When Understanding Frenchman and I made our first trip together to Italy, the aim of our two days in Milan was for me to introduce him to the city I lived in for a year and give him an insider's peek into la dolce vita alla milanese. On our first day, however, this plan was neatly scuppered by the fact that we stayed at completely the opposite end of town from all my old haunts, coupled with the wettest rain ever to fall on the city. As a result, we spent our first evening hiding under porticoes, darting into shops and peering out at the soggy blackness from underneath a shared umbrella (how romantic ... ).
And so it was that when we pitched up at our friends' house for dinner after waiting for half an hour for a bus, that the first thing we did was ask them to lend us some dry socks.
The evening rapidly improved however, as the prosecco was cracked open and we enjoyed a delicious hot dinner of roast lamb, risotto and caramelised onions, and an even more heated discussion about the correct points to eat bread during a meal and whether it's irritating to correct your other half in the middle of a sentence when they're speaking your mother tongue and not theirs. (My friend, a former colleague, is Irish and her boyfriend Italian, so needless to say, he and Understanding Frenchman put up a united front of Mediterranean solidarity, while she and I defended our right to eat carbohydrates and speak uncorrected.)
The quality of the food, though, was not in question. After the lamb, we had burrata, which is a bit like a giant mozzarella, but much runnier, served with olive oil and cherry tomatoes, and another new experience for me fichi d'India, or Indian figs. These are crazy looking fruits that come in pink and yellow and have hints of spines on the outside. You peel them and eat the inside, which is closest to the seedy part of a kiwi fruit that to anything else I can think of, but as with a pomegranate, you have to be careful not to crunch the seeds, which taste bitter.
I thought I was fairly familiar with most Italian foods, so it was nice to discover there are still delicious surprises out there!