Wednesday, April 28, 2010


…you, the privileged, the chosen, the pampered, with nothing to do but go to school, hang out, do a little studying, go to college, get into a money-making racket, grow into your fat forties, still whining, still complaining, when there are millions around the world who’d offer fingers and toes to be in your seats, nicely clothed, well fed, with the world by the balls.

it's official.

Alberto: "congratulations, you are officially a member of Slow Food Italy." woo.



i love this photo. 

it's the perfect shot of the slow food logo in front of our university. bravo, limor, bravo. carlo petrini would be proud.

unfortunately, as we walked back to save this little snail from the middle of the street, a guy on a bike rode by, stopped his bike, stomped on the snail, and rode off.

the busiest day of the year in colorno, to my photographic delight.

Colorno is a sleepy, quiet town. on tuesdays and fridays a multitude of stalls fill the piazza girabaldi selling fruits, vegetables, electronics, various home goods, cured meats and cheese, roasted chickens, pots of herbs and can i say awful? clothing. but only until noon. also, at any time of the day you can find people sitting on the steps by the wall of the piazza or having a social cigarette outside the tabaccheria. but it's still a quiet life here. however, on sunday, the whole town seemed alive, packed with so many people coming to see the flower exhibition in the gardens of the ducal palace. everywhere you looked you could see people walking around with their arms full of flowering plants.

with no garden and no green thumb, i wasn't expecting too much and not too thrilled to have to pay 7euro to enter the gardens we can go into every other day for free! but i figured, this must be the biggest event of the year in colorno, it must be worth it. but, dios mios, i had a ball. i think arina, her friend limor from sweden and i walked around for at least 4 hours.

the flowers were gorgeous and fragrant,
the garden decorations looked artistic not tacky,
we tested our honey-tasting knowledge on hundreds of samples,
we sampled and bought creamy DOP cheese wrapped in chestnut leaves,

we chatted with a chocolatier from near venice who invited us to come visit,
we ate and introduced limor to torta fritta, salumi mista e sparkling vino bianco in plastic cups underneath the trees that reminded me of munich biergartens, 
we made promises of planting and growing our own plants and vegetables on our balcony

we tried on floppy flowery hats, 

exotic spices and sprays & teas of herbs promised us cures for every disease and ache,
scented soaps sought to quench the aroma in the air where the fresh flowers couldn't, 
we lay in the grass and watched children run around - uncreepily- then seasonal allergies scratched my entire body and tickled the back of my throat and nose,
we fell in love again with antica corte pallavicino where we sampled salami and fontera sparkling red wine and promised to visit (via biciclettas nuovas) on sundays when it sounds like they have a farmers market and then compared our store bought eggs, garlic, and asparagus to the ones we bought there,
i'll take two please.
stalls sold antiques furniture, house goods, and vintage dresses and jewelry that looked like they were straight out of an anthropologie catalogue,
we bought foccaccia genovese to try because the sign said it was a slow food presidio - obviously we had to - meanwhile, a bride and groom were having their wedding pictures taken in the garden amongst the hundreds of people - i'm sure much to the photographer's despair,
if i wasn't on a student's budget i would've bought all the products to try and if my camera battery wasn't blinking on low, i could've taken a hundred more pictures.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

while sitting in the airport waiting for our delayed flight, those few who had access to internet via iphones checked their email and read that alberto had sent us an invitation from ALMA to attend "the first major exhibition dedicated to the world of pasta" at the Pasta Trend in Bologna which would include a lecture called "Pasta in the history of the Italian Cuisine and the history of Pasta." Gualtiero Marchesi, the first Italian chef awarded with 3 michelin stars and the most famous italian chef who took italian cooking out of the home kitchen and into "nouvelle cuisine" as well as the professor Massimo Montanari. the catch: the bus was leaving at 8am from Colorno. that did not sound appealing whatsoever after a week away in Calabria. i knew however, if i didn't go, i would be very unproductive. luckily, i was used to waking up early. i was so happy samara decided to wake up and go too - we got to the bus in the piazza a couple minutes before 8 and found only the bus driver there. slowly, a couple italian boys boarded the bus, all lively and talking way too fast in italian and staring at us and wondering who we were i'm sure as samara and i looked at each other, laughing with confusion and amusement. two hours later we arrive in Bologna, with looks of bewilderment as we have no tickets, no italian profiency and just follow the group. but they are sweet and tell us to follow them. we join a lecture that has already started, and tutti italiano. samara and i laugh again. luckily, there is a powerpoint presentation that the lecturer, Massimo Montanari, followed along pretty well so i was able to keep up - although squinting at times with my deteriorating eye sight - and took notes in english what i could understand and write down quickly, in italian of words to look up later that i wasn't sure of and in spanish that combined the two languages. the history of pasta, from what i understand, was quite complex and fascinating. i enjoyed the challenge of understanding the lecture.
autograph from marchesi!! :)

i will include some notes below but they will probably not have any sort of linearity or rational comprehension:
  • Marco Polo describes lasagne from a trip to Asia in siglo XIII parla cosa che conosce molto bene - talks about what he knows very well - there are 2 parallel stories from the east and west so it is impossible to know the origin of pasta
  • there were two ways of using pasta - bread/foccaccia which more or less rises with dry heat and peppe/polenta which is a miscele di farina cotte al calorie umida e acqua - mixture of flour cooked in moist heat.
  • pasta as we know it (flour and semolina cooked in water) was impensabile = unthinkable. il seme divente radice - seme si sviluppa e diventa -> the seed becomes the root, the seed grows and develops until it becomes a new tradition
  • pasta secca/disidrata viene pasta bollita/reidratata
  • technology follows traditions and modifies innovations - dry pasta allowed for industrial and commercial vocations - nuovo produtti sviluppa - new products develop = new way of eating => strumento nuovo per un cibo nuovo = forchetta/fork becomes functional and necessary for new culture of pasta
  • new types of pasta: miniaturrizione (no longer large lasagne sheets but lunghe (spaghetti) corte (macaroni) larghe e stratte) e ripiena (stuffed like tortelini - a modern product)
  • pasta connected the south and north of italy (unified politically in 1861) and was also a grande metafora for cucina italiana - infinite variante, valori di fonde condivisi - infinite varities that shared the same basic values -> important theme of identity in italian gastronomy.
  • pasta "piccola" <- sfoglia "grande - was an obvious transition to go from large sheets to cut out pasta
  • pasta ripiena <- lasagne e torte - cross 2 traditions as meats and fish used to be stuffed.
  • tradition si fonde sulle innovazioni, invention si fondano sulle tradition = tradition blend innovations, inventions are based on traditions.
  • pasta cambia status in 1630 when it became necessary for surival - the change coming from the impoverimento of people and the price went down thanks to machines, pasta then became more of a side dish, contorno, to meat and Marchesi invented the ravioli aperto (open ravioli)
  • l'uomo e cio che mangia - man is what he eats - sicily was the first culture si afferma la cultura della pasta - pasta is an italian id - tutti production, preparation, consumption are all characteristic elemtns of culture but destrulturare un piatto tradizionale = destruction of identity?

pasta pasta pasta.
ok so maybe that doesn't all make sense and it isn't everything that i took notes of. when marchesi talked, i could understand the gist of it and caught certain words like pomodoro crudo vs cotto, pasta fredda is a sapore/flavor differente and pasta as an antipasta or contorno is impensabile (unthinkable as a side dish) and the four types of pasta have different sensations and use different utensils - spoon, chop sticks, fork and spork.
pasta products galore.

after the lecture we wandered around the fiera, which was a pasta trade show, with pasta machines, dried pasta, fresh pasta, tomato sauces, different flours and wheats, olive oils...tutti pasta!
i want one of these in my house.

melt-in-your-mouth-soft handmade pasta with fresh pesto genovese - so delicious and totally worth the scratchy back of the throat allergic reaction.

the bus ride back - surprisingly not tired - was great speaking with the ALMA kids in a confused mix of english and italian - they were all so sweet, trying to speak english as well as helping me with my pitiful italian as i try to communicate in spanish instead. they are only here for a couple more months before they go off on their stages in michelin-rated restaurants around italy for 5 months so hopefully before that we can become friends in this tiny town, i can learn italian, they can teach me some culinary tricks and cook for me :)

we survived.

tiny little airport. access to the gate without going through security. horrible postcards of places that don't resemble the calabria we saw in any way. handsome blue-eyed security men. 16 different passports. italian food magazines. iphone videos. yolk heads. delays delay delays. even with the hour and a half flight delay for our hour and 45 minute flight, and then at least two hours in the bus back to colorno - it definitely beats sitting on a bus for 20 hours. 

we were happy to be back in colorno. our house, in the middle of the street. 

smelling fresh wild fennel.

bus enjoyment: watch a video of jules and his sisters on a family vacation:

calabria is full of contractions. from the floral hills to the sandy seaside, the landscape switches its characteristics only within a few kilometers of each other. there are beautiful houses painted in an array of colors, quaint sleepy towns situated in impossibly rocky hill sides with fantastic views contrasting to innumerable incomplete houses and construction zones. the people are beyond friendly, hospitable and incredibly proud of their culture and historical traditions but at the same time try to get away with not paying house taxes by keeping some of it unfinished - it only seems to ruin the beautiful country surroundings. i have never seen so many varieties of different flowers and plants growing in one area - yellow edible indonesian cresss, red poppies, purple ones, pink roses, orange and white blossoms all sprouting from long green grasses while large artichoke plants cover the side of the street and fresh fennel (which the prongs always seemed to be a speciality in portsmouth) are everywhere  you look and then right next to all this lush vegetation are prickly cacti i would've associated with dry, arid land. it is one of the poorest region in italy, surrounded by basilicata and scility, but rich in vegetation, rare typical regional products, culture, history, tradition that all need to be preserved. within all these various contexts, the calabrian food in its entirety can be understood and appreciated. 

arina took these last 3 - purple and white - flower shots.

wet kisses e buon viaggio.

Christina, SF Calabria president, Alessandra, our tutor & translator extraordinaire, and Angelo Musolino, pastry chef

our last day in calabria. a grey day as a farewell.  because monday 
was taken up entirely by the length of italy in a bus, we missed our planned lunch based on typical mushrooms of the area at the Trattoria Villa Rosa but instead we went to Villaggio del Pino, where we where supposed to go on Monday, and had a lecture by pastry chef Angelo Musolino about the use of gergamot in pastry production. he has a pasty shop in reggio di calabria called "la mimosa." he talked about the necessity to preserve the area's particular specialities, especially bergamot which, for most places is considered only in the use of perfumes, but all parts of it (rind, essential oils) can be used in all parts of cooking - from anti-pasta to fish, to regional foods like mushrooms, and of course sweet desserts and pastries. apparently in july of 2010, there will be a new law in italy that says all food colouring must be natural for all fresh and industrial products. after july, you will not be able to buy or produce chemical colours, but can use up the stock you have until it runs out but there will be no new supplies produces. if you do use chemical colouring, companies will have to write that they are inclued in the product and dangerous for small children - like cigarette labels.

no artificial colours. no, really.
Recipe Pan de Espagna
bisquit (like the cake we had for nanae and kate's bday)
800g whole eggs
500g sugar
whip for 15 minutes until the mix is 4X's bigger and fluffy

500g flour (finest quality)
fold in carefully and bake at 170C for 20-25 minutes.

Creme d'pattisery:
1L milk
350g sugar
8 yolks
boil (duh) together at 81degrees Celcius

120g cornstarch
add cornstarch into the mixer.
layer creme and cake.
can add any flavor to the cream, can add a vanilla stick to the milk, but don't mix with citrus.

to make bergamot creme: mix 30g bergamot paste with 1 kilo cream to make the flavor lighter and softer whereas 1 drop of bergamot essence will make the flavor way too strong.

for lunch we had a ginormous buffet of food - each one with some bergamot or regional food inclusion. two types of cheese with bergamot marmalade, melon balls with herbs, fried anchovies and other vegs in batter, shrimp risotto with bergamot rind, rosemary foccaccia, different types of eggplant roles - one with ham, one with stuffing, one with mozzarella, tomato and basil layer, calabrese macaroni with wild mushrooms and bergamot, foccaccia sandwich with sage and spicy 'nduja spread, fresh salad, rolled dough with spicy 'nduja, pan de espagna cake, and profiteroles with bergamot cream. i think that was everything.
bergamot tastes a little soapy. a little too perfumey. but i wonder if our tastes/smells are accustomed to that cosmetic familiarity rather than the natural gastronomic pleasure of eating it. 

banana banana bo-bova

i think that we had the most impressive bus driver ever. i wanted to shout "bravo" e "grazie mille." the roads up the calabrian mountains seemed impossible and to drive a huge bus around the corners was quite the fantastic feat. around every corner the mountain would just drop to huge valleys below with stretches of green land and rows of olive trees as far as you could see and then the bus would revv its engine further up the hill. it was never ending. i had to hold my breath at times. i wanted to live in and refurbish every abandoned and overgrown little house on the side of the road and have a wild farm to live off of. the sch-sch-sch-sch shutter sound of my anti-blur camera shots couldn't capture the dramatic depth of the landscape.

finally though, the little town built into the top of the mountain came into  view and we arrived in the cute picturesque town of Bova. it was so charming to me, right out of a story book, or a movie set of a traditional, typical little italian town. the men in the bar came out to look at this giant bus parked in their square, the little kids yelled "what's your name" in english but wouldn't say another word when i tried to answer and ask them, "come ti chiami?" ok, my italian sucks. two handsome italians sat in the square rolling paper cigarettes, and yes, we were admiring the beautiful italian sceery :)

we took a walk up a steep steep hill of smoothly paved stones that would be disastrous in any spritz of bad weather. dusk was setting upon the red clay tiled roofs and a low laying canopy of thick clouds enveloped the green mountains and revealed the deep blue sky. we entered into a church of san leo, who believed in both protestantism and catholicism - which i thought was a good one for me.

we had dinner an abudnance of food i don't think anyone was hungry for, but included a crostini topped with sundried tomato paste, a platter of torta fritta/fried sardines and fried pumpkin flowers in the shape of hearts as they were made with lots of love, then a plate of fresh ricotta, a plate of capicollo with pecorino, a platter of pork/bacon/fennel sausage, salad and braised fennel greens and then a chocolate almond cake followed by a bergamot wine sample. the staff were all very enthusiastic playing their tamborine along with the music and then eventually enticing everyone to dance. with everyone's adrenaline pumping, we all wanted to continue dancing back at the bergamot plantation, but once in the bus again, only a few of us could be convinced. not me.