60 Years of Cultural Institute – PopUp Café

Text: Alexander Maxia – Photos: Marcus Sätherström

Last November ‘Italienskkulturinstitutet‘ or the ‘Italian Cultural institute in Stockholm’ celebrated their 60th birthday. On this occasion ‘Lost in a Cup‘ was there with our Pop-up Café to contribute by bringing quality Italian coffee to the party.

PopUp Café at the Italian Cultural Institute in Stockholm

The participants to the event included many Italian expats who have made Sweden their home but also many locals that for one reason or another fell in love with Italian culture and took any opportunity to practice their Italian.

Over a hundred guests attended the celebrations

We designed the stand so that the coffee machines were facing the public and not the baristas. Our idea was to teach people to make Italian espresso themselves – for each other! After all, our hashtag is #EspressøYourself so what better way to promote the company ethos than by encouraging people to get a hands-on experience in espresso making and interact with others around them?

Luckily Ismaele Rombi, La Tazza d’Oro’s coffee expert, was on hand to supervise the many amateur baristas who were keen on learning how to make good coffee like in an ‘Italian Bar’. Italian espresso nowadays can be enjoyed across the world as long as the ingredients are of good quality and you have the right tools to make it. For the occasion we collaborated with the Italian household brand ‘DeLonghi’ who lent us their grinder and espresso machines that together with our own ‘Adesso Espresso’ capsule machine delivered fantastic espressos to the many enthusiasts.

Ismaele Rombi (left) sharing his knowledge on good espresso making

A few hours and 200 coffees later, the party ended. It was a great evening and the team at the Institute really did a phenomenal job in organising such a popular event. Driving back to Uppsala we reflected on the many interesting conversations we engaged in, the many stories of people who love ‘il Bel Paese’, the feedback and encouragement many gave us. We felt a sense of satisfaction. On a cold and dark winter evening we brought the taste and atmosphere of a ‘bar della piazza‘ to a location so very far from Italy, yet so strongly connected to it.

The team: Edwin Oldfield, Ismaele Rombi and Alexander Maxia

Thanks to the team at the Italian Cultural Institute, Ismaele Rombi and DeLonghi Nordics for making this PopUp Café such a success. See you next time?

White [Milky] Friday

Today is ‘White Friday‘ on Lost in a Cup. Today we celebrate white, milky, some say ‘weak’ coffees such as the popular ‘Latte’ or to be correct ‘Latte macchiato‘ you can see depicted below.

Mixing milk with coffee in Italy is usually done in the mornings, for breakfast and there is the unwritten rule of ‘no cappuccinos after midday’. Often touristy destinations offer Cappuccinos on the menu of restaurants and pizzerias but be aware it is just for tourists! Most Italians would not have milk in their coffee after breakfast. The only exception is when they ask to stain their espresso with a splash of milk called a ‘macchiato’, which literally means ‘stained’. Macchiatos can be done with hot steamed milk, ‘a caldo‘ or with cold milk, ‘a freddo’.

 

Spoiler: next week will be “Black [Coffee] Friday”

Food & Drink you must try in Sardinia

The other day I met a chatty Swedish guy in a pub called Hannes, who told me he was flying to Sardinia for a family holiday and landing in Cagliari. What an odd coincidence! I’m not referring to the fact I met a Swedish guy in Sweden or to the unexpected coincidence that random chat with strangers occured in an alcohol serving premises but to the fact that his family chose to go on one of the few flights a year between Stockholm and Sardinia. As soon as he told me this I got him to give me his email address and promised I would give him a list of things to eat and drink which he must try when on the island.
Aperitivo

Start at the beginning with the ‘Aperitivo culture’ also known as Aperitif. It is comparable to the better known tapas culture in Spain, as it is the principle of going to a Bar/Cafe and having something to drink which is served with many little nibbles. The most popular of all is Aperol Spritz but also Campari Soda, Negroni, Negroni sbagliato, Garibaldi, Americano are all worth a try. Alternatively you can also have straight Prosecco or beer.
Beer

Surprisingly enough Sardinia has many local breweries which have popped up like mushrooms in recent years. I cannot say I’m an expert in handcrafted beers but Barley’s Friska is really good. For more info on the different craft produced beers in Sardinia there is Micro Birrifici – Sardinia which is a good link to check out. There is the most common Sardinian beer produced in the industrial area just outside Cagliari called ‘Ichnusa’. It is readily available all over Italy and in many countries across the world including Germany, UK and Sweden. In the last few months System Bolaget, the only chain of alcohol selling shops in Sweden, started selling it across the country in the ‘new beers’ section.

 

Wine

Red wine all the way, although there are also some really good white wines to try. House wine is cheap but most of the times really good, often better than more expensive bottled wine that can be bought in UK or Sweden. Cannonau is a typical variety of Sardinian red wine which is produced throughout the island and is quite strong in flavour. I’m no wine expert so will not go into further detail, but if you are looking for wine that you can also buy outside of the island the biggest producers are Argiolas (in the south) and Sella e Mosca (near Alghero, in the north).
Bread

Pane Carasau, Guttiau and Pistoccu are three different variaties of hard, crunchy bread one can only find in Sardinia. Similar breads can be found across the world such as Sweden’s rye crispbread ‘Knäckebröd’ but nothing beats Carasau served with local extra virgin olive oil and salt. There are also different varieties of normal bread in Sardinia that are worth looking out for, some of which are made in really artistic shapes and are characterised by a crunchy brown crust and a really soft doughy part.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil:

Plenty of brands, plenty of varieties as Sardinia is abundant with olive trees, some even several hundred years old. ‘Spremitura a freddo’ is the highest quality one can find as they only press the olives without any heat (a freddo) so as not to ruin the flavour and also to preserve the natural qualities and ‘goodness’ of the olives.

Pasta: A variety of sauces
Arselle e Bottarga or Bottariga. Normally long pasta such as linguini or spaghetti are served with clams and ‘Bottarga’ which some call ‘parmesan of the sea’ for the fact it is grated and adds salt and flavour to the pasta. Others call it ‘the caviar of the south’ as it is made by salting and drying fish eggs. Bottarga can also be eaten in slices as an appetizer, served with fennel or artichokes and a drizzle of olive oil .
Carlofortina pasta: from the island of San Pietro (south west of Sardinia) the village of Carloforte is a Genovese colony whose population brought over a series of traditions from their region and above all pesto. So Carlofortina pasta or pizza is made with green pesto, tuna (as they fish high quality tuna off the costs of that island) and fresh tomatoes.
Culurgiones: Sardinian ravioli filled with potatoes and cream cheese. These are served with a freshly-made tomato sauce (not ketchup) and a sprinkle of pecorino or parmesan cheese.
Fregola alla Pescatora: fregola is a typical Sardinian pasta which in many ways recalls couscous. Pescatora is a sauce made with a mixture of seafood and is very flavoursome. Different restaurants make it in different ways, some make it more dense,others a bit runny. Out of the two I personally prefer the dense one but it is a matter of taste.
Al Nero di Seppia: pasta cooked with squid ink. To some people this may look disgusting as you find yourself with a plate of spaghetti covered in a black sauce,but it is the most flavoursome spaghetti you will ever try! Obviously it tastes of fish to a certain extent, so if you hate seafood you might want to avoid this one.
Fish and Meat:
Polpo – octopus. Might sound disgusting but it is really nice, It is normally boiled and served in different ways either ‘alla diavola’ with a spicy tomato sauce or served cold with potatoes and balsamic vinegar as a sort of salad.
Bistecca di Cavallo – horse meat steak: now I can imagine the horrified faces of those who would believe that only barbarians would be cruel enough to eat a poor little horsy, but that is a very hypocritical thing to believe if the person thinking this eats veal or lamb which are the cutest of ‘baby animals’ that have not even had the chance of discovering the joys of life before being slaughtered or those who eat battery farmed chicken; how morally correct is that? Either way it is a very tasty steak which is comparable to beef in many aspects ,but more flavoursome. In some places they make fast food sandwiches for €5 with cavallo e patate (shredded horse meat and potatoes). Normally a classic ‘Fiorentina’ horse steak is served with fresh ruccola and shredded parmesan cheese.
Cheese: lots of cheese production takes place in Sardinia. Many of which are made from goat or sheep milk. Pecorino(sheep cheese) is a classic which you have in all different shapes and sizes, more or less matured, smoked, cream pecorino spread with chilli and so on. There are also other types of cheeses that are really nice made from sheep milk of which my absolute favourite is ‘casaxedu’ (read casascggedu as the x in the Sardinian language is read something like scgg) but it is not readily available in bigger supermarkets, being easier to find in inland villages. Out of the cow milk cheeses ‘Dolce Sardo’ made by Arborea (the Sardinian equivalent to Arla) is really nice as it is of a soft consistency similar to Brie and also quite sweet in flavour.
Dessert

Sebadas is a classic ,but its very filling as it is a deep-fried, sweet, large, ravioli filled with soft cheese, served with honey. If your meal was relatively small have this to fill you up at the end.
Dolcetti Sardi: small typically Sardinian cakes that one would have to accompany a coffee at the end of a meal.
Espresso Coffee

Sardinia has three major coffee brands: La Tazza d’Oro, Karalis (both produced near Cagliari) and Moka Domus (produced in Ogliastra,in the centre of the island). It is just as nice, if not nicer, than the big Italian brands with the added bonus that it’s locally produced.
Digestivi also known as Ammazza Caffe’ (coffee killers) or Amari

These are commonly drunk to finish a meal, after the espresso coffee (that locals have even after dinner) , a strong liquor that will make you tipsy enough to start dancing as one would do at a wedding, first communion or traditional village festivities. Locally produced Limoncello is nice but the must try which is unique to Sardinia is Mirto. This can be bought in bottles but is often home-made and is fairly strong (30 – 40 – 50 per cent), has an intense flavour and dense texture. Some people compare it to Jagermeister ,but I disagree as the taste is quite different. It is made from the myrtle berry that grows wild and abundantly in the countryside all over the island. If you want something really strong Fil’e Ferru might be for you: it is also known as Sardinian aquavit as it is really strong and most of the times homemade. The name translated from Sardinian means metal wire as when it was illegal to produce your own alcohol people in the countryside used to bottle it and bury the bottles in the ground and only a metal wire stuck out to indicate where the drink was hidden.
The good and the bad thing about Sardinian food and drinks is that they are quite unique and hard to find outside of the island. The bad part is you cannot find these products in other countries, the good part is that, like with every drug, you will have to come back to have some more. And as it is a good drug, Sardinian people will be glad to see you back on their island!

25 Aprile: Lettera a gli Studenti Italiani di Uppsala

[English below]
Carissimi soci,
Oggi l’Italia festeggia la ‘Festa di Liberazione’. Un giorno importante per la storia di un giovane Paese con antiche origini, che per via di alcuni scellerati e una forte propaganda, ha deviato il corso centenario di evoluzione di pensieri e filosofie che hanno portato alla fondazione deil nostro Stato nel 1861. L’Italia, oggi, di costituzione è antifascista. L’apologia al fascismo è reato sansionabile per legge e noi come organizzazione studentesca Italiana siamo in linea con questi principi di uguaglianza, anti discriminazione e inclusione.
Se non ti ritrovi in questi principi generali alla base della nostra Costituzione Repubblicana, forse questa associazione non fa per te.
Di sotto ho pubblicato un link a ‘Bella Ciao’, canto antifascista, non comunista come alcuni erroneamente credono. Un canto dei Partigiani, famoso in tutto il mondo, dedicato a coloro che hanno lottato col sangue per creare l’Italia che conosciamo oggi: libera, democratica e antifascista.
Buon festeggiamento a tutti e spero di vedere molti di voi studenti Uppsaliensi stasera al nostro ‘Pub Crawl di Liberazionel’ in cui festeggieremo questo giorno importante nel modo migliore che conosciamo.
Calorosi Saluti,
Alexander Maxia
Presidente
Studenti Italiani Università di Uppsala
***********************************************************************
Dear Members,
Today Italy celebrates ‘Festa di Liberazione’ (liberation party). It is a really important day for the history of a young country with ancient origins, which due to the actions of few idiots and a strong propaganda, stopped the century long history of progression of philosophical thoughts and ideologies which were at the basis of the foundation of our State in 1861. Italy today, is antifascist by constitutional law. Supporting fascism is a crime punishable by law and we as an Italian student organisation, are in line with these principles of equality, anti-discrimination and inclusion.
If you feel that these principles do not belong to you, maybe this organisation is not for you.
I have published below a link to ‘Bella Ciao’, an antifascist song, not communist as some may mistakenly believe. It is a song of the Partisans, famous around the world, dedicated to those who sacrificed their lives to create Italy as we know it today: free, democratic and antifascist.
Wish you all to enjoy the celebrations and hope to see many of you Uppsala students at our ‘Liberation Pub crawl’ event tonight in which we will mark this important day celebrating the way we know best.
Best regards,
Alexander Maxia
President
Italian Students of Uppsala University
Links:
Email studenti.uu@gmail.com
Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/studenti.uu/

The Sardinian Diaspora

Sardinia has a total population of around 1.6 million inhabitants (roughly the same amount of people that Sicily has in the county of Palermo alone) and the majority of its inhabitants are concentrated around the main city Cagliari (approximately 300.000).
For a series of historical, social and financial reasons many left the island to find fortune on the Italian mainland or further afield.
My family is a perfect example of this. My father moved to London aged 19, my great uncle moved to Rome with his family in the 60s and lived there until he died, my grandfather and his brothers all studied in mainland Italy and a generation before them my great grandfather went to work in mines in Belgium and after that moved to mainland Italy, my other great grandfather instead worked in Argentina for a few years  and then they both returned to Sardinia.
There have been different waves of migration but some things have not changed through time such as the strong sense of belonging the islanders feel towards their homeland.
Even moving to Rome or the north of Italy is a big deal as ‘continente’ (= the continent, name given to mainland Italy by Sardinians) is not Sardinia. The reasons are many; partly geographical due to differences in scenery mainly the lack of stunning beaches and big green areas but also climatically as the 300+ days of sun per year, hot summers and mild winters are hard to live without once you have been used to them all your life. Lack of sun can deeply impact ones mood. The main differences however are cultural and linguistic as Sardinia has its own language which is quite different from Italian and the colourful expressions and unique words that characterise it cannot really be translated into any other language.
Today, many of my friends have left Sardinia either to continue their studies at a postgraduate level or to find work. The vast majority of them lives in Milan, followed by London, Bologna (the biggest university city in Italy), some in Rome and others abroad (many of whom live in Germany which historically has always had a strong Sardinian community).

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Cagliari-Elmas Airport, departure point for many who live outside of Sardinia.

Before leaving there are a series of rituals most Sardinian youths will observe. First of all, you must drop by to say goodbye to Nonna. After that, in the evening, you say goodbye to your close friends who live on the island, one more aperitif or espresso coffee and you don’t leave before they reassure you that they will come and visit you at some point.
You get back home, pack the last things including the all important Sardinian food which has been kept in the fridge until the last minute including Bottarga (dried fish roe, typically Sardinian), pecorino cheese, cured ham or sausages that all get added to the previously packed Mirto and Limoncello.
A few hours later you are at the airport checking-in your suitcase and praying that all the heavenly goods packed do not surpass the baggage weight allowance.
Time for goodbyes: one last hug to mamma and babbo who usually tell you to look after yourself and keep in touch.
You go through security checks and look around, many others are in your same position with heavy bags and heavy hearts preparing to leave the island. Job opportunities in Sardinia are scarce, the local universities are very limited in what they offer and the ‘Sardinian mentality’ tends to drag you down making it very hard for an ambitious, international-minded youth to stay in his or her homeland.
After all Life is Calling, no time to linger or feel nostalgic, one must take to the skies in order to fulfil ones aspirations and potentials leaving Sardinia to spread across Europe and beyond.
The dream however remains to one day maybe return for good to Sardinia perhaps to start a family, set up a business to benefit the local economy or retire in the sunny slow-paced corner of paradise in your golden days.
The hope is that maybe, at that point, things will have changed for the better: the local political elite will have more sense and be in touch with the reality that surrounds them and actually care about the people they supposedly serve. Maybe the Sardinians will have lost their ‘characteristic mentality’ that tends to prevent anyone from being successful by filling anyone who dares to try something new with envy and pessimistic vibes as fear of change rules their provincial way of thinking.
That said, looking back at my family, after nearly 10 years in London my father managed to return to Sardinia and his grandfather before him after years in Argentina so there is still hope.
As long as there is hope and the will to return and change things there will be the possibility that the Sardinian diaspora may reverse its course and that many of the talented people who fled the island may return to change it for the better. Perhaps when this will happen, Sardinia will truly reach its full potential which for now is a goal which seems light years away.

Take Me to Church 

After many years not going to my local Church in Sardinia (Italy) where I had my first communion and was confirmed I tagged along with Mum and Grandmother that wanted me to go with them for the 11 o’clock Christmas service.

In classic Italian style the mass started a few minutes late but many arrived 15-20 minutes after the service began. Even the altar boy and girl were late and ran up the alter to join the priest. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt 15 years ago as I was often late when serving (some things just don’t change).

The parish priest, an acquaintance I met years ago when he was still training, was now portraying himself as very traditional as he wore old fashioned gowns (both on and off the altar) that recalled medieval priest attire and also decided to sing big parts of the mass.
During the mass, 3 ladies read extracts from the Bible at the microphone. It was their moment of glory, they could shine in front of the parish and show what a good reading intonation they have. After all, it’s good that they have something to look forward to during the week which must be a welcome change from their daily housewife duties.
The parish is located in an area called ‘Margine Rosso’, the ‘Beverly Hills’ of Quartu S. Elena, the city in which I was brought up and where my family still lives. In this area many drive BMWs or Mercedes and even at church you could notice their social-economic status by the fact that many were wearing Burberry scarfs or other ostentatiously posh clothing and most likely have successful careers to match.
It is funny that you can visibly distinguish who truly believes from those who are forced to attend by their bossy wives and this can be noticed especially when people are required to kneel down or at the start and end of the mass when everyone is supposed to do the sign of the cross.
For some reason the young children tend to make most noise (scream, cry or kick a fuss) in the most sacred moments. That could be a sign of their inner struggle with demons that possess them who could not stand the high levels of holiness.
During the mass croce-san-lucathere was a moment of ‘free prayers’ in which a member of the community read out ‘supplications’ thought by parishioners. One of them was for ‘the people who lost their faith’ to help them find the goodness within them (I almost burst out laughing) and to help the ‘Christian communities’ in Norcia (central Italy) who were effected by an earthquake earlier in the year.
After mass I wished a Happy Christmas to The Nun who used to be in charge of the alter boys (and probably still is). She hasn’t aged in 15 years which makes me vaguely suspicious, does she have Swedish blood?

I respect the Catholic Church as an organisation as they do a lot of good in building communities, uniting people, giving hope and purpose and being a multinational point of reference for millions of people across the world. However, I will never be able to go back to being part of an organisation that inflicts disease on many by preventing them using protection against HIV, that condemns homosexuals and bisexuals to being damned for eternity for the fact their love does not follow the Mary-Joseph-Jesus model. Also the condition of women inside the Church who are inferior to men in the functions they have as nuns cannot give mass and are forced to cover their hair (same way as women in Saudi Arabia widely criticised by catholic people).
When leaving the church someone asked me why I did not go for communion, to which I replied: ‘sorry, I’m a vegetarian’.

The tile of the post was inspired by Hozier’s song you can watch the video here.

 

 

Fulvio Fo (1928 – 2010)

Exactly 6 years today (17th November 2010)the great artist Fulvio Fo lost his battle to cancer and passed away in Rome.

He was a great man, who I had the privilege of meeting personally and work with during a ‘basic theatre course’ he held in the evenings in my high school in Sardinia.
Known to many as “animale teatrante e scrittore” (theatre animal and writer) he had a long career working in theatre and cinema mainly in Italy but also has some stunts abroad.
Born in Luino (a small place near Varese, in the north of Italy) in 1928 he was noble prize winner Dario Fo’s older brother.

fulvio_fo
He was a scenographer, theatre director in Turin and Rome and wrote several books too. In 1996 he moved to Sinnai, a village in the mountains just outside Cagliari, in Sardinia.
The following is a direct quote from Fulvio who wrote this a few weeks before he died:

“Quando arriverà il mio momento so che seguirò questa schiava-padrona con animo limpido, consapevole di potermene andare serenamente lasciando il mio riflesso, la mia impronta positiva sorridente di gioia illuminata e rassicurante”(Fulvio Fo).

This is my translation of the original Italian version above, although it does not sound half as poetic written in English:”When my moment will come I know I will follow this slave-master with clear spirit, aware that I will be able to leave serenely leaving my reflection, my positive and smiling mark with joy both illuminating and reassuring.” (Fulvio Fo)

 

 

The practical course I did with him in 2008 helped me immensely in winning over my timidness as at the end of it we did a live performance. During rehearsals he kept advising me: ‘speak slowly, make pauses and respect them. The pauses you make are just as important as the words you articulate’. If you think about this it is so true, one just needs to watch a speech from the best orator alive, Barack Obama, to realise the accuracy of Fulvio’s teachings. Pauses makes it sound as if you are stopping to think and give your words an air of importance.
Since that course speaking in public became much easier and the year after, when I got elected ‘representative of the students’ by my fellow school mates, I was able to chair school assemblies with an audience of a few hundred people without succumbing to nerves.
His kindness, good spirit and enthusiasm will always be remembered by those who were lucky enough to get to know him and I know I speak on behalf of everyone in the theatre group who in a short period of time learnt so much from him.

Greeting People

The first thing that happens in a group situation, with people from different parts of Europe that gather in one place for a training course, is a meet and greet session. In my books, this was also the most entertaining part of the first few days of the course I followed, as you can tell cultural differences a mile away.

As the course was in Spain, the organisers used the Spanish way to greet the participants so a hand shake and two kisses on the cheek. Most entertaining was seeing the reaction on people’s faces, the majority of which could not mask their sense of surprise and slight unease to all this southern affection. Most taken aback were the Palestinian girls who were totally shocked by the forwardness of the spaniards.

Also I had some difficulties: when greeting one of the city councillors I went in for kissing her right cheek first whilst apparently in Spain you start from the left.

Overall very entertaining, I strongly recommend this experience just for the fun of it.