Food for Thought!

Eating right doesn’t only help keep your body fit, it helps your brain stay fit too!

Plenty of studies show that what we eat has an impact on our ability to remember – and even our likelihood of developing dementia as we age.

Eating healthy is a critical consideration in this high-action era –in which we are staying active in our professional lives longer than ever before.

Many executives hang their “consultant” shingle in their sixties- after they’ve racked up great experience in the corporate world. They rightly understand the value their experience can be for others.  How important, then, is it that we eat right? Now and as we age?

I had the extreme pleasure recently, at a TodayFM business event I spoke at, to meet an Irish food scientist who is putting his business where our mouths are.

Dr. John Collier launched “Life Kitchen” after his father died and he realized the pre-packaged meals his now-alone mom was buying at the grocery stores, were, quite frankly, crap.

“I could see a decline in my mother,” John told me. “She wasn’t looking at what she was eating. She had high cholesterol high blood pressure, and diabetes.  Those supermarket ready-made meals are full of fat, high in sugar and salt. They’re not what she should be eating.”

His meals, which can be ordered and delivered to anywhere in Ireland and the UK at the moment, are high in protein  – 30 grams in each meal, minimum  – and feature foods high in anti-oxidants with no extra salt or sugar.

All that and they’re still tasty! My eight-year-old daughter Lulu and I tried three different meals last week.  We especially enjoyed the Turkey Meatballs, which are served on a barley pilaf with a red pepper sauce that packed a huge flavor punch!

John sneaks vegetables like corn and courgettes (that’s “zucchini” to you Americans out there) into his meatballs which unsuspectingly boost the vitamin count without detracting from the taste.

Nutrients and protein are one of his main focuses because, as John points out, “Once we’re over 35, our muscle degradation increases and we need to take in more protein. For many of us, especially if we’re under work pressure, we’re working long hours and we may not be eating properly.  That has an impact on our muscle mass.”

And, as research shows, it impacts our brain matter too.

We know the adage,

We are what we eat – but that doesn’t only apply to our body composition. It applies to our minds too.

Our strategic thinking requires us to train our brain with the right fuel too.   If we’re too busy to prepare healthy food, Life Kitchen can do it for you.

The healthier meals are doing wonders for John’s mom.

“My mother is flying it now. Her own mother lived to 105. You can’t rid of a bad thing,” John jokingly adds. I think.

Great food for thought.

Copyright 2016 Gina London. All Rights Reserved. 


Countdown to Departure from Italy. 8 days to go. Pazzi for Il Pozzo Pizza!


Last night we went to one of our favorite places – the lovely Tuscany country inn – “Il Pozzo” for a pizza-making party – hosted by our awesome friend and the coolest inn-keeper in all of Italy – probably the world – Carla Veneri!

The one, the only, Carla Veneri!
The one, the only, Carla Veneri!

Of course, Italy is synonymous with pizza, but with Carla, you get more; it’s a real hands-on experience!


Olivia, Mateo, Matilde, Eduardo, Ludovica and of course, Lulu were all provided wooden boards, flour, yeast, water and salt.  They dug in, pouring, stirring and rolling – as I marveled how those few simple ingredients combine to make such a tasty crust.


As the children marched outside – carrying their rolled-out crusts over to Il Pozzo’s stone oven, (manned by their indomitable chief handy-man and chef, Carlo) I realized that maybe it’s more than the ingredients; it is also the smoky flavor and crisp texture the oven’s wood-sparked flames provide that make the “That’s Italian” difference.

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The final result, as you can see but unfortunately cannot taste, was perfect. Topped with tangy tomato sauce, cheese and whatever-other-delectables-you-can-imagine, we happily munched away!


And, as with every gathering over which Carla presides, laughter and fun are always served up alongside.

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This was our last visit to this glorious, breath-taking 500-year-old farmhouse set among Tuscany’s rollling hills.  For this time around.  I know it won’t be our last.


We love Il Pozzo. We love you Carla.

Un grande baccino!
We love you, Carla!

And we love Pizza!

Baci, Gina

Copyright 2014 Gina London.  All Rights Reserved.





Countdown to Departure from Italy. 22 Days to Go.

It’s no baloney, mortadella is something we will definitely miss when we leave Arezzo.

It bears a resemblance to our American Oscar Mayer type variety, but make no mistake, the Italian version is much richer, tastier and, I think, purer.   Lulu’s refined tastes go even further.  She often says, as she gets a free sample of the Italian sausage from our favorite butcher in town, “It’s not mortadella, if it’s not Alfredo’s mortadella.”

Lulu and Alfredo - and the mortadella!
Lulu and Alfredo – and the mortadella!

You can find mortadella and its delicious piggy sausage cousins, like salami and finocchiona – and this eye-catching and full-bodied roasted and stuffed suckling-pig known as porchetta throughout Tuscany.


It took me a while to get used to being, er, face, to face – leg or snout – with so much meat.  In fact, seeing the sequoia- sized logs of pork – like this photo I snapped yesterday at our supermarket –


– prompted me to write the following essay – as excerpted from my book about our adventures here in Tuscany, Because I’m Small Now and You Love Me. 

So, the day we walked into our supermercato and saw the grand-daddy of all salumi on display, I’m not exactly sure if it might also have been from the subset, salami, but Lulu and I agreed, it was HUGE.

To better paint this image, let me explain that I like to call this store “the Disco,” because invariably there is some old dance party music thumping through its stereo system. And on this particular day, “Super Freak” greeted us as the automatic glass doors slid open.

“She’s a very kinky girl. The kind you don’t take home to mother”

 Lulu was laughing as I began bopping and singing along with Rick James while I pushed our cart.  We first arrived at the pasta and bread aisles.

“She will never let your spirits down. Once you get her off the street”

Then we turned the corner to the fresh produce area to select some veggies.

She’s all right, she’s all right, That girl’s all right, with me, yeah”

And then.  Then it happened.  We rounded into our final stop.  The pork section.  And there it was.

A ginormous 12 foot by 2 foot long, brick-red shaft of cured pork was stretched out on a wooden table like a, er, telephone pole.  Customers were all crowding around it while a grocery store associate wearing a blue and white striped apron and a little white paper hat delicately shaved off thin slices and handed them out.

It was massive.  I had never seen anything like it before.  Clearly neither had Lulu.  She pointed to it and yelled at me, “Mama!  Look! A giant meat rocket!”

That was it.  Lulu’s innocent, yet illicit, innuendo, combined with Rick James’ freaky song blaring over the store’s speakers, was just too much for me.

“She’s a Super Freak, Super Freak.  She’s super freaky. Yow”

Lulu wanted us to get a sample, but I had turned into a junior high school student.  I was laughing so hard at the improbable combination of sights and sounds that I couldn’t bring myself to wait in line for a taste of the meat rocket, er telephone pole, er, straighten up, Gina –  salami.

But after almost three years here in Tuscany, I am more than used to the popularity of pork. I am fond of it.   And as we prepare to depart Italy for Ireland, I must prepare to have the pork make way for… er, potatoes?

With love of food everywhere,


P.S. What are your region’s specialties? Like ’em? Love ’em?

Copyright 2014 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.


How much pasta can YOU eat?

The wonderful folks at Santa Prisca, the small grocery store in Arezzo’s historic center, that (love them) DELIVERS -has just remodeled.

The pasta section has been expanded to BOTH SIDES of an entire aisle.

???????????????????????????????As if I needed any more ample of a selection than this country already generously provides.

???????????????????????????????Some of my ex-pat friends who have lived in Italy longer than I have occasionally complain that they are actually “sick” of pasta.  I cannot imagine such a thing!

The only thing on my mind is usually which size and/or shape have I not yet tried? It is my personal goal to sample each and every type of pasta before we depart our culinary paradise of Tuscany.

And, of course, along with the many dried forms, Italians are even more famous for pasta “fatto a mano” or “made by hand.”  I have savored many meals with that as well.  And I can brag to you for a moment that my Irish-American husband, Scotty, has found an apparent lost Italian gene, as he can whip up a mean batch of homemade pasta.


One example are these “tortelli con zucca”  – light fluffy tortelli stuffed with roasted pumpkin, fresh-grated nutmeg and parmesan.  I promise, they not only looked delicious, they tasted as such too!

And along with the company, my not-too-sweet homemade tiramisu and don’t forget  some great chianti,  our latest dinner party was a success.

Great friends, great food! Ecco!
Great friends, great food! Ecco!

Viva Italia and Viva la pasta!

P.S.  I’ll let you know how I’m progressing on my pasta-eating-challenge. In the meantime, what’s your favorite kind? 

Til next time, 

Baci, Gina

Copyright 2014. Gina London. All Rights Reserved.

Meet Great Communicators!

(Or in today’s case, “Meat. Great Communicators!”)

Today, I’m kicking off a new on-going series which will profile people who are making a difference through better communications.

But this is not going to only be about millionaire consultants or executives – although there is certainly nothing wrong with that.


Great communicators can be found anywhere.  So this series will feature a range of people.  Real people who may be making big differences or smaller differences, but together they all add up.

Without further ado, I would like to introduce to you: Alfredo.  He and his wife Monica run Macelleria Alfredo  here in Arezzo.  If you know what “macelleria” means, you know already what their shop sells.

If you don’t, here’s your translation.  They run a butcher shop.  Not any old butcher shop, but one that is built on and committed to customer service.


There are many small butcher shops here in our small town in Tuscany which also have friendly, caring shopkeepers, but since Alfredo and Monica are special to me, I would like to share precisely how.

Whenever you walk in, you’re immediately greeted.  If there’s a line, no matter; you will still be acknowledged.  Every customer is known by name and preferences.   Whenever I come in with Lulu, Alfredo will hand her a lovely thin slice of mortadella, a light pink smooth textured type of Italian sausage (like Oscar Meyer’s bologna – but shh, don’t say a word).

Last November, when just two days before Thanksgiving, I decided I would try and roast my first Italian turkey, I was cautioned by some friends that it takes about a week to order a bird beforehand.   Not to worry, though.

Alfredo and our Thanksgiving turkey!
Alfredo and our Thanksgiving turkey!

I walked over to Alfredo’s and inquired.  He didn’t have any in stock, but he immediately made a phone call.   (I imagine he was calling some friend at a turkey-farm directly where some poor unsuspecting bird was about to be sentenced to death. Sorry!) He spoke on the phone in rapid Italian for a few moments and then turned to me, smiled and said I could pick up my seven-kilo turkey domani  or tomorrow.

“And it’s a female. Because they are plumper.  More delicious,” he confided to me.


Yes, sir! It was a ginormous bird that thankfully fit into our oven and came out juicy and delicious!


Great communications equals great personal relations- which also equals in my case- a tasty roasted Thanksgiving turkey.

Grazie mille, Alfredo and Monica.

If you’re a carnivore who comes to Arezzo and wants to try some authentic Tuscan treats, please pass by and say, “Ciao!” to Alfredo and Monica for me! They’re in the middle of the town’s historic center on Via Cavour.

Till next time, know a great communicator, let me know too and I’ll profile them!

Baci – Gina 


Copyright 2014 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.



My Advent Calendar: Christmas ITALIAN Style!

Mariano's Ristorante - just off of Piazza Grande in Arezzo, Italy!  Tell them Gina sent you!
Mariano’s Ristorante – just off of Piazza Grande in Arezzo, Italy! Tell them Gina sent you!

Here is the rather unassuming entrance to Mariano’s Ristorante in our adopted hometown of Arezzo, Italy.  Walk toward Piazza Grande, turn right past the ancient – and still trickling – fountain, up the narrow cobbled street and it’s about half-way along the path on your right.  Voila! Er, I mean Ecco! 

The couple who owns this small eatery,  Gianfranco and Chef – and namesake – Mariano – go out of their way to make you feel more like you walked into a good friend’s home, rather than a formal dining room.

Just last week when I popped in with a couple of girlfriends for a quick holiday cocktail, Gianfranco set down an assortment of cute little appetizers with our bubbly prosecco flutes that were delicious, unexpected and – Merry Christmas! – FREE!

Have high ceilings you don't know what do do with? Hang a tree or six from them!
Have high ceilings you don’t know what do do with? Hang a tree or six from them!

Dinner here is always an original twist on traditional Tuscan.   And, like the upside- down decorated Christmas trees hanging now from the rafters, these pleasant surprises are what always make me want to come back!

Bravi, gentlemen, and see you again soon!

And for the rest of you out there – where’s your favorite holiday hang-out?

Baci, Gina

Winter means it’s Time for Soup!

It’s dark and cold outside as Lulu and I walk home after buying Christmas presents at Arezzo’s darling holiday mercato which just set-up this weekend.

Under a canopy of white, Italian leather purses  hang next to another kiosk which features fluffy robes and slippers.

“I want some new ciabatte,” Lulu cajoles.  “I don’t care if they’re not the right size,” she adds noticing that all the slippers on display are clearly for full-grown women.

We buy what we came for (not slippers/ciabatte) and trek up the steep Via Madonna del Prato up to our home.  Inside, we’re met by the savory aroma of the soup I made earlier this afternoon.  Scotty has been watching over it as it simmered. Making sure it didn’t dry out or burn – so hopefully it will taste as good as it smells right now.

It does!

The photo doesn’t do this justice: I promise this soup was amazingly delicious!

And since I am one of those people who rarely uses a recipe when I cook, I was so pleased with the flavor of tonight’s winter stew, I am going to write it down before I forget what I put in.  Hopefully I can make it again – and also successfully share its secrets with you!  Okay, so, I’ll call this:

Mamma Gina’s Hearty Rich Winter Beef Stew

1 pound of beef stew meat – chopped small (I have no idea if it was really a pound since beef here is, of course, sold by the kilo. About a couple of handfuls of cubed beef anyway.)

4 medium potatoes chunkily diced

2 carrots sliced

1 onion diced

2 minced cloves of garlic

2 stalks of celery sliced

5 or 6 mushrooms chopped

4 or 5 small plum tomatoes chopped

5 or 6 bay leaves

1T flour

1 bouillon cube (No,  I rarely make my own stock – shame, I know. Here in Italy, I use “Classico” bouillon cubes – they seem pretty chickeny actually)

5 cups or so of water.  This will need some monitoring.

2 T balsamic vinegar

2 T Worcestershire sauce.  (Yes, I get this here in Italy. Love it.)

2 T sugar

1 T coarse salt

1 T cinnamon (really!)

Red pepper flakes – a shake or two of the spice jar – depends on your personal spicy meter)

Black pepper and dried parsley flakes to taste

2 or 3 glugs of olive oil

All righty, that may seem like a lot of ingredients, but I just used what was in the fridge and the cupboards tonight.

First, I coated a large, deep pot with oil and tossed in the beef with the flour and stirred it up.  I then wantonly tossed in the rest of the ingredients.   Just like that.  I stirred it all up  – letting the onions and potatoes and carrots wilt a tad with the flame on pretty low – but I didn’t worry about it.

After about ten minutes, I added enough water to cover everything up – and brought the brew to a boil.  Immediately after it began to boil, I turned it down to a simmer, helped Lulu put on her coat – and went shopping!

Scotty manned the stove for the next two hours – adding a bit of water as needed and scraping the bottom of the pan to prevent burning.  By the time Lulu and I returned home, as I mentioned, the soup smelled delicious.  The meat was amazingly tender and the potatoes had thickened up the broth to a velvety texture.

Honestly, the layers of flavors in this stew are really something.  I sliced up some Tuscan bread and Lulu sopped up nearly everything in her bowl.

Cold winter night coming up? Don’t worry, now you can have my stew – and eat it too!

Baci, Gina