Major print media is fighting for its life these days. My distrust of it began almost 30 years ago.
Just days before going to Sardinia for the first time I picked up a Gourmet magazine from a display at the Safeway checkout counter because it promised an intimate look at Sardinian life and cuisine. I was excited. I wanted to learn all about it.
I’ve never read so much crap in my life.
The author asserted that Sardinia was the poorest land mass in Western Europe. While that might have been true at the time, he mistakenly pointed to shepherds huts as proof. Oh, the poor hovels Sardinians were stuck with!
I was to learn a few days later that Sardinian shepherds weren’t as poor as the author made them out to be, and furthermore the shepherds huts you see scattered across the Sardinian landscape were used mostly in sweltering afternoons, when the sheep were too hot to move from under the shade of the tree they were huddled under. What more could a shepherd want than his own private place out of the sun with his stack of porn, a couple liters of wine and somewhere to rest? After all, he had a place in town, too. A real house. But it was too far to go when the mercury was stuck to the top of the thermometer.
Thus began my mistrust of major media. A budget, a rental car, and a week on a large island does not bestow upon you the keys of a culture that has steeped for thousands of hears in an ancient landscape from which eking out a living is as hard as the rocky soil.
Then there was the case of grilled shrimp served along grilled grapefruit slices represented as “typical Sardinian cuisine.”
Well, that went way too far. Especially since I found out that this “typical dish” was served in the restaurant of a gated resort—meaning real working class Sardinians weren’t even welcome. Well, maybe to clean the toilets.
Real Sardinian cuisine is fabulous and robust, as befits an island of hard-working folks.
Which brings us to the article Why Gordon Ramsay swears by Tuscan cooking
The author doesn’t actually answer the question posed in the title. Well, not to my satisfaction anyway. Yes, it’s cute; Ramsay swears a lot—even in the monastery that’s being renovated for the resort he’s lending his name to. Castel Monastero will offer cooking classes to the well-heeled.
Let’s talk about the food:
Ramsay shows us how to make lobster spaghetti with clams and chilli (sic) and a lamb risotto – two classically simple Tuscan dishes.
Two Tuscan dishes I’ve never heard of. Classic? C’mon.
What it seems Gordon Ramsay is doing is usurping Tuscan Cuisine to misrepresent it to rich folks for whom cooking, like modern warfare, is a spectator sport these days. You can get fed for a song at Ramsay’s new Siena project: A two-hour course including three-course lunch or dinner will set you back a mere €170
Of course, Ramsay is unlikely to be there, but if you have that kind of money for lunch perhaps the point is moot. You can bask in the aura of the master. Or something.
Yesterday we had lunch at the Ristorante Venelia in Monti. The meal consisted of the real classic cuisine of Tuscany. I had Paparadelli con Cinghiale, wide noodles with wild boar sauce. Martha had pasta with porcini, mushrooms which are in season and plentiful at the moment. I followed with a plate of braised rabbit with olives and Martha had the braised pheasant. We also had a platter of garlicky cima di rapa (a slightly bitter local winter green). We drank the house wine and had a bottle of sparkling mineral water. I had coffee after.
The bill? €22 for both of us. Including tax and service.
The food was authentically cooked by a cook rather than a chef. The soccer game was playing in the kitchen. There were bones in my rabbit.
Afterwards, sitting back in my chair and filled with a sort of gustatory bliss I start thinking: What can Gordon Ramsey add to this? Besides cost I mean?
Come to northern Tuscany to get your classic Tuscan cuisine from a cook in a stained apron. You can save a bundle to spend on your health insurance, which you might need less of if you made a habit of eating healthy food unmodified and untortured by large corporations for profit.
Animals that roam. Bunnies that hop. Now there’s a concept.