Pharmacies and Medicines in Italy
One day, after some relief from fever, general laziness, and severe joint pains, the Italian homeowner came back from outside with a plastic bag in hand. He bought many kinds of medicines for nausea, fever, pain, stomach, etc., and explained them to me, who didn’t understand Italian, one by one with his gestures.
He said that unlike Japanese pharmacies, Italian pharmacies (Pharmacia) are basically prescription pharmacies, and you can’t buy the right medicine for your condition unless you go to the hospital and have a doctor examine you, so you have to somehow collect all the medicines that are available now and He told me that he had prepared it for me. I felt a mixture of gratitude and apology to him for being so kind to such a foreigner who had no idea where he came from, and I was filled with the desire to show him how well I was doing as soon as possible, so I decided to try the medicine right away from that night. The rumor that “foreign medicines are more effective than Japanese ones” was not necessarily true, especially the painkiller (Tachipirina) which made me feel surprisingly comfortable, and the citrusy, very refreshing-tasting vitamin powder nutritional supplement (Polase) has saved me from drinking the bad tasting homemade oral rehydration solution ever since. And unlike the package design of Japanese medicines, the packaging of Italian medicines is often so colorful and pop that it’s hard to believe it’s a medicine, and I feel like “If you take this, you’ll get better! It’s okay! It was as if he was encouraging me, and that alone was enough to take my mind off of things and make me feel better. The positive thinking that is typical of Italy is firmly rooted in these details of daily life.
First time at the table
One night, after being able to move around the house little by little, partly due to the effects of the medication, the landlord asked me if I was feeling better. I can’t go to work because I’m worried about you until I see you’re eating properly, so let’s have dinner together tonight, even if it’s just for a few minutes,” he said to me. I’ve been avoiding solid foods except for fruit and yogurt, but he was so worried about me that I needed to eat a little bit of food, so I accepted the proposal. Then he smiled a big smile and said, “Today, I’m going to treat you to a simple Italian pasta dish with all my skills. It’ll be ready soon, just wait!” And then stood in the kitchen.
Later, when he called me to the living room, I saw that the table was already perfectly set with a red tablecloth, rainbow-colored paper napkins, colorful plates, and knives and forks, and I realized that Italians are people who value the “table” of a meal with others very much. I was very happy to finally be able to come here to eat with my landlord for the first time. As I sat down, gatto the cat followed me to the table, and as if he was looking forward to eating with us all together, he climbed up onto the table and sat down to wait for his homemade pasta. I thought it wouldn’t be so bad to have a meal with two people and one animal at the table.
Kindness can sometimes be a liability
And when the long-awaited pasta finally arrived and he placed the plate in front of me with a proud look on his face and said, “Buonappetito!(please enjoy)” that’s when I was in a desperate situation.
The pasta served had no sauce whatsoever and looked very simple and harmless, but the smell was just as strong. He said, “Boiled pasta, salt and pepper, olive oil and butter, and cheese, that’s all I put on it, so you can eat it if you’re sick.” He stared at me as I popped the pasta into his mouth, and I held my breath at the smell of the pasta.
Apparently, this is a very orthodox and simple recipe called “pasta bianca” in Italy, but in Japan, when you are sick, you don’t often use oil or butter to avoid straining your stomach. The biggest problem is the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (or Parmesan cheese in English) on top of the pasta. Parmigiano-Reggiano is a wonderful cheese, native to Italy and typical of northern Italy, with a robust flavor and rich aroma, but in my current state of unappetizing and even nausea, this rich, rich aroma is just torture for me. Moreover, thankfully, in this situation, Parmigiano-Reggiano from the home country has an aroma many times stronger than the one we have in Japan. In addition, the cheese, which is just a small amount of flavoring, is in large quantities, so much so that you can’t even see the pasta, and on top of that, the cheese itself begins to heat up as it sits on top of the freshly made warm pasta, and the aroma of the pasta becomes more and more intense. The tragedy of increasing intensity has pushed me into a corner.
I shouldn’t have eaten it, considering my physical condition at the time, but I had no choice but to come here and not eat this foul-smelling pasta that he had worked so hard to make for me in front of me, and he just kept staring at it until I took a bite. Eventually, I couldn’t bear the pressure from this close range, and I finally took a bite of the pasta, wanting to respond to his kindness, but I hadn’t breathed since a moment ago. Anyway, in order to get over this difficult situation, I tried to kill my innate sense of taste and smell, but in spite of my efforts, my physical condition started to deteriorate again after this incident.No matter how much I held my breath, the more I chewed, the more the rich aroma of cheese escaped my nose, and no matter how much I chewed, I couldn’t swallow it at all, and I was desperately trying to chew my pasta like a hamster.
In the end, I won the fight to the death, eating the pasta with tears in my eyes and pouring it down my stomach, and I thanked him as best I could and went back to my room quickly and fished for my stomach pills. I was willing to push myself a little too hard, even if it meant I had to tell him a small lie, but if I wanted to give him relief.
When I told this episode to a Japanese woman who has lived in Milan for a long time, she said, “It’s a typical Italian episode! She laughed out loud. As I listened to the details, I learned that “pasta bianca,” the star of this case, is a standard home-style dish that is often eaten in Italy when one is not feeling well, similar to porridge in Japan. It is true that what the Japanese call rice is to the Italians what the Italians call pasta, but when you are sick and your body can accept olive oil, butter and a bowl of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, you guys are not sick! I decided to keep my doubts and true feelings about Italians, such as “I’m not Italian,” but I dare not say it. And when I asked for Japanese rice and miso soup, I reaffirmed my firm identity as a Japanese.
The story of the first time in my life I thought I was going to die in Milan, Italy (All Vol. 08)
Vol.07 Hospital Food Diary in Italy