In 48 hours, I’ll be on a plane en route to Perugia, Italy. Well, first, that plane will stop in Houston, and then again in Munich. But on January 6, I’ll land in the country where I’ll spend the next four months of my life.
Though I’ve joked with many that my reason for leaving the country is the impending Trump presidency, that isn’t the case. In fact, I’ll be studying food and sustainability at the Umbra Institute in Perugia, a medieval hilltop city in central Italy. This move is daunting yet exciting. Although I’m looking forward to all that I’ll learn and see and do abroad, I’m frightened to leave everything and everyone I know.
Still, I know I’ll have to leave somehow. My bags are (mostly) packed, and I’m bringing along a few reminders of home. I’ve scheduled final coffee dates and get-togethers. Friends and I made the trek down to New Orleans for New Year’s, and we made some fantastic and delicious memories there that I hope to share with you in another post.
This is the second “leaving” I’ve endured in the past month. On December 17, Epiphany, the Tuscaloosa restaurant where I’ve worked for the past year and a half, closed its doors for good. The restaurant had been open for over thirteen years, and even before I worked there, Epiphany was one of my Tuscaloosa staples. A creative place with a seasonal menu — it just doesn’t get much more “me” than that.
So many of my close friends (coworkers) and I gave our actual blood, sweat and tears to that place. We loved it because we loved the food and each other. And in the times that we hated it, our dedication to the same things kept us coming back.
The final night of the restaurant’s existence was a sweet one. We shared lots of wine and stories and laughs. I don’t believe it will really hit me that it’s gone until May, when I return to Tuscaloosa. I believe that most of my coworkers have found other jobs in Tuscaloosa. Many of them will work at Epiphany owner Tres Jackson and sous chef Joel Fredrick’s new place, Animal Butter. Tres will move on to his hometown of Charleston, SC with another new venture, Sorghum and Salt.
It feels strange to bid all of this adieu, but at the same time, it feels timely. I look forward to finding myself in a place I’ve never visited. I look forward to discovering new foods and places and for making new friends. I will miss my friends and family, my hometown and my bed. I will miss fried chicken, gravy, grits, country ham, slow-cooked greens and all of the other things I’m leaving behind here in the states. For this, I am grateful to live in a world with iPhones and FaceTime and WhatsApp (download it!) and to be living in a country that has pretty good food, too.
I hope to be able to blog some while abroad, not only to keep others updated but also as an outlet for myself. Don’t hold your breath or anything, but here’s hoping you’ll hear from me in a couple of weeks as I immerse myself in all things Italia.