When I was in college, I studied abroad in Rome for a semester (Fall, 2006). I lived with a family–a woman named Elvira and my Italian sister, 11 year old Silvia. Now, I think when most people think of “Italian” food, they think pasta and pizza, and while we did eat those things, my experience of Italian food was much different. Most nights at home, Elvira would make simple things like lentil stew (my first experience with lentils), sauteed spinach, and carrot salad. In fact, just about every night we had carrot salad.A lot has changed since then. I have not been able to return to Europe since this trip, but I have made this salad a couple dozen times. Some people may think it’s a strange thing (I know my college roommate thought it was really weird the first time I made it)… others may agree and think carrot salad is just the cat’s meow. When I used to make this with Elvira, it was a process: Wash the carrots, peel the carrots, shred the carrots with a grater–THEN start making it. While the first two steps are still the same, lucky for me, I got a food processor for Christmas and shredding anything takes approximately 3 seconds.
Although 5 years has passed since my life in Rome, every time I make a carrot salad, I’m transported back to those evenings at Elvira’s, eating a simple supper, talking about our days (in Italian, of course), and watching Un Posto al Sole. It brings me back to Rome, where life was different–classes were fun, site-seeing was a daily activity, hopping on the next flight to Barcelona, Paris or Prague could be a last minute decision, and speaking Italian was life. (Gelato and espresso on a daily basis fit in there somewhere too). Truth be told, every time I make it, I get a little “Rome-sick” but maybe that’s part of the reason I make it. I can’t know for sure, but I can tell you how to transport yourself to a simple Italian home in just a few steps…here are gli elementi:
Gli Elementi/The Elements:
2-3 washed and peeled carrots
1 tbsp. olive oil (more or less based on preference)
salt and pepper to taste
Shred the carrots, either in a food processor or using a grater
Put the shredded carrots in a medium-sized mixing bowl
Squeeze the 1/2 lemon over the carrots
Pour 1 tbsp. olive oil over the carrots
Mix together with hands to evenly coat
Season with salt and pepper, mix again to evenly coat
The Verdict: Simple and tasty. Not much to it but you get a lot out of it taste-wise. If you are not interested in a little simple salad and would prefer fruit slathered with nutella…head on over to the Nutella Encrusted Bananas instead! Below i’ve attached some photos of my trip to Italy and some side trips as well! Enjoy!