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My First Day in Astoria

November 28, 2011

The best days are the days when I forget myself and just for a moment, just a breath, I am reminded of being in Italy so much that I am completely transported.  It’s like catching a scent on the breeze that disappears before you can identify it.

#991: Sometimes, New York City makes me think that I am in Italy.

(excerpted from someday-forthcoming 1000 Reasons I Love New York.)

Today was one of the days when New York was at its best.  I woke up well-rested, my first morning alone in my new apartment in Astoria.  The sunlight danced across my white curtains and I walked through the blue and green and yellow living room –painted by former tenants–into the yellow kitchen.  My own kitchen, clean, spare, and yellow.

I decided to make a bowl of oatmeal.  Half a cup of oatmeal, one cup of water, generous pinches of ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, a few squirts of honey, and a handful each of dried cherries and cranberries.  Microwave and serve.

When I opened the window, I couldn’t believe how warm it was, so I brought my oatmeal onto the fire escape to enjoy it in the sunshine.

The fire escape overlooks the back garden, with a central fountain and trimmed hedges that brought me right back to Sant’Ilario d’Enza in Italy, where I lived earlier this year.

Later, when I walked down the street to drop off my laundry, I noticed that two of the buildings on my street are called “Locarno” and “Amalfi.” Locarno, I assume, has something to do with Florence’s Arno River.  Then I saw a typical Italian clothesline scene:

The highlight of the day was my trip to Euromarket, the European foods specialty market a few blocks from my apartment.  I drove by it several times while I was moving in and I couldn’t wait to see what they had inside.  It’s one of the biggest European-import stores I’ve been to so far in New York, with the exception of course of Eataly.  They have an enormous selection of chocolate, including the largest collection of Milka and Ritter Sport chocolate bars I’ve seen in America.

They also carry a huge assortment of packaged cookies and crackers, many of which intrigued me with their foreign characters and delicious-looking package imagery.  I was truly transported to Italy when I saw brands like Mulino Bianco and Gran Pavesi, including the slices of toast that Italians eat for breakfast topped with jam or nutella.  Their bulk section excited me the most, though, because it had inexpensive Italian polenta, which I’ve been searching for since I returned from Emilia-Romagna!

The last Italian moment of the day?  An afternoon blood orange (arancia rossa.)  Italy in winter is the land of oranges, the freshest, biggest, roundest, sweetest oranges I have ever tasted.  They sell them in supermarkets with big green leaves still on them, and I used to eat two or three a day when I was in Emilia-Romagna.  Blood oranges are especially prized and are often mixed in with regular oranges, so you never know which to expect when you peel one.  When I was the nanny in Sant’Ilario, I used to squeeze fresh blood orange juice for the kids every afternoon at snacktime.

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