When I studied abroad in Florence, Italy, I stumbled upon a little cafe called “Cafe Michelangelo” the first day I arrived on Via Ghibellina. With hundreds of cafes sprinkled about in the streets of breath-taking Firenze, I knew instantly this cafe was to become my favorite. The glass doors slid open to invite me in as soon as I took a few steps from the cobblestone sidewalk towards the sunlit filled cafe. From behind the counter the Italian proprietor smiled as I walked through the door (something that would become a daily exchange). The pungent aroma of cooking pasta and grilled zucchini filled the air, stirring my Italian roots and what I would hope infuse my words with an Italian accent. “Ciao, ragazza!” Hello, girl! With limited Italian at this point, I said “Un cappuccino e una arancia, per favore.” A cappuccino and an orange, please. The oranges in the bowl looked delicious, a red tint spreading over the outside peel. He motioned for me to sit down at one of the tiny tables in this cozy setting and so I picked a spot in the corner of the cafe. In a few minutes, he carried over the cappuccino and orange and placed both in front of me. The orange was sitting on top of a small plate with a delicate doily. What a cute presentation of an orange! I peeled back the bright orange and red layer, not knowing what I would see on the inside. It opened with ease as my fingers made my way around and taking out the stem in the middle. A tint of red outlined the edges of the inside and I sat there a little confused. Was it a bad orange? Why was it this color? I asked my waiter and in his best English he said, “blood orange.” The juice exploded in my mouth as I took a bite of the first slice. I came to discover that blood oranges were a delicacy in Italy and I would find myself buying them at little stands on the side streets to eat as I walked around the piazzas, bundles to have in my apartment and of course on doilies at Cafe Michelangelo. This past week, I was shopping at Trader Joe’s and couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw “Blood Oranges” packaged in netting, just waiting to bring back my Firenze memories and to introduce this “slice” of Italy to you. Of course I picked up a bag, and now when I peel and take a bite of that sweet nectar wrapped in orange, it brings me right back to my vivid memories of Florence. This simple fruit became “la gioie di vita.” The joy of life.
Just for you & i.