Pasta and Chianti anyone?
Trip Start May 24, 2006
5Trip End Jun 04, 2006
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Our party consists of several doctors, other health care practitioners, engineers, business people and a journalist. I am particularly inspired by Nick, a 63-year old gentleman from Minneapolis. In our group introductions, he tells his story as a 3 pack a day smoker for 35 years and how cycling literally saved his life. At age 55 with his health rapidly failing, he was given a stationary bike by the son of a friend and started out riding it 3 minutes a day
One of the highlights of the trip turns out to be an evening cooking class in a quaint little hamlet. We enter a private home, with a large kitchen complete with a full hearth used in the wood-burning days before gas and electricity. The meal plan, at least our part, includes homemade bruschetta, fresh pasta and two different kinds of sauce. The wine begins to flow copiously. I am convinced from our hosts that everything we are eating comes from local region, the wine for example, is from Ama, which is literally down the road. I understand that the menu changes gradually with the change of seasons and as the harvest dictates.
Our hosts are a lady who owns the house and an older man who is a friend/neighbor and former chef in Florence. He dresses in the full costume hat and all, and someone aptly names him Chef Boy-Ar-Dee (see photos)
As each and every one of us warmly embrace our hosts whom we¡¦ve only known for 3 hours or so, the final taste left in my mouth is bittersweet. As we head home from one the singularly most pleasurable dining experiences I¡¦ve ever had, I reflect on the incredible power of the simple pleasure of spending quality time with others.
Although those in the tiny village of 200 or so do not share some of the blessings and pleasures of a busy, big city, active life, they also are liberated from its trappings, time schedules and the impersonal nature of the go-go lifestyle. Although our cooking school hosts provided a service and collected money for their part I¡¦m sure, one can notice, that the beauty of a simpler life with greater human interaction and genuine interest is perhaps as much part of ¡§la dolce vita¡¨ as world class cuisine and Ferrari
I take a moment to thank God for my life despite its trials, give Lambryne a kiss and commit to dispel any selfish desires the next time someone asks me for help. I find myself comparing many things and wish that American society would hug its children as warmly as it hugs its flat screen TV. I only hope that I am taking a large dose of my own medicine. Sorry for the digression, yes, I am romanticizing a bit, despite the validity of my point. I will step down from my soapbox now. fº
Final Passion Point -
Italy has adopted incredibly strict standard of production and quality for its wines (and other food products for that matter) which are taken very seriously. In the case of Chianti Classico wine, the highest quality assurance designation that a wine can receive is DOCG ¡V Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita. This mark can assure the consumer that quality is guaranteed and that the most exacting standards were used. One of the ways that a poor vintage is improved is by adding sugar. This is strictly prohibited in a DOCG Chianti. The government is so serious about this, that every commercial volume of sugar purchased must be registered with a license. Anyone caught adding sugar to the wine is IMPRISONED. As a local put it, ¡§it is OK to cheat on your taxes, but if you mess with the wine, you will go to jail!¡¨ How is this for passion?
Thanks for reading along, I hope that you now has a slight sense of Tuscany if you have never had the pleasure of visiting there.
P.S. ¡V More Italian wine = less headaches. After our cooking school evening, I was amazed to wake up the next day and not feel any effects at all from numerous glasses of wine. Upon further inquiry, I understand that Italy uses the minimum amount of sulfites (used as a preservative, maintains color) in their wine, a main contributor to the morning hangover. More Chianti, Brunellos, Vino Nobiles and Super Tuscans for me!!!