One of the many things we love about this country is the same thing that millions of people love – the food. What is it about Italian food that makes it so special? It’s fresh, local and seasonal – we know that. That’s such a big trend in America now – eating locally. Italians must laugh at that as a “trend”. But it’s so much more than that. It’s very simple food, not overcomplicated with lots of ingredients or techniques. The techniques are those of their ancestors. Not just the recipes and the artful way they handle the pasta dough, but the wisdom developed over hundreds of years, like if you’re using an older cinghiale (wild boar), soak it in some water first to tenderize it. We’ve lost that, for the most part, in America. Whatever the reason, the food here is tremendous.
Pasta is king and the shapes and sizes available make our grocery store pasta aisle look like a Tonka toy at a monster truck rally. They know just what sauce to use with each kind of pasta to create a perfectly symbiotic concoction that subtly highlights both. Here’s a great example. For our first lunch as Tuscans, we ate at the little cantina below our apartment. We had a pasta called Margherite, which means daisies. It was shaped like perfect little daisies, the centers were white pasta and the leaves and the back were green. Stuffed inside each little daisy was a mild gorgonzola mixture and the whole thing was covered in an oil based sauce with walnuts. Simple, beautiful and wonderful. I was too jet lagged to take a picture, but I’m sure we’ll have it again. And again.
The first meal I “cooked” as an honorary Italian was a plate of fresh fruit that was given to us by our new landlord, Giovanni, and cheese and salami we bought at a little bottega in town. While I didn’t really cook anything, I was very proud of the result – fresh and wonderful.