When your feet fall victim to a foot fetishist lurking around in the vegetable section of your supermarket and you order fried bull balls to, you know, make bella figura.
Food? It’s incredible in Italy. Just as incredible as a bunch of recent and random situations that all had food as a common denominator and are probably all part of the great circle of Italian life, just like in The Lion King.
The circle started with a harmless incident. For an inadequately long time, I was going to restaurants and poured olive oil and vinegar onto the tiny bread plate to dip my bread in, thinking I was being terribly Italian, until Italians told me I wasn’t.
It continued with a far stranger thing that occurred just a short while after. I went to buy vegetables in the supermarket and a man stopped me while I was weighting my pepper and told me that I have beautiful feet. I was wearing sandals and my feet weren't exactly like, well, Cinderella's when the prince made her try on the glass slipper, because it was 35 degrees and real world feet, they just sweat don't they. This already should have warned me against receiving any kind of feet-compliments.
But oh did he play his game well, the bastard, as if he had always known about my large-feet-insecurity since the time when bell-bottoms came out of fashion and I couldn't hide my feet anymore under tons of fabric. That’s why I naively “aw thank you”-ed him and went on selecting my vegetables with a grateful smile. But at the salad section - my favourite, damn him - he popped up again and insisted he means it, my feet are beautiful. He stared at them. And then he said he loved the tattoo on my foot, if he could just take a picture of that please.
I couldn’t immediately come up with a reason for what could go wrong with that, obviously because the feet-complex had me under its power. He took his picture and I was ready to walk away when he said that the angle was off, that I should hold my foot like so - and he plunged deep into my personal space, grabbed my foot and turned it towards the flickering supermarket light. Strange, you think? How about that: While he was turning my foot, he moved his hand towards my toes and caressed them for a split second. I was ready to throw up.
Like the time I was driving on my most beautiful of all motorini and suddenly knew I was going to be sick. I just managed to drive to the side of the road when a million half-digested pieces of the carrot I had eaten earlier started covering my windscreen, my bag, my skirt, my shoes. I looked like a teenager who couldn't handle her drink. A teenager who likes carrots.
There was a good chance of that happening right there in the store, so I tore my foot away from the man's creepy grip and ran out of the supermarket without paying for my pepper. My foot had just been abused and I didn’t feel my notorious Swiss guilt that always gets me when I do something forbidden, like standing on the walking-side of the escalator.
While I was scrubbing my foot with all the different soaps I had at home, I was wondering which fetish site my picture was destined to show up on. And whether I thought that was OK or not.
The circle was about to close when G. came to visit me this summer. She had been away from Italy for a year and was craving Italian food. We ventured out into the Roman jungle and stopped in a neighbourhood where it quickly became evident that we were foreigners. G. with her blonde hair and sheet-white skin which never gets a tan even if she's convinced it eventually will, and me, well, with feet larger than any Italian woman could possibly possess.
We wanted real Roman food, not necessarily the entrails, but the pasta. As we moved past the kitchen and out to the backyard, it was as if we were interrupting the dinner party of a mobster meet up. Trying to avoid meeting every single person's stare as we checked out the many and remarkably diverse appearances of the Colosseum tattooed on their arms and shoulders, we were relieved when a rasta-haired man pulled up a chair next to our table and in a most Roman accent started listing all the organs cows could possibly have in their bodies and the ways they prepared them here. His disappointment when we ordered pasta, along with the slight pressure we felt coming on from the mob around us made us randomly order something truly Roman, you know, just as an appetizer, just to try. Before I could stop it, my voice was saying: "We'll have the fried bull balls, please."
I can imagine your most pressing question here. No, the sperm isn't still in there. They say. And it didn't even taste bad. A bit like a fried, slightly chewy piece of beef. But then you just can't help but think of the sperm anyways can you, and you stop chewing and gag instead. That's when you start drinking lots of wine and the two tough guys at the table next to you turn out to just be physiotherapist students who try to charm you over their plate of tripe.
You dip your bread into the olive oil and vinegar mess you created on your plate and think to yourself: This is ... the great circle of Italian life.