No wonder Italians have a reputation for being so passionate (and are rumoured as perhaps the world’s best lovers) they eat A LOT of aphrodisiacs. A lot.

That was one key piece of information that stood out to me on the Roman food tour.

When tomatoes were first introduced in to Italy in the 15th century they were initially banned by the Pope who believed their red colour indicated aphrodisiac properties.

Luckily he didn’t know the potent ways of truffles, spicy salami, aged balsamic, artichokes, basil or figs (to list just a few)

The food tour was quite possibly the most fantastic gourmand experience of my life.

Homemade pistachio coated cannoli at a Sicily bakery. Pizza by the New York Times acclaimed Italian Michelangelo of Pizza. Never ending offerings of wines, prosciuttos, salamis, cheeses, pastas, Caprese and gelato – all from various reputable stops along the way. Like a pub crawl, but I can relive all the key moments intimately.

My initial attempt at healthy eating was swiftly banished a few days after arriving in Italy. I was going all Eat, Pray, Love on it. In this case specifically EAT.

Time was limited, and so indulgences needed to be increased. Drastically. Gelato everyday. Pasta at least once a day. Sampling of little treaties at all the bakeries along the way. What budget?

Luckily the Italians seemed willing to help out.

People dined alone, but seemed less autonomous. I often chatted with the elderly man at the table next to me.

“Oh you haven’t tried this? But you must! Here have some of mine”

Or “Come no?” The waitor asked when I declined dessert after a huge plate of cannelloni. “How no?” (I love this phrase!) He brought me a free scoop of Limone gelato anyway.

Squares filled in the evenings with locals gathering for their aperitivo – a drink with free tapas to entice everyone to come together and unwind at the end of the day.

Us shoe string travellers took the aperitivo a little too seriously. Free food? That was surely an invitation for a dinner feast of epic bite sized proportions.

And so maybe not surprisingly the highlight of Italy was most definitely the food. I think what makes it so so so good is the fresh, tasty, rich ingredients they use. As well as the flavour pairing. No matter how much I savoured each morsel I still crave it.

But then there was Belgium with chocolate, beer, waffle and French fries heaven.

And then I arrived in Bulgaria and a free food tour literally fell into my lap. I was in my very happy place sampling the Greek and Turkish influenced Balkan cuisine.

My passionate ramblings led some Danish girls to quickly dub me the Foodie and Vino. I was quite happy with this title I thought as I sipped on my Bulgarian rose liquor.


Culinary Wizardry

While I’m on the topic of food, my culinary wizardry (I mean that in a totally non egotistical way) is really taking off.

I love food. I love to eat. I love to eat food cooked by people. But until now, I’ve never really been into cooking.

It’s the start of a new era, and I’m rather excited.  “Kesha’s food blog” flashed through my mind, followed by my face beaming up from the cover of my own cookbook.

Then I realised no one else is excited as me that I’m cooking Beef Stroganoff for the first time tonight.

And while this new found hobby is great, I’m still extremely amateur. Still, the last few weeks have been a gourmand’s dream.

I’ve tried my hand at prawn korma; pumpkin, basil and feta risotto; Moroccan chicken (with apricots, olives and almonds). There have been entrees of balsamic roasted beetroot, cauliflower puree and fried potato cakes. Even sweets have caught my fancy with lavishing’s of banoffee cheese cake, rhubarb crumble, and smoothies almost every colour of the rainbow.

Our flat has a dinner roster; we all cook one night a week, which leaves you with five nights to enjoy the cuisine (and a week to day dream of what your next dish will be)

From veggie stir fry 7 nights of the week to gourmet chef? The cynics among you may wonder what could spark such a sudden change. I give you two words: love and competition.

First there’s the love of my new flat mates. They’re such lovely men and new found friends. My inner house wife has finally emerged (better late than never) in an attempt to win their hearts through their bellies.

They are also the perfect guinea pigs. They taste, they assist and they critique. And four hungry men to feed ensure that I’m not the one finishing the entire banoffee pie in a fit of despair.

I should also mention I’m ever so slightly competitive. With my flat mates presenting delicious 2 course meals every night I can’t be showed up by a bunch of guys. And so my competitive streak inspires cuisine creativity.

I love it! It’s creative: I delight in the different flavours, colours and textures. Despite the stereotype, I’m happiest at the end of a long day of work with a chopping board, new recipe and fresh herbs in hand.

And I’m amazed at the culinary goddess that’s been hidden all this time. I hate to get on the positivity band wagon, but I urge you all to find your inner culinary wizard.

Then let’s all hold hands and sing Kumbaya over a roast chicken with lemon stuffed up its bum.

IMG_0069Okay, maybe I did finish off the banoffee pie in a mild fit of despair