, I shall leave you with a picture of [meting] icecream (more specifically, chocolate and chocolate mint gelato) that I had, for breakfast. This was one was pretty good.
P.S. I do realise this blog is meant to be about Venice, but the picture of my gelato in Venice was out of focus so we’ll have to do with what we have here. Ciao!
I used to be one of those people who would scroll through instagram posts captioned “take me back to…[somewhere or rather]” and sigh in exasperation. I mean- justifiably so– sometimes people are just being annoying and you know when that’s the case, ’cause you know who it is, and it’s always them, and it’s always that post that declares itself after initially confusing you as to whether the person is actually on holiday. Granted, this is a post of not an entirely unrelated nature. But the thing is, a significant part of growing up- and I don’t mean growing up as in growing older, but rather growing as person, and in life- is learning to deal with what used to annoy you and I suppose also acknowledging that you were annoyed by certain things because perhaps you did not understand them, well, at the time. And so as I’ve grown up, and gotten a bit further in life, and experienced a world on the other side of the one I live in, I think I have come to a point where I can finally scroll through instagram posts (or facebook/ what have you) of people reminiscing their time away…from hot computers, the inefficiencies of life and the people that piss you off…. and be like, “Yep. I get it”.
In life, we tend to make two kinds of decisions: the ones that we carefully plan out and meticulously execute, and the ones that we make spontaneously. I call the latter the “why be obvious” decisions and not for nothing, I am firm believer that we can make the right decision even if we’re not able to fully rationalise it at the time. It comes as no surprise, however, that such decisions are often criticised for lacking thought and valid reasoning. After all, who wouldn’t raise an eyebrow at the news of Jameson quitting his top notch position in one of the biggest accounting firms for stint at the local dairy? I mean what the ‘insanity not otherwise specified’ is going on? Jameson: is he crazy? He must be.
The thing is though: people are all too quick to make their minds up about someone else’s decision in the light of what they think is right for that person. My decision to do medicine was completely- or at least in great part- spontaneous. It was as if I had a revelation in the middle of the night that something had gone terribly wrong and I had veered off to a place I didn’t belong. I knew that I wanted to do medicine at the time. I didn’t quite know what that meant. Thinking about it now, had I not made the decision to readily give away an amazing career in clinical pharmacy for what essentially meant returning to a lecture theatre with 200 other people, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to experience what I have today; to meet some amazing leaders and to experience healthcare in all its dimensions.
I wish I could make it less of a cliché: the “follow your heart” thing that they preached in the 90s. It’s understated. But for that, I can’t help but feel that some of the decisions I’ve made “just ’cause” have been the best ones.