Tuesday, March 17, 2009


We walk into the gelato shop just behind the American girls. Obama has made it hard for me to dislike America, but these girls renew my distaste. All the gelati are labelled in Italian and these girls, frankly, are in Italy. Admittedly the shopkeeper speaks English and is patient with them as they choose the brightly coloured mango and chocolate and ask for it in slangy English. Admittedly too, I have only eight classes of Italian behind me and no doubt sound like Tarzan as I butcher the language. I do not ask that the American girls master the language, but a simple grazie or buon giorno, tacked on would be enough, but never comes. I turn to the gelato. We know that the usual best choices are limone or caffe and we are going to try one of those when I spot a demure little white number nestled among the neon colours. Its sign reads “Crema Buontalenti.” I point to that one and in my limited Italian, ask the proprietor about it. He smiles and tells us it is his signature gelato. I ask for a taste and it slides across my tongue like a song. It is far from vanilla. It is more like sweetened condensed milk, like sweet cream. We ask for a small dish of it. “We’re not Americans,” I feel obliged to add, in Italian. (I am Canadian, was one of our class phrases.) He nods and says he has seen the small maple leaf flag on my husband’s backpack. And, I hope, he sees our gesture of attempting his language as being courteous. Because that is what it is to be Canadian, eh? We are certainly rewarded with the gelato, in any event.

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