As an American who grew up in the fertile Midwest and now resides in alternate three month periods on the west coast and in the Lunigiana region of Italy, I am often quite amazed at the degree to which Italians eat local foods, especially here in the Lunigiana.
We had dinner with our Italian neighbors last night. There were nine of us. When we entered the dining room, we noticed two huge cups of the type you might expect to win if you were the owner of a major sporting organization—except the larger one had a little pig on the platform that held up the whole structure, which included two half-naked babes intertwined to elevate lasciviously a cup that would have held the salad for all nine of us.
What did Armando and Francesca do to win such enormous monuments to perfection?
Yes, they not only won a prestigious contest for their salami, they came in second as well.
So we sat down for dinner. Out comes a big pot of polenta. Who’s polenta? Alcide. He’s sitting across from me and lives in the apartment adjacent to us.
The hunter that brought down the cingiale, or wild boar that makes up the topping for the polenta isn’t at the table, but everyone knows him.
For desert we have salami from the king of queen of salami, but it’s chocolate salami, so you don’t have to gag at the thought of ground and spiced pig for dessert. Then there’s the homemade mirto, or mirtleberry liquor, made by Angelo, the Napoleatano on my right, whose wife was born in Sardinia, where mirto is one of the most popular liquors.
At dinner everyone complains about the bees that have taken to swarming the village. They make the DOP Lunigiana honey we eat with our yogurt at breakfast.
They also complain about the water. Every once in a while it runs reddish brown. Then folks start taking out their cell phones. Alcedes has a picture of the brown water flowing like wine in the kitchen sink. Angelo tops him with a movie (with sound) on his cell phone, documenting the number of minutes the rusty water runs into the bathroom basin before it clears. There will be a revolt soon, I figure. It is claimed (I think; by this time the wine was severely interfering with my limited Italian) that some folks have refused to pay for water.
Eating local. Eating sausage fatto a casa. Sometimes I don’t think life can get any better, even considering the occasional spurt of brown water.
Then we start talking about Berlusconi and Bush.