Monday, July 5, 2010

Aroma Playgrounds

Tucked behind corners, lining main streets, and in the middle of crowds at Piazza Venezia, produce stands highly populate this city. Walking a few blocks home from a nearby cafe, I pass four alone. As I near my local fruit stand the wind picks up and although yards away, the smell of ripened berries hits me. I breathe in deep, slowing my pace.

As I approach, I am momentarily sidetracked by a grumpy middle-aged woman arguing with the cashier, whom I have now developed somewhat of a relationship. (He recognizes me when I stop in, that has to count for something.) Anyway, this woman holding a quartered watermelon is yelling at the poor guy. The sweet watermelon juice drips down her hands and onto the pavement makeing me cringe at the thought of how sticky her hands must be. I remember my antibacterial lotion and my anxiety disappears as fast as it came.

Blood red tomatoes catch my eye and I remember why I am here. Smelling and inspecting each one becomes a routine and I choose four of the most perfect tomatoes. I take another deep breath and follow my nose to the nearby basil. Visions of buffalo mozzarella, fresh tomatoes topped with basil and rich balsamic flash before me. I pick up the forest green basil, the sweet strong herb engulfing my senses. Basil is featured in numerous traditional Italian dishes and is also a symbol of love in present day Italy. I set the basil down and make my way over to the fruit. Golden apples and oranges catch my eye as hints of cherry make their way to my nose. These aroma playgrounds have become one of my favorite things in Italy.

I finally decide on a few oranges and call it a day. A few juicy oranges and four perfect roma tomatoes later, costing a whopping 1.25 euro, and I am on my way home.