The Best Thing I Ate in Italy: A Sandwich by Lauren Ollis

Whenever people think of Italy, arguably the first thing people think of is the food. The beautiful, delicious, mouthwatering, home-cooked food that is the backbone of Italian culture. In Italy, the options range from pizza to pasta to gelato and so many pastries that there just isn’t enough time to eat them all. For me however, the best thing I got to eat was a simple sandwich. Now I know that sounds stupid. I live in this country that defines its culture on the food, and the greatest thing I ate was a sandwich. It wasn’t a special sandwich either. It was literally just bread, meat, and cheese. The thing that made it the best item I ever ate was that I ordered it myself. This also sounds ridiculous, but when you live in a town where English isn’t spoken, things as menial as ordering food suddenly become extremely complicated. Before I came over, I did actually take a couple of Italian classes and I believed that I could talk about basic life functions. Learning the language however, didn’t fully prepare for the culture. I lived in a small town where everyone knew everybody. This meant that when I would walk into the sandwich shop, or any other place for that matter, everyone around me would push in front of me to talk to the person behind the counter and I often got left in the dust. I tried multiple days to go order a sandwich, yet each time I ended up chickening-out. One day, I decided that I needed a sandwich. I had been eating heavy pasta and pizza for lunch, and all I wanted was a simple sandwich. So, I set out to do my most difficult task yet. I walked into the shop, making sure that I was there slightly earlier than most people’s lunch time so it wouldn’t be as crowded, and worked up the courage to talk to the person behind the counter. It honestly wasn’t that impressive. All I said was “Can I please have a sandwich?” in Italian and then just basically pointed to the specific ingredients I wanted. It was such a simple task, yet it seemed so terrifying. Once I completed it however, I felt as if I were on cloud nine. I had not only received a delicious sandwich, but I had proved to myself that I could function in a culture completely different than the one I had been living for in my entire life. And that is how a three-ingredient sandwich became the best thing I ate in Italy.

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