My husband and I arrived in Devon in Sept 2006. In November, I bought a cookery book for his birthday. By Christmas, he declared the book to be the best gift he’d ever been given. I was rather surprised by this, but as the two of us cooked our way through this book, I understood what he meant. Our everyday life had been changed forever, for the better.
The book is Made in Italy: Food & Stories, by Giorgio Locatelli.
What did I learn that was so life-altering? Well, I learned a new respect for the people who grow the food we eat, which takes on a personal dimension when you’re living in a region famous for its farmland, complete with farmer’s markets every weekend. I was introduced to foods that, coming from North America, seemed exotic (everything from saffron to porcini mushrooms—it’s a pretty long list, actually), and I learned about foods I’d long taken for granted (olive oil and salt, for example). I also learned how to prepare food so that can be enjoyed at its best.
The emphasis on quality and taste was vastly different from what I’d grown up with in North America. We were taught in primary school that a well-balanced meal consisted of foods from four groups (milk and mild products, meat and alternatives, breads and cereals, fruits and vegetables). There’s nothing wrong with this, and in fact I still rely on this thinking all the time as I try to plan healthy meals. But there’s a decided absence of passion, a way of thinking about food that reduces it to fuel that keeps us alive, rather than an integral part of living well.
A spirit of adventure underwrites this particular idea of living well. After all, we’re talking about Food and Stories, and what is a story if not an adventure rendered in words? Adventures, I discovered, don’t need to be grand things like trekking through mountains or moving to a foreign country (though obviously, they can be). The first time I made gnocchi, every surface and utensil in my kitchen was decidedly sticky, and I began asking myself the same question I’ve asked on many a mountain trek: why on earth did I think this was a good idea? Then we ate the gnocchi. It was so delicious that un-stickifying the kitchen afterwards became a minor detail (granted, I had help!). Adventure, living well, stories–they come out of trying new things, even small things, and seeing where those things lead.