A few weeks ago we made a discovery while doing some shopping in Fivizzano’s Tuesday open air market. It was noon. We noticed folks buzzing around a pizzeria with the unlikely name of Vladimir opposite the bus yard, where cooks had evidently been spending the morning churning out pizza, focaccia, and other delights from their forno a legno or wood oven. On market day they also produced a rather amazing farinata, a chick-pea pancake-like deal. Farinata can taste a bit like compacted sawdust if you don’t make it right, but Vladimir evidently knew all the secrets. We bought some. It was the best.
Today we got to Vlad’s at just after 11. The nice lady said the farinata wasn’t quite done—come back in 10 minutes. So we walked around Fivizzano a bit and returned. There was a crowd. Gray haired old ladies were walking out with packages cradled in bony arms, faces aglow with pride as if their packages contained stacks of freshly printed Euros won in the lotto.
Yes, food is like that in Italy. We had come across a farinata frenzy. We had lost. By the time Martha had inched up to the counter there was no more.
“You can wait ten minutes…”
Ah, well, no thanks. Hunger knows not the clock.
Vlad is evidently as much from the old school as he is from the old country. He makes the best farinata in the land. He charges a reasonable price for it. People flock to his store. He sells out in a matter of minutes.
It used to be this way in America. Things have changed. Now ten million dollar a year industry executives sit around a big table discussing the best ways to water down their product, or, in the case of airlines, devising ways to make such a complicated mess of pricing that folks can no longer compare the cost of different airlines running the same route and so can be tricked into paying too much.
But alas, I am on the verge of losing the point. Here it is: Italians take their midday meal seriously. It is the backbone of the modern Italian culture.
And the government wants them to stop. Eating lunch I mean.
Lunch breaks are a wrench in the workday gears, according to Government Programme Minister Gianfranco Rotondi on Monday who asked Italians to keep them short or skip them entirely. ~ Minister tells Italians to skip lunch
Can you imagine? Don’t eat, just work? The gears of industry want all of you. Who gives big biz a pass on such blasphemy? In the old days there’d be blood in the streets—or at least a sciopero of several weeks. Italians would be mad even if told other people do it—er especially if told other people are idiotic enough to do it:
The minister gave Germany as a good example, where he said employees working nine hours a day took 45 minutes at most.
Let me tell you a story. We were sitting in a restaurant we like very much called Dal Mi’ Cocco in Perugia, just outside the Etruscan wall. It’s near the University. Next to us was a German researcher working with Italians on a University project. We struck up a conversation. He said he found it hard to break away from the project.
“Italians are nuts! They work all night! They never take a dinner!” he lamented. “I was famished. I had to sneak out and eat something.”
So you see, if this government idiocy comes to pass, not only will the hard working folks who run restaurants and provide worker’s lunches to hungry working folks be out of a living, but the Italians, who aren’t eating lunch or dinner, will obviously die out—the first culture ever to die from voluntarily never eating in order to grease the gears of industry.
I’m not trying to be a Negative Nelly here. There is a bright side. Property values will go down.
Then you can go to Italy and buy a house and not eat, too.