Roast beef by any other name

By Zara McDowell


Roast beef at the Caffe Fiaschetteria Il Pucino in Siena. Photo by Zara McDowell

SIENA, Italy- Caffe Fiaschetteria Il Pucino, nestled along the Via Dei Termini, was filled with businessmen in powder blue button downs and dark blue ties, other local Sienese Italians and one confused group of tourists – us – who had unintentionally stumbled off the beaten path.

As we landed tiredly into our purposefully distressed white wooden chairs and matching table, the waitress placed different colored glasses and mustard yellow place mats, olive oil, salt, pepper and silverware onto the table. The tiny café, adorned with handwritten color-coded menus—blue for antipasti, green for salads and red for meat dishes— had an inviting atmosphere. Plus, prior to studying abroad, our group was told that if restaurant staff did not speak English, we were likely in the right place.

Being what I call a meatetarian, I opted for roast beef, no surprise to anyone that knows me. When I think of roast beef my mind automatically goes to the roast beef sandwiches on a hoagie roll with a side of au jus sauce that my mother made for me when I was little. But this was another thing altogether.

The thinly sliced roast beef arrived to the table on a round burnt orange plate. It is astonishing that one plate of meat can have a remarkably different taste when accompanied by varied sauces and oils.

“Olive oil and pepper. That’s it!” the waitress in a white Hard Rock Café Barcelona tee shirt exclaimed referring to the spices on the meat. I am still shocked that the delicious flavor came from only three ingredients.

The Toscana region of Italy is well-known for their olive oil, and when placed onto a plate of meat, it has my name written all over it.

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Filed under MU Journalism Abroad, Science ad Agricultual Journalism, Siena

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