The word “gironzolando” in Italian translates to “wandering”.
Why is this word relevant to my life right now?
I remember when I could chart out on paper exactly what I would be doing for the next 2-3 years. I also remember looking at this list and feeling incredibly suffocated in the seemingly absolute certainty of a future I wasn’t sure I even wanted.
This past year especially, I’ve learned to appreciate the unknown. I committed myself wholeheartedly to a career change on a whim, and have been enjoying just rolling with it ever since. I like not knowing where my job may lead, what I’ll be doing on any particular day, or where I’ll be living in a year. It’s exciting and challenging, and it’s allowed me to learn a slew of random skills I never thought I would. It’s also allowed me the freedom to spearhead projects like The Grateful Bread and Eataly’s nationwide donation program, opportunities I would’ve never had if I didn’t just trust things would work out in the long run. I’ve realized this uncertainty doesn’t stress me out – and that’s a good thing, because things couldn’t be more uncertain than they are right now!!
I’m headed off to Italy for the next 3 months, and my plan for when I return is…not quite materialized? There are some big changes coming up, and although trying to navigate these changes has been frustrating, I truly am excited about not knowing. I’m especially excited for the opportunity to spend these three months fully immersing myself in what I’m most passionate about.
But before I get into what on earth I’m doing in Italy, I wanted to explain some changes that will accompany this journey, more specifically how I’m choosing to document and share it with people. It goes back to the nature of why I started all this, where I see this all going, and I’m really excited about it!
How A Hobby Becomes More
I first started my food-Instagram during my senior year of college when my roommate of 4 years (HI JESS 🙂 ) and I finally got an apartment. It was teensy tiny, a 1 bedroom with twin beds less than 5 feet apart like our previous dorms, but it had a FULL KITCHEN and that’s all that mattered. We ran with it and thanked the cutthroat, soul-crushing BU housing lottery for this Buswell beauty.
Jess and I were both food-obsessed long before we got this apartment. To give you an idea: some college students go to frat parties on the weekends…my ideal weekend consisted of making dinner with friends on Friday, scoping out a new restaurant on Saturday, and trying to find the best coffee/pastry combo on Sunday (current favorites: Tatte and Flour). If this makes me sound old and lame, I don’t care. I’ve had this thought in my head for a while now that I’ve felt perpetually 30 years old for quite some time, and I’m okay with that!
My precious pasta-maker gifted to me by my cousins living in Italy soon became a source of entertainment for my friends and I. We began cranking out homemade beet pasta, bright red with a creamy mushroom sauce, popping open a bottle of red wine from around the corner of one of our small, dinky apartments. In an attempt to spice up our variety, we started having themed dinners – Greek, Indian, Chinese, pizza (yes, its own theme). Then there was “Fall in New England”, which included pork chops with apples, mashed potatoes, Kimballs pumpkin ice cream, and the relaxing banging of harpsichord 17th century England in the background. We entertained ourselves in our own weird way, and it was so much fun (and not much has changed).
This is what my college nights consisted of, and I felt comfort in being able to fully embrace what I actually wanted to be doing with my time: being around people I love, eating good food.
Back then, my account was called @racheatsfood. I definitely put a TON of thought into that, can you tell? As blatantly unoriginal as it was, it’s also a completely accurate depiction for where my head was at that point: I was still fully enrolled in my biology courses, I was in the pre-med mindset, and cooking (and food in general) was a hobby. I didn’t think about it too much. I viewed it as a much-needed break from the “pre-med bubble”, an entirely too real phenomenon that consumed me and my gen chem office hour-buddies for all 4 years of college. Taking photos of my food adventures and sharing them with other people was fun. That’s pretty much all there was to it.
Flash forward to almost a year after graduation, when I had finally escaped the aforementioned bubble and had the headspace to think about pursuing what I really cared about. I committed myself as much as possible to my role in sustainability and local food at Eataly, @racheatsfood became @orchardeorto, and this blog was born.
Which brings us to today! I’ve decided to nix my personal Instagram account (@rorchard4, another jaw-dropping, original name) and commit solely to @orchardeorto. I’m doing this because 1) it’s easier to maintain 1 account than 2, and 2) the reason why I had two accounts in the first place is no longer valid.
It’s the story of “hobby becomes real life”. Basically, I feel that both of my accounts are slowly merging into one jumble of food, sustainability, travel, friends, family…also known as, my life!
I’ll post something on my personal account because it represents (for lack of better words) my personal life, but if it relates to food, should I ALSO post this on my food account? Isn’t it a waste of time (and unnecessarily repetitive) to do both? What’s the point?!
While before I felt the need to have an entirely separate account to document my passions and hobbies, this part of my life has become irreversibly more prevalent and thriving in my everyday life – in the best, most unpredictable way possible. It just doesn’t make sense anymore to keep ‘personal’ and ‘passion’ separate in this way. I also originally thought people might get annoyed by the constant food pictures on my personal account, but hey, it’s my account, I do what I want!!
God knows we’re all constantly figuring out who we are, but at least in this aspect of my identity, the way I portray myself and my passions over social media, it is crystal clear to me.
It’s always been more about the story behind the food than the food itself (although of course I want it to taste amazing too).
Ever since I started using social media for food, I’ve always felt that I wanted to do more than just take a great picture and think of a clever caption to go with it. I can appreciate good photography and admire those who commit to it, but truthfully I’m never too invested in the quality of my food photos: a quick ‘snap’ on the ol’ iPhone, now let’s get to eating!
I also don’t like to play with the editing too much. If the lighting was bad, the lighting was bad – the restaurant was dark, we were seated in the corner, and I want to remember it that way. The camera was slightly blurry? It was probably because we were sitting by the ocean on a 90% humid day, the air full of salt and moisture. Looking back on this flawed photo will bring me back to that day more than any perfectly crisp, edited photo (it will also always better succeed in making my mouth water for fish n’ chips).
I guess I’m more invested in the story behind a photo because, when it comes down to it, the audience for all of this is myself. I’ve always viewed Instagram as a way for me to document my life in photos: I like scrolling through and remembering all the memories I’ve had, looking back on who I was with, where we were, how I felt. If it feels fake to me, there’s no point in sharing it.
The story is the reason why I started this blog – to add more elaborate words to my photos, to expand on the things that I love – and I’ve found so much comfort in this flexible medium of words and photos.
The reason why I’m going on a tangent about all of this is because, as I mentioned, I want to use these next few months to immerse myself in my passions, and that includes eating food, learning about food, writing about food…you get the picture. Before I leave the country, I wanted to make this switch so that when I arrive, I have a clear idea of how I want to be connecting on social media, and how I do not!
While I love using these outlets, I do sometimes get lost in the wormhole, left feeling bogged down by how wasteful and unnecessary they can be if used the wrong way. I want the time that I do spend documenting my trip to be valuable and meaningful, adding to this journey, so I can focus on why I’m even doing this.
Which brings me to the next part of this entry…
Why am I going to Italy?
If you remember, way back in November, I was the US winner for Slow Food’s “Eat Local Challenge”. The prize included a roundtrip ticket to Italy in September to attend Terra Madre Salone del Gusto, a crazy, gigantic, sensory-overloading festival of food, sustainability, and their present states across the world that spans 4 days in Torino – my kind of festival!
It’s funny how some things happen right when you need them to. To be more exact, it’s funny how some things happen right when you need them to within minutes. I had just left a rather confusing, frustrating meeting regarding my professional future and was distracting myself on my phone when I opened up the email from Slow Food International telling me that I had won. It’s taken me this past year to realize that sometimes coincidences like this can mean something.
But 4 days in Italy? That’s not long enough! I’ve been trying to find an excuse to get back since I left, and it had arrived. I was going to take advantage of it. I began to think, “Why don’t I just stay…for a while?” Without having any real plans in mind, I booked my return flight for December.
The first question I get when I tell someone about this trip is: Are you going for work? My role at Eataly has always been very fluid (which comes with its advantages and disadvantages), and while this trip is on personal terms, it absolutely relates to what I’ve done thus far and what I’m hoping to expand upon in my professional career. And that is food and sustainability.
The first few days of my trip will be jam-packed with it thanks to Terra Madre, but how could I spread this theme out for the rest of my time there? I slowly began to brainstorm, and it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I sat down and was able to more concretely plan out what I would actually be doing for these 3 months.
I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have met so many absolutely wonderful people through my job (Italians and Italio-philes) that have connected me with people they know, places I should visit, things I should see, that I feel almost overwhelmed with the possibilities.
Luckily, there is a wonderful resource called Google Docs to help me dump all this information somewhere and carve out some type of itinerary. I’m fighting my overplanning-personality in an attempt to keep this spontaneous in nature, but I do have a rough outline of the regions I plan to visit and around when I want to be there.
For example, I knew that I wanted to go to places I didn’t get to my first time around in Italy, and thus Sicily was instantly on the list. Who do I know in Sicily? One of our olive oil vendors, and wait – they harvest olives in October in Sicily…can I visit them and witness the creation of one of my favorite products in person? The conversations grew, the list grew, and I quickly had an outline of farms, producers, cities, and small towns from Piemonte to Sicilia where I had a connection.
At first I was struggling to think of what the goal of this trip would be. How would I explain this to people and make them realize that this isn’t just a fun Italian jaunt for me, but actually is so completely relevant to what I want to be doing in my professional career?
To me it’s become obvious – what better way to understand food systems and sustainability than seeing it first hand? And why Italian? Because it’s the culture and cuisine I can most relate to at this present moment – what I view as a simple and, at its core, sustainable food culture that values what I value.
I’m now viewing this as my own little ‘culinary tour’ of some of my most favorite products I’ve come across, from olive oil to honey to salumi e formaggi, and time to learn the whole story: from the producers and vendors, the farmers, and the land or animals that created it. It’s a time for me to devote myself to my creative and professional passions, and I couldn’t be more excited.
I’ve lived in Boston for almost 6 years now, the Boston-area for practically my entire life, and I’m feeling like a change is needed. 3 months away in Italy might be enough of a change for now, but who really knows. I’m open and willing to see where this will take me.
I’m luckily at a point in my life where I can drop everything and leave for this amount of time, which is a freedom I don’t take for granted.
The security of an apartment in a beautiful neighborhood on a quiet street with an easy commute and a short drive to my hometown, living near so many of my closest friends and being able to see them after work – these are all things I feel incredibly lucky to have had here in Boston and love about living here. But I’m also feeling like I’ve gotten a little too comfortable for someone in their early 20s. I have my whole life to be this comfortable; right now, I’d rather be challenged and uncertain. It’s something I’ve found a lot of my friends are relating to lately in this weird, confusing, exciting, figure-it-out stage of life.
Sto gironzolando – I’m wandering. Is that what I should tell Italians when they ask what I’m doing in their country for 3 months? It may not be entirely true (is it still wandering if it’s not completely aimless?), but it’s very much my mindset, and the timing feels right.
Ciao for now!
Thanks for reading! The majority of future updates will be posted via @orchardeorto on Instagram, with longer updates here. I’ll also be writing a few articles for Slow Food Boston and sharing snippets on their accounts – go give ’em a follow! 🙂