Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Food Is Love
The food prepared by the lovely Rosanna Passione at the villa was some of the best I've ever eaten - and I'm no lightweight in terms of food appreciation. Call it something in my blood and then something honed by the company I keep, but I deeply believe in the power of food to heal and transport us to living lives full of joy.
Breakfast was always very simple but delightful - plain yogurt, muesli, fresh peaches, pears, figs, and plums, wonderful honeys, plus tea and coffee. Not to mention the homemade breads that were present at every meal - unsalted, interestingly enough, something not uncommon in Tuscany.
Lunch and dinner were more elaborate affiars. We ate both meals outdoors, and the food coming out of the kitchen was downright magickal. Rosanna always cooked with produce that was coming straight from the villa's organic gardens, and at this time of year, that meant lots of zucchini, eggplant, various kinds of peppers, and, of course, some of the most delectable pomodori (tomatoes) I've ever had in my life. (Above is a photo of some of the gardens' offerings, notably on the right, fennel. A wonderful plant, "finocchio" is also negative slang for gay men. Some of the reasoning behind it is that fennel seeds were tossed on the pyres of gay men burned for their various proclivities as a way of masking the smell. I suspect there's something deeper and older there, too.)
Frittate were par for the course, and they were very thick, with roasted eggplant, zucchini, and tomatoes tucked into the fluffy eggs. There were pastas to be sure, served with a lovely pesto and capers or simple tomato sauces. Risotto made an appearance, and then there was a barley grain likely cooked in the manner of risotto (it had a wonderfully creamy and chewey texture leading me to think that she cooked it in the traditional risotto style).
Not surprisingly in Italy food is not just fuel - it's part of the day's ritual and integral to this particular workshop's healing experience. Every meal was presented with beauty and forethought, and the native Italians in the group always led a round of "Buon Appetito" or "Salute" with wine glasses raised. I realized that as an American I'm really only accustomed to toasting on "special occasions," yet here, every meal was an expression of deep joy and vitality. So why not wish everyone good health and pleasure each time we sat down together?
Most days, I jotted down notes or took photos, and since my return, I've been experimenting with some of the food I enjoyed in Tuscany. This past Sunday I came home from the farmer's market laden with bags of eggplant, zucchini, wonderful tomatoes and peppers, and I've been slow roasting tomatoes with thyme and olive oil, making pappa al pomodoro (a traditional Tuscan bread stew that's out of this world!), and filling my fridge with various experiments.
One of my greatest joys when I cook is to call the power of my grandmothers into my hands. I honor them and ask for their guidance while I whip up meals of love, and I feel so grateful to have their blood in my veins and their suggestions for simmering time and spicing. These are the traditions that connect us to our loved ones, the Great Mother Gaia, the shining Sun, and the vital powers of our life.
Speaking of the need to change our lives to ones of deep joy, check out Donald Engstrom-Reese's blog about the insane and disturbing goings-on in the Twin Cities during the RNC - a call to action and to living our lives differently to be sure.