Within weeks of hatching my plan I found myself living in a lovely, albeit sparsely-furnished, flat just steps from the legendary Ponte Vecchio on the Duomo side of the river Arno. Eager to extract as much as possible from the experience I immersed myself completely in the Florentine culture, learning the language quickly and adopting as many of the local traditions as possible. Days were spent running through the cobble stoned streets of Florence, to-and-from classes in our perpetually sauce-stained chef whites, or shopping for produce and cured meats in the lush street markets.
There is a feeling of recklessness that takes over when you are 21, far from home, and lacking any real responsibilities. We lived our lives accordingly, befriending (and sometimes dating) goodhearted, but questionable characters--chefs, writers, painters, and vagrant travelers who had left their countries and traditions to make this ancient city their home, if only for a moment. We came from different backgrounds and spoke different languages, so our interactions were reduced to the most basic of human activities: food, drink, sex, and laughter, common denominators that transcend translation.
It wasn't all games. In Florence I also experienced loneliness, broken hearts, and the inevitable frustration that comes along with always being a outsider. I (and my roommates) existed in perpetual state of almost-poverty brought on mostly by irresponsibility and an unforgiving exchange rate. My roommates and I dealt with this the best we could, by fighting and flirting; crying and stealing (blood oranges and toilet paper, mostly. Occasionally bottles of olive oil.). Somehow, despite the drama, I learned to cook.
I named this blog Always Order Dessert, because the phrase perfectly captures the spirit of that time. Despite the frustrations (and the dwindling Euros), I always made a point of ordering dessert. I was never too full; I always made room for a bit more sweetness.
I am now married and live in New York, the city of my birth, where I make my living as a full-time food writer, recipe developer, and culinary instructor. I make frequent TV appearances cooking and talking about food, and dream of one day hosting my own TV food or cooking show and writing a book (or, better yet, 10 books!). I spend nearly every second of my free time running back and forth between my laptop and my kitchen as I work on my writing, my blog, and my cooking. I started Always Order Dessert so that I would have a place to share the stories, recipes, meals, and experiences that make up so much of my life.
Thank you for granting me a few moments of your time. I hope that you enjoy your visit.
My 2012 Reel: