Despite my enlivened fervor for baking these past months in Davidson, a couple weeks ago I found myself frustrated with food. After a whirlwind trip throughout Peru and its neighboring countries, I fastened onto my memory of the fresh baked tilapia I ate outside Lima, the same day it had been caught, and the culinary techniques I learned in my peruvian cooking classes. This frustration was real. I saw no source of ethnic and global cuisines in Davidson, North Carolina, what most consider an epitome of a small southern town. Furthermore, I viewed my own college campus as a homogenized blur of predominately white faces, a bubble filled to the brim with students who never popped through, never stepping outside the confines of the town of Davidson.
After one trying day, I popped through the bubble. With a loyal friend, I drove out of Davidson’s campus, out of the town of Davidson, out of the Lake Norman region, and into the greater Charlotte area. It’s not to say that I don’t love my school and college town, but at this moment I needed a wave of the outside, a sense that I could eat food from another part of the world, and that it would taste really good.
Granted, I did not go to Brio Tuscan Grille, an upscale Italian chain, with just anyone. Instead, I went with an Italian-rooted Californian, Carly Brahim, whose childhood consisted of eating authentic food made by her Italy-transplant grandmother, Nonna. Eating Italian with Carly was a cultural experience in itself, with her pronunciation of Italian specialities like “bruschetta” (the c is a k) wowing me, revealing her own knowledge of the Italian dialect and food gastronomy. She took control of our “Primi” menu orders, stating that with one Insalata Caprese, we should opt for the Calamari Fritto in lieu of Bruschetta so as to not overload on tomato-heavy dishes. I sat mystified by the rain of Italianess pouring out of Carly’s brain. After two years of knowing each other, I hadn’t realized the expanse of knowledge she kept hidden in her mind.
We each ate our fill, and I couldn’t help but cover this post in the beautiful pictures I was able to seize before our rapid consumption. Our Insalata Caprese was an inverse of most tomato and mozzarella salads, with mixed greens and basil served on top of a bed of thick mozzarella rounds and ripe tomatoes, beautifully plated with hefty dots of balsamic reduction for dipping. We enjoyed the salad alongside a Calamari Fritto, garnished with marinara and lemon butter sauces. Unable to finish both appetizers before our main dishes, we left the platters as pick-ons throughout the second course. I quizzed the kitchen, trying one of the Chef’s Specialties, a sweet potato and chicken risotto. Prepared with roasted chicken, sweet potatoes, pancetta, asparagus, parmigiano-reggiano, thyme, and pine nuts, the risotto was complexly delicious. A breadth of tastes enveloped my mouth each bite, which together equated to a nicely balanced collection meal. Carly stuck simple but classic with a Roasted Half-Chicken, Mashed Potatoes, and Mixed Vegetables. If that photo doesn’t make you want a slab of meat, I don’t know what will.Sweet Potato and Chicken RisottoRoasted Half-Chicken
Though we each battled through our main courses, we couldn’t consume it all, especially because we just had to try dessert! Veiled with a layer of hardened caramel, like that of a Crème Brûlée, I slowly made my way through the plate-long slice of Cheesecake. I know, I know, cheesecake isn’t Italian! But the New York delicacy sure did mark a sweet and full ending to our meal.
Unfortunately, I can’t go to somewhere like Brio every weekend. I am a college student after all. Yet, the trip with Carly created a hole in my closed-off analysis of gastronomy in Davidson. I can access ethnic meals and experience food through a cultural lens in my small college town. I can eat bruschetta with my half-Italian pod mate, I can prepare Fufu with my best friend who hails from Accra, Ghana, or I can even get back to my Peruvian grub and cook Lomo Saltado with a friend from Lima. Yummy Twenties is aimed towards this mindset of global gastronomy, and I look forward to developing information so that twenty-year-olds like me, recognize their width of options.