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Eating Europe - Pork Butts and Clams
Odd food combinations with an excursion into the Italian sport of butt-pinching
Guido Veloce Explains Europe to You - Issue #3

I. Odd Food Combos

Americans are used to odd combinations of food items--as long as they don't touch. Think about it: you got your Mexican combo with maybe a taco, a burrito, and an enchilada all on the same plate but compartmentalized--know what I mean? And we'd never think about doing this with our own food. I mean you almost never see a combo featuring a hot dog, two hamburgers, and a little pile of Cracker Jack dusted with parsley, even at the ballpark.

Americans do have little things like a McDonald's "hamburger" combined with something called a "secret sauce" that tastes suspiciously like spackle, but mostly they don't use sauces to bring things together much.

Director Francis Ford Copola once remarked that in America you've got your meat, your potatoes, and your peas, all in separate compartments, but when you twirl your Italian spaghetti, you see the sauce and the meat and the pasta all intermingling with one another. Cool, no?

So what's the oddest combination you ever put in your mouth? Food I mean.

I once ate a spectacular meal in France that started with snails in a rich burgundy sauce stuffed inside a big, hollow cow bone and baked. On top they threw some big, crunchy salt crystals so when you stuck your spoon in the bone you withdrew a melange that had layer upon layer of taste, starting off with a crunchy, salty tang before the rich burgundy sauce kicked in.

But when I think of odd combos that are kinda normal for a group of people I think of the famous Portuguese Pork and Clams. You take something like a marinated Pork Butt and braise it a long time, adding the clams at the last minute so they add their juices to the sauce. It's better than you think. When you're in Portugal next time, you gotta try it.

II. Speaking of Butts--Do those crazy Italians still pinch 'em?

Ok, so a reader writes me to inquire about the legendary butt-squeezing performed by macho Italian men. I'm thinking they don't do it so much anymore. Not that my butt has ever been a target, but the women with whom I've tried to speak just don't seem to complain like they used to.

For example: in the 70's a woman told me that she and her girlfriend had taken a cheap room in Rome before going out to see the sites. When they returned they opened the door to the big armoire to put their clothes away and a naked guy jumps out and grabs them both on the behind. They scream and chase him away, then badger the hotel clerk to call the police. The constabulary arrives only to tell then, "look, you're a couple of good-looking foreign girls. What you expect a man to do?"

But that was then and this is now. An anthropologist might tell you that in times of economic stress women go out and get jobs working in other people's houses and the laid off men sulk at home. Said emasculated men have nothing better to do than to uphold the honor of the family. So, like dour tyrants they work to protect the monogamy of their wives and the virginity of their daughters. And then, to provide a contrast, they also go out to prove that foreign women, unlike their wholesome Italian counterparts, are slutty enough to take a whole bunch of digital prodding without complaint.

But who listens to Anthropologists any more? It's enough just to say that, according to my sources, the practice of butt pinching seems to have pretty much died out in the north of Italy but may be still practiced in some places in the impoverished south.

Funny though--the tradition of butt squeezing remains embedded in the Italian legal code. Italy's highest court of appeal has recently ruled that patting a woman's bottom doesn't equate to sexual molestation if it's a spur of the moment deal and contains "no libidinous intent." It's sorta like a little masturbation I guess. No harm no foul.

Well, I've said enough--I'm outta here. Why not write me and tell me what European subject you'd like me to rant about next week?


The Guido Archives
Eating Europe I - Salad Dressing; why you won't get meat on your pepperoni pizza; why you may not even get coffee in your morning "latte."

Eating Europe II - Entrées to Smörgåsbord - Ruminations on the structure of an Italian Meal.

Eating Europe III - Pork Butts and Clams - Odd European food combinations with an excursion into the Italian sport of butt-pinching.

Secrets Behind Cheap and Charming European Hotels - from floors to bathrooms, from electricity to how Europeans write numbers, Guido answers all your questions about Hotels in Europe.

European Place Names - Is Wales England? Guido digs into the meanings behind European place names after a reader asks him to educate travelers on the differences between the United Kingdom and England. Not content just to admonish his readers, Guido goes on to explain the problems with having the word "United" in your nationality.

Safety and Debate in Times of War - Guido takes on the issue of whether or not Europe is safe for tourism as America Girds for war in the Middle East. Europe is not Texas, Guido Argues, and Europeans are likely to think differently than Americans when it comes to such things as war. Talk to them--they'll wanna talk to you.

Shopping in Europe: Buying Cheap Wine - Guido, warned by the editor not to tick people off by debating political issues, discusses how you can get decent wine in Europe without forking over lots of cash.

Shopping in Europe II: Covered and Open Air Food Markets - Get a really fresh meal in Europe cheap by hanging out in the market square on market days. Guido will clue you in on language, market etiquette, and what you can sink your plastic fork into even if you don't have cooking facilities at your hotel or inn.

Bar and Cafe Life in Europe - How are bars different in Europe than in the US? It's not all about getting drunk, or even pleasantly buzzed. Guido gives you the skiny on what you'll find (including ice cream) in a European bar, plus he adds a couple of hints for further enjoyment of the European institution.

Airline Security - How Much Can You Take? - Guido editorializes on the odd state of airline security in light of recent results of the Stupid Security Competition.

Ode to Peasant Food - Haggis and a wee Dram? - Guido likes peasant food for its spiritual properties and the life that's reflected in these loving preparations.

About Guido Veloce - Guido Veloce recently became a full fledged American when he gave up his Alfa Romeo for a Hummer. Concerned that he still couldn't fit in due to a rather sleek and zippy driving style that didn't seem to fit the Hummer or America, he bought a second cell phone to toy around with while he snakes his way blindly through the clogged freeways of our great land, looking for the essence of Americans in their canned and bottled foodstuffs and comparing them to the food of his homeland.

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