There is a culinary line that dissects the midriff of the Europecontinent. This line proceeds in gradients of latitudes that mayblur as you move from north to south.
The people of the north raise herds of cows and goats. Their milk is sometimes whipped into butter or aged into cheese. Almost everything edible is bathed in either cream or butter.
Here the pigs feast on chestnuts and in turn make good sausage. The pickles are fermented, and the kraut soured to nourishsturdy souls through long winter months.
Below this imaginary line, trees pervade. Hot ancient orchards dot the hillsides dripping with great bundles of green-black olives. They’re pressed into a nutty oil for the base of sauces and ragouts or a simple dip for crusty bread.
Tomatoes and vegetables of every size and elongation are bathed in this southern sun.
Every scaled and nautical beast is netted and fished from the sea.
Italy, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Greece, and Cyprus all surround the Mediterranean Sea, these are the people who inspire the southern Mediterranean diet.
Some say this way of eating is better for our hearts and mind; arecent study says this healthy regime also keeps us happier and sharper in our old age.
The principal aspects of this diet include the conspicuous consumption of olive oil on a daily basis. Along with legumes,cereals, fresh fruits, and green vegetables, fish, and of course,wine, the diet takes shape.
Olive oil may be the primary culprit that provides health benefits. Some say that the steady consumption of olive oil can reduce the risk of many dastardly diseases.
Not only diet is at play, but also the unique cultural practices ofthese sea-surrounding people.
These cultural heritages manifest in special skills and ancient knowledge. They include sacred rituals, languages and traditionsbeyond recollection.
The variety of crops and the way they are grown and harvested. How the fish of the sea are chosen, the animals raised and harvested, the reverence of the land and soil. The unique preparation, cooking, and sharing of food among friends and family is as important as the ingredients.
All are part of the cultural heritage that is as tangible as the taste. It is worthy of notice and preservation.
Thus, I travel to a place in Italy that rests for the most part in the Mediterranean culinary corner. Wine and fine aged vinegars run through it.
It straddles the line of abundant pastas and pestos, parmesan and prosciutto with cold ham, eggs and Riesling.
I go forth to venture if the fat and the oil and the sun at that latitude are worthy of the claims being made.
First stop Roma, where I will feast on the recipes laid forth in the book, Tasting Rome: Fresh Flavors and Forgotten Recipes from an Ancient City.
Written as a love letter from two Americans to their adopted city, it showcases modern dishes influenced by tradition—and the rich culture of their surroundings—the tangible and intangible.
I will follow their lead for culinary debauchery and cultural heritage.
My first quest will be delicately fried squash blossoms stuffed with fresh mozzarella.
I’ll travel to the old Roman Ghetto where centuries of isolation crafted a distinct Roman cuisine that was enriched by an influx of Libyans in the 1960’s.
The simple snack of fava beans with wedges of Pecorino andlocal salami studded with big cubes of fat will tide me through the afternoon.
To be followed by a search for the perfect Carbonara; is it best made with Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano? Is the perfect pork a Pancetta or Guanciale, whole egg or yolk only?
As I eat my way through this culinary wonderland, I will pay close attention to the intangible elements that are as delicious as the morsels I partake.
More to come then, Ciao!