Food: A Home for the Heart

Mike Mozart | Flickr/Creative Commons

I love Zuppa Toscana — the ultimate “Italian-style” knock-off soup from the Americanized, yet delicious, Olive Garden. I call Zuppa Toscana soup from Olive Garden an Italian-style knock-off because, the English translation for Zuppa Toscana literally means Tuscany-style soup. For me, the Italian sausage, crushed red peppers, diced white onion, bacon, russet potatoes, garlic cloves and kale symbolize home — not because I am from Italy and not because Olive Garden serves authentic Italian food, but because of the lively environment of the Olive Garden I often went to with my family at least once a month in high school.

Flickr/Creative Commons

It all began in fifth grade when I moved from the quiet, one-horse town I grew up in, called Arizona City, Arizona to a medium-sized, not-so-boring town called Casa Grande, Arizona. As a medium-sized town of 55,000, during the scorching 120-degree summer, and 80,000 during the temperate winter, “snow birds” from Canada and colder United States’ climates have become a vital part of Casa Grande’s economy during those few months of their stay. When temperatures drop to a chilly 42 degrees in the great Casa Grande, Arizona, soup is quite the hot commodity for the 80,000 living there. It seems as if the Casa Grande Olive Garden never has a wait under 30 minutes on a Friday or Saturday night. Many, many Casa Grande residents know and love the Zuppa Toscana.

My sister Paula and my niece Avery.

I first ever went to Olive Garden in my middle school years when it was such a fancy and foreign place to me. My big sister and her now-husband would recommend I order Zuppa Toscana with my entrée of chicken parmesan or chicken alfredo — and I always have ordered Zuppa Toscana ever since. As my years in middle school and high school dragged by, my mother and I going to Olive Garden for soup and salad became familiarly therapeutic for me as we beckoned our server to load our Zuppa Toscana and house salad up with grated cheese. Warm, cheese-filled Zuppa Toscana and garlic breadsticks were the bread and butter of my stomach’s contentment — true food for the soul.

Throughout the years I began to realize that Zuppa Toscana was one of those familiar, comfort zone foods that I would never change my mind about. A few days ago, as I am now a 19-year-old sophomore in college, I ordered Zuppa Toscana with my mom at a Chandler, Arizona Olive Garden and it met all of my expectations just as it always used to. Breadstick after breadstick I broke in half to dip into the warm soup I knew so well. Two bowls and five breadsticks later, I was once again a 16-year-old chowing down with mom after a long school day. While comfort zones are often frowned upon in this day and age, our taste buds tend to anticipate the comfort and warmth that comes with a familiar taste.

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