My Heart Belongs to Milan

The rain in Milan stopped in time for the Wednesday open air market. And while the sky did not clear completely, the streets were relatively dry and the day just a little bit brighter.

I've heard about the Wednesday open air market from others who have been to this part of Milan. It is held on the boulevard adjacent to the campus I am visiting. I walked past it on my previous visit as they were setting up but did not get a chance to go back until after all the vendors had packed up for the day.

This morning, I took a moment to wander around while they set up shop - farmers selling fresh produce, fish mongers, and plenty of tables full of sweaters, scarves, jeans, even underwear. I made a mental note to sneak out at some point in the morning and do some shopping.

"At some point in the morning" turned out to be 12:45, or just before lunch. I go there just in time, too. Many vendors had already broke camp, and the few remaining were in the process of closing down. I did manage to procure a couple of scarves and a very nice argyle sweater.

And of course when the opportunity to eat authentic street food in a strange city presented itself, I lept at it. Today's lunch was bought from a butcher's wagon at the market who sold items by weight. I ordered two small skewers of meat that look like kabobs. When I asked if they were, the butcher scoffed and replied in very rapid Italian that he was not inclined to repeat for the tourista Americana. He did tell me that they were chicken even though they did not look at all like chicken, which is a phenomenon I have encountered before. I also got a side of what looked like batter fried veggies of some sort. I love veggies and do not really care what variety. And, if they are battered and deep fried, they will taste good. Everything was placed in little paper bages made out of lightly waxed butcher's paper - the perfect container, and much preferable to styrofoam or plastic, especially items fresh from the fryer. I always feel a little freaked out when my take out leaves a perfect imprint in the side of the styrofoam box it was packed in.

I stopped by the school cafeteria for a couple of juice boxes (A-C-E juice, my new addiction) and returned to my work area to eat.

The batter fried veggies were actually young squash flowers. You may ask yourself why do that to squash flowers when there are so many better ways to prepare them. I will look into this and cover it in a future post. Even covered in batter ad fried to a crisp, they are very good. They taste very orgainic and green and a little sweet in the same way fresh green beans are sweet. The batter was light and did not detract from this, and the deep frying left little residue.

The kebobs were something else altogehter. Alternating meat and veg, I hardly recognized any of it. There was indeed chicken on the skewers. What part of the chicken I will not say as it is a part that is found in that little paper packet inside the chicken when you buy it at the store that goes to one of three places - the gravy, the cat or the trash. Here in Italy, it goes on the skewer with some cherry peppers, a little sausage and some yellow tomatoes. At least I think that's what it was. I loved it.

Something about an authentic street dining experience really makes me feel like I have been to that city. Like my sampling of every hot dog stand in every US city I have visited (it was actually a taco shack when I visited LA), I now have a barometer against which to gauge Milan. Like all my other dining experiences here, it was extraordary, providing me with yet another meal I will not be able to get at home.

Batter fried squash flowers and not-kabobs

A-C-E juice which I am now consuming by the liter