Eating local is a way of life in Italy. There is no “locavore” movement. It is a state of being. The biggest shift for us coming from the United States, was the lack of choice. Coming from Bainbridge Island, we felt many similarities at the farmers markets in the access to farm fresh produce, meats and cheeses. The biggest difference was that if I wanted something that was not in season at home, I could get it. Luau themed birthday in January, no problem. Turkey gobbler sandwich during a late night pregnancy craving in July, sure! What we give up in Italy are options. What we gain are the most mouth-watering in-season ingredients we have ever tasted.
Each town has a weekly market where most villagers do their shopping. There are some large grocery stores where people buy soap, boxed pasta, and canned goods but rarely meat, produce or bread. Food is one of Italy’s main exports which means that a large portion of the food consumed in Italy is made in Italy.
The parmigiano reggiano, is exported all over the world, and has been produced basically the same way for nine centuries! The quality, attention to process, and lack of chemicals in production result in incredible flavor and shorter shelf life. Italians, for the most part, shop little and often. In my hunt for salad dressing at a larger store, a local friend said, “Why would you want to put anything but new olive oil on a perfect tomato?”
At the market last week in Cortona, my daughter stopped in her tracks. When I asked her what she was doing, she replied, “Can you smell that celery? Really, you have to smell the celery!” Eating here is truly an experience.
I feel like I am tasting things like tomatoes, celery, pork, and beef for the first time. The flavors hardly resemble those I thought I knew. Slow food, yes. Locavore, yes. Organic, yes. Farm fresh, yes. Farm to table, yes. Buon Appetito!