Since it’s harvest time in Italy, markets are brimming with vegetables, sweet fruits, pulses, grains, and greens. I spent the last ten days eating my way up and down the country, from Sicilia to Veneto to Apulia. As a pescatarian, I ate a lot of fish and cheese, pasta and vegetables. I think I ate eggplant every day. I know I sometimes ate it twice a day. This was not a hardship. This slideshow is my proof.
The essential truth about Italian food is that there is no Italian food. All cooking is local, sometimes so local you cannot find a dish beyond the clang of a town’s bell tower.
But if there is one element that unites the country’s cuisine, it’s ripeness. Sauces derive their pungency and flavor from mature tomatoes, not pulpy pink orbs bred for boxes and trucks. Grapes and figs, strawberries and peaches, eggplants and squashes are picked when they are softly yielding, redolent and perfumy. Cheeses become opulent and perfect in due time: hours for Mozzarella di Bufala, months for Caciocavallo, many years for grana. Meats cure slowly, olives and capers more quickly, but none of it can be rushed.
The cook, an alchemist, merely selects the best of the best, then magically transforms it into something even better. Grazie a tutti.
My travel was sponsored by GranVia Società e Comunicazione.