Because I’m hungry and thinking of Florence, here’s a little story about lasagna:
Seven years ago in Florence, Italy I ate the best plate of lasagna in my life. I was sitting on a wooden bench across from a pair of middle aged Italian housewives enjoying a quick meal and an elderly Italian man to my left who ordered in true Italian style– pasta, meat, a salad and a banana for desert. I was served that amazing lasagna on a plain, white ceramic bowl by a waiter who looked like Fabio. It wasn’t a complicated recipe, but the cook had somehow reached that divine lasagna equilibrium of meatiness, gooeyness, and tomato-iness that makes your eyes roll back in your head.The noodles were tender but not soggy and sauce the entire concoction was swimming in was deliciously homemade. I ate very bite slowly. I licked my plate clean. Then my twenty year-old self paid my bill and walked out of that charming trattoria, never to find it again.
Over the years this plate of lasagna haunted my dreams. When my husband and I decided to honeymoon in Italy three years ago I couldn’t have been more excited. “This is perfect,” I exclaimed, “I’ll take you to that little trattoria I keep telling you about! The one with the lasagna!”
When we arrived in Florence we checked into the hostel and hit the streets on a trattoria hunt. After a little wandering and a few distractions (after all, we were in Florence. You can’t walk five feet in that town without bumping into a picture from an art history book) we reach what I was sure was THE STREET. It was lined with darling little trattorias. We poked our heads into the first few. The first had wooden benches, but the restaurant was bigger than I remembered. The next was tiny enough, but it had tables. The next one even had a waiter that looked like Fabio, but it was definitely not the place.
“Do you remember anything else about this place?” my husband asked, “Like, maybe, a name?”
“Nope.” I said.
“Anything at all?”
“Well,” I said, “It had steps leading down, it had a wall made of brick, it had a big wooden table that everyone sat at and it had amazing lasagna.”
My husband looked around, “That narrows it down to about half the restaurants on this street, sweetie. Do you want me to go around and ask them all if they make lasagna?”
We wound up having lasagna for dinner that night at a different little trattoria with stairs and a brick wall (it had tables, no benches). It was amazing, we were in Italy after all, but it just wasn’t the same. We also ordered pâtés without knowing what they were. Those were definitely not the lasagna of my dreams. Pâté is gross, even in Italy.
I often celebrate the fact that I am a spontaneous traveler, that I don’t have every single stop mapped out before I touch down. But sometimes I wish that I was the type of person who at least wrote every little detail down in case I wanted to go back there again.
There’s been scientific studies that have found that people have more accurate memories of events and places when they switch off the camera and I happen to largely agree with them. But being a spontaneous traveller would be so much better if I could press rewind and repeat.
Or, I’ve often thought, maybe it was a good thing that I’ve never been able to find the magical lasagna again. If I was able to find it a second time, would it have been as magical? Who knows.