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University of Gastronomic Sciences, Colorno: An Homage (A New Gastronomes Post)

Being a student in a foreign country brings up a lot of questions upon returning to your homeland. For example, recently someone asked me what the best part about living in Italy was. As typical a question as this might be, it warranted an answer just as typical in response but not as distinctive in explanation.

“The people,” I replied. Referring to those who had surrounded me in my months of study at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Colorno, Italy: my 25 fellow classmates, my professors, my baristi. But, with the announcement of the Colorno campus closing came an added appreciation for a few others in my life. And to them, I write this post.

Please allow yourselves to get to know them in the way I did and possibly feel the spirit of gratitude that I feel towards them.

Paolo Ferrarini, University Coordinator: Colorno Campus

Paolo

Paolo, who listened to us both laugh and cry everyday (it was more whining than anything), had a knack for hearing us out. Because of this, we never really got to hear his side, so here it is:

I did a Master years ago in Arezzo about enogastronomy and tourism. I discovered there about the University and I thought it was a perfect combination about my background (project manager for Master at Politecnico in Milano) and my passion (food).

My favorite foods are:

  • Fresh prawns (scampi) just grilled, as I ate them in Croatia more than 15 years ago. I still remember the fishermen bringing live prawns from the ocean and after few minutes in my plate.
  • Bombette pugliesi. I’m addicted to them. At Salone del Gusto I ate them every single day.
  • My Mom’s agnolini (stuffed meat pasta, similar to tortellini, typical of Mantova). Friends and relatives get crazy when they taste them. I’m used to eating them, not just for special events as Christmas, but they always surprise me.
  • Fiorentina (t-bone steak) with potatoes. More than 10 years ago, I was at lunch with 2 friends. One of them was the daughter of the owner. After antipasti and primi we were full but the chef wanted in any case that we try his Fiorentina. It was huge; we thought it was for 6 persons who were in the table near us. My friends took just one or two bites. I finished it alone. I didn’t eat for 2 days.
  • Boccondivino’s panna cotta. Every time that I go to Boccondivino, before ordering anything else, I ask to reserve a panna cotta. Once I didn’t and they finished it and, even if the meal was good as usual, I was so sad.

My least favorites are:

  • Bad pizza. I love so much pizza that I hate to eat bad pizza.
  • Trippa (tripe). I don’t like the consistency.
  • Cavoletto di Bruxell. I don’t like the smell.
  • Oysters. I still try to taste oysters but it seems always to me like drinking ocean water.
  • Snails. I don’t like the taste.

But the best food I ever had on a study trip with students was Culatello! And I’m missing everything!

 

For the rest of the story, visit The New Gastronomes Blog.

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2011 in UNISG

 

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Wicked/Delicate

I got an email from Curt the other day that ended something like this:

Wicked/Delicate,

-Curt

I had to say it made me feel a little more on the inside of where I have been working. Not because Curt had felt the freedom to speak to me in such a casual tone (that’s how he and Ian speak to most everyone) but because this exit greeting indicated more of an inside take on why they named Wicked Delicate what they did.

I still don’t know the full story. I’m not sure I’d get a fully serious answer if I asked. I know it has something to do with how to describe the best blueberry pies made in Maine but I haven’t yet made the connection as to how it became the name of an advocacy-focused film company.

Curt, Freddy and Ian working on The Search for General Tso

But what I’m dancing around is this: Wicked Delicate Films is a truly righteous and seriously funky name for a couple of guys and a great team of people doing truly important work. And according to Ian, keeping the humor is the best approach to do so.

I can’t agree enough. Going into the office everyday, placing phone calls all across the US to our Truck Farmers, writing letters of intent to fund our super fun and yet purposefully-driven project to help connect fresh food with inner-city kids is a full time job but if I didn’t love what I was doing or work with people who share the same view, I wouldn’t find it so wicked. Or delicate.

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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A Word From New York

It’s big. It’s busy. It’s loud. It’s bustling. It’s non-stop. And that’s just where I live, in the south of Brooklyn (not too be confused with South Brooklyn which is not even in south Brooklyn- where I’m at.) My neighbors are mostly Italians, so that provides a much-needed adjustment in terms of comfortable transition. It’s snowy too. People have been shoveling all day, as if tomorrow it won’t snow again. I thought it would be cold, but I guess just like the heat I am used to, at some temperature its all the same.

It’s food-heaven. There’s an Italian grocery to the left and a Chinese market to the right. I order pizza and it doesn’t have to come from one of four corporate brands. If I want red cooked pork made with Niman Ranch piggy, its a few train stops into Manhattan.

But, I find myself more confused than anything. The grocery store overwhelms me. All I see are packages and stickers. I have always known that things are adapatively sweeter, fatter and just larger in general in America but I guess I’d actually forgotten. I can’t eat my

A squirrel in Washington Square Park, for Naama

 favorite peanut butter M&M’s. And the sandwich I had the other day I literally had to put down because my jaw was too tired from trying to eat it. I thought I knew these things; I thought when I longed for a bigger panino back in Italy that it meant I missed my home.

Now, I miss my Italian home. Brooklyn is great, don’t get me wrong. It’s another new world for me to explore and learn all about. But I do find myself with occasional crying bouts when I see a pic of one of my classmates on Facebook or remember one of our nights dancing away at the only pub in Colorno. I do miss the simplicity that simultaneously drove me crazy there. I have a sense that I’ve woken up from a really vivid dream and just want to fall asleep again to see if it was real.

Wicked Delicate is truly wicked. And delicate as they like to put it around the office. I’ve settled back in without any hesitation to the American way of working your heart out and I’m going at it with NYC flair. I take the subway to and from and work at home because I can’t help myself. But its all worth it because I work for great people who want to do great things. (Humble plug on Truck Farm and The City Dark).

And that’s all for tonite, folks.

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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God Only Knows

Dear UNISG FCC 2010 Classmates,

Tomorrow I will say one of the last goodbyes to the some of the people that have become my family over the past year. When I said the first of them last Wednesday, our last day of classes, I didn’t know that come Monday I would already be mostly finished. I had been dreading the day for weeks.

We’ve been making the most of it since, with alcohol laden parties at our favorite places and consuming each other’s fridge remnants in support of waste-not and conviviality. Mostly, they were gatherings to keep us together as long as possible and to fill our life-questioning hearts in a simultaneous satisfaction to the stomach and peacefulness that comes with being with those you love. You see, gastronomes don’t just eat to fill stomachs and don’t just drink to fill a void.

You became my family. These are the people in your life that you can live with. The ones that know when you need a hand. The ones that you have to walk away from sometimes, even if you can’t really explain why, but that you come back to time and time again. The people that you end up finding the best qualities in, and no replacement for.

And that is why I wanted to let you know that each one of you meant something to me personally. All of us were brought together by the same basic thing but you each showed something different to me every day and, in that way, amazed me.

Here’s to 16 countries colliding again someday, in the form of 26 people doing what they love and, because I’ve ironically had this song stuck in my head for days now, “God only knows what I’d be without you.”

Thanks to Lindsay for the photo!

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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How Ben Affleck Helped Me Make Sense of My Life

Its not always that you find ways of communicating in English in Italy. It is a country of habits and being Italian is foremost at the top of the list. So when my friend Shannon introduced me to independent movie night at the small, one-theatre and plush-red seater Cinema D’Azeglio, I jumped at the chance, hoping to catch any movie I could that might be run in English (and possibly learn a few subtitled Italian words in the meantime).

The Town wasn’t a movie I had been wanting to see but it was nontheless a break from the school, homework, Facebook, email, dinner, read, bed routine that I’ve seemed to fall into since being in Parma. And anything with a rebellious and tattooed Ben Affleck can’t be bad…can it?

As Chris, Shannon, Sung and I settled in with our store-bought and smuggled-in snacks, the theatre went dark and began to ring of the old popping and whirring sound of the projector beginning to run. Soon we were watching an intense heist take place in a Boston bank.

After the scene was over and the after-effects began to take place, my mind began to wander. I hadn’t realized that this would be another one of the Ben Affleck/Matt Damon/Casey Affleck pictures about the people of Boston. At that moment, I realized just how much I always liked their fictitious yet reflective anthropological portrayals of the people that they had each been around for the majority of their pre-Hollywood yester-year.

It soon became clear to me why I had chosen the internship that I had. My experience in the film industry in less than two months made a little more sense to me now. In the beginning, I hadn’t known particularly why I thought using the skills and knowledge in food advocacy I have obtained this year at UNISG wouldn’t necessarily be more appropriate served at any various Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) to benefit mankind or even at a small farm helping a grower who needs it: options all of which I considered and still would really love to do.

Now, I realize that I will do one of my favorite things; I will tell other’s stories. I will make people aware of them. And, even if it turns out to be only for two months of my life, I have Ben Affleck to thank for that realization and maybe even inspiration for the future.

"I'd like to thank Ben, a dear friend of mine..."

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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From Tuscany to Toscana

I will admit, I had reservations about going to Tuscany. In the beginning, the idea of travelling to Calabria, Friuli, Crete, Spain and Belgium intrigued me much more than heading to the over-photographed and vine-laden hills that gloss the pages of every other American lifestyle magazine. I secretly conspired with myself about how not to go and got nothing: a sign of which I took that I should.

“Oil, pasta, wine, wine, wine, wine, wine, oh, and a stop and one of the Chianina cattle ranches- would you all like to do that?”, Ale, one of our tutors had been explaining the week’s plan to us. In Belgium, we literally had so much beer that we were having it for breakfast and it sounded like this would be our wine equivalent stage. Being our last stage, it was almost mandatory.

Siena happened to be our place of rest as well as the location of our “last supper”. These free dinners (free time, definitely not price) had become the masterminds of some, scouting out the best places in the towns ahead of time and making reservations, and this time was no exception. With the famous bistecca alla fiorentina in mind, each classmate headed out to their pre-determined destination to consume this massive T-bone along with other Tuscan favorites.

The week went by quickly as they usually do but not without all of us first becoming experts, or at least amateur experts, in Chianti Classico and Brunello di Montalcino wines and their tastes and cultivations. From the biggest Banfi (“the first” in everything including winery in the world) to the subtle and more natural winery Le Potazzione.

Brunello di Montalcino, Le Potazzione

A charming surprise toward the end of the week was a tour through Tenuta di Spannocchia. As our tour bus stopped at the base of the hill and the 28 of us changed vehicles into 2 smaller cars (yes, we were quite “intimate” as our host put it), we realized we were in for some sort of treat. Shortly we arrived to a restored building where a pizza oven was keeping us warm and being prepped for our extensive dinner, Malvasia grapes were being dried for their future as Vin Santo and the unique-to-Tuscany Cinta Sinese pig who roam free throughout the outskirts of Siena eating truffles and whatever else they like before they go to salumi heaven. Among these great things, for me, was an even more personal one. Amidst the 8 interns was an actual Arizona native. Of course we chatted about the oddness of the recent Daylight Savings time change, the “freezing cold” autumn weather, and our pride of Arizona’s farmers and winemakers and the abundance of its fertile land and how much we wanted everyone else to know. His father, the owner of a family farm in southern Arizona, had a name I couldn’t forget from my research with the market and it reminded me of how tightly knit the food community is, even in such a spread out food space.

The chef at Spannocchia making lots-o-pizza dough.

We ended our stage with a day at the cattle ranch where we saw the famous Chianina cattle that are raised for the traditionalists who appreciate their fiorentina (as mentioned above)  prepared with it. I’ve come to the conclusion that if you’re in it for the ethical reasons of it, don’t bother. Four months of 18 does not pasture raise equal.

But I will say now, I am glad that our last stage was in Tuscany. I had went with the idea that I wanted to tell everyone back home that its not the wealthy and gorgeous place that created our mindsets and examples for what we think Italy is. Because for that, it is not. Italy definitely is its own place in every way from train stop to train stop. And Toscana is no exception. What you see in the pictures is true. The rolling hills are breathtaking. The vineyards are abundant. The food is hearty, satisfying and leaves you wanting more (I made ribollita as soon as I came home this weekend). I realized that although Americans know them as oil, pasta and wine and it gets sold to us like the Sunday newspaper, that it truly is who they are and they are proud of it.

I heart Toscana

 
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Posted by on November 17, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Putting Things Into Perspective

A classmate of mine was kind enough to foward this to me and I would like to share it with you. It reminds me why I am here and, from beginning to end, is a great speech with many layers that show how food is just so interconnected among all of our lives and how each of us has a responsibility to protect each other in every choice we make.

Time to end war against the earth
 
Dr. Vandana Shiva, November 3, 2010
 
When we think of wars in our times, our minds turn to Iraq and
Afghanistan. But the bigger war is the war against the planet. This war
has its roots in an economy that fails to respect ecological and ethical
limits – limits to inequality, limits to injustice, limits to greed and
economic concentration.
 
A handful of corporations and of powerful countries seeks to control the
earth’s resources and transform the planet into a supermarket in which
everything is for sale. They want to sell our water, genes, cells,
organs, knowledge, cultures and future.
 
The continuing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and onwards are not only about
“blood for oil”. As they unfold, we will see that they are about blood
for food, blood for genes and biodiversity and blood for water.
 
The war mentality underlying military-industrial agriculture is evident
from the names of Monsanto’s herbicides – ”Round-Up”, ”Machete”,
”Lasso”. American Home Products, which has merged with Monsanto, gives
its herbicides similarly aggressive names, including ”Pentagon” and
”Squadron”.This is the language of war. Sustainability is based on
peace with the earth.
 
The war against the earth begins in the mind. Violent thoughts shape
violent actions. Violent categories construct violent tools. And nowhere
is this more vivid than in the metaphors and methods on which
industrial, agricultural and food production is based. Factories that
produced poisons and explosives to kill people during wars were
transformed into factories producing agri-chemicals after the wars.
 
The year 1984 woke me up to the fact that something was terribly wrong
with the way food was produced. With the violence in Punjab and the
disaster in Bhopal, agriculture looked like war. That is when I wrote
The Violence of the Green Revolution and why I started Navdanya as a
movement for an agriculture free of poisons and toxics.
 
Pesticides, which started as war chemicals, have failed to control
pests. Genetic engineering was supposed to provide an alternative to
toxic chemicals. Instead, it has led to increased use of pesticides and
herbicides and unleashed a war against farmers.
 
The high-cost feeds and high-cost chemicals are trapping farmers in debt
– and the debt trap is pushing farmers to suicide. According to official
data, more than 200,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide in India
since 1997.
 
Making peace with the earth was always an ethical and ecological
imperative. It has now become a survival imperative for our species.
 
Violence to the soil, to biodiversity, to water, to atmosphere, to farms
and farmers produces a warlike food system that is unable to feed
people. One billion people are hungry. Two billion suffer food-related
diseases – obesity, diabetes, hypertension and cancers.
 
There are three levels of violence involved in non-sustainable
development. The first is the violence against the earth, which is
expressed as the ecological crisis. The second is the violence against
people, which is expressed as poverty, destitution and displacement. The
third is the violence of war and conflict, as the powerful reach for the
resources that lie in other communities and countries for their
limitless appetites.
 
When every aspect of life is commercialised, living becomes more costly,
and people are poor, even if they earn more than a dollar a day. On the
other hand, people can be affluent in material terms, even without the
money economy, if they have access to land, their soils are fertile,
their rivers flow clean, their cultures are rich and carry traditions
of producing beautiful homes and clothing and delicious food, and there
is social cohesion, solidarity and spirit of community.
 
The elevation of the domain of the market, and money as man-made
capital, to the position of the highest organising principle for
societies and the only measure of our well-being has led to the
undermining of the processes that maintain and sustain life in nature
and society.
 
The richer we get, the poorer we become ecologically and culturally.The
growth of affluence, measured in money, is leading to a growth in
poverty at the material, cultural, ecological and spiritual levels.
 
The real currency of life is life itself and this view raises questions:
how do we look at ourselves in this world? What are humans for? And are
we merely a money-making and resource-guzzling machine? Or do we have a
higher purpose, a higher end?
 
I believe that ”earth democracy” enables us to envision and create
living democracies based on the intrinsic worth of all species, all
peoples, all cultures – a just and equal sharing of this earth’s vital
resources, and sharing the decisions about the use of the earth’s resources.
 
Earth democracy protects the ecological processes that maintain life and
the fundamental human rights that are the basis of the right to life,
including the right to water, food, health, education, jobs and livelihoods.
 
We have to make a choice. Will we obey the market laws of corporate
greed or Gaia’s laws for maintenance of the earth’s ecosystems and the
diversity of its beings?
 
People’s need for food and water can be met only if nature’s capacity to
provide food and water is protected. Dead soils and dead rivers cannot
give food and water.
 
Defending the rights of Mother Earth is therefore the most important
human rights and social justice struggle. It is the broadest peace
movement of our times.
  

 
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Posted by on November 15, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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