Cooking Italian is a craftsman’s labour, the work of an Artisan of Flavour.
I am from the Western world, born and raised in a country where vineyards adorn the slopes of the hills which families have worked on for generations, from dawn to dusk, and beyond. Wine tells the story of our people, wine tells the tales of our lands. We should never forget.
Although most of people seem not to understand so, food and drinks play a massive part in our culture. As for what we read, what we listen to and we feel entertained by, what we eat and drink define us as individuals. It is often said that we are what we eat: no doubt this is the utter truth. Who we are is also how, what and why we eat and drink.
Very soon I will start populating the wine section of the blog and hopefully manage to introduce you to the incredible diversity and quality of Italian wines and grapes. Before I do so, it is important that I clarify a couple of things about the always hoary topic of drinking.
Different social backgrounds over the years have produced different drinking habits and different aptitudes towards alcohol. These have created niches and segments in the market as well as belts of users and social consequences. Words and words have been spent trying to understand the different approaches round the globe with rather poor results: alcohol is still always portrayed negatively.
Governments raise alcohol duties and VAT, blaming on it the increasing cost of national health. Some religions completely ban alcohol and forbid the consumption of it. I call these the cheap and easy way out of a matter that should be looked at with different eyes.
Alcohol is not an enemy nor is a demon to fight. We are free to make an enemy or a demon out of it if we like – and sadly some do for different reasons. As we are free to demonise anything we want – and sadly some do for different reasons.
In reality, alcohol is a fascinating and important cultural element and I truly think people should not be forced or pushed out of drinking but rather be educated towards a sensible and conscious enjoyment.
A distinction is due, though, because there are fundamental differences between one drink or another. Vodka is industrially distilled from potatoes and filtered through charcoal. Then, flavours are added using chemically concentrated aromas. A bottle of good wine is the result of a unique combination of a very high number of elements like soil, slopes, climate, grapes, procedures and human expertise. A few hundred yards could make a difference and so would a different pair of hands.
This is an heritage we should be proud of and defend passionately, instead of using it as excuse every time a citizen fails in the duty of behaving as a decent human being – that’s the brain, not the wine. Alcohol does not transform people and should never be used as excuse for antisocial behaviour; nor by those who hide behind it, nor by those who bash against it.
Wine is an important part of hour eating experience: it enhances the flavours of food and creates combinations which would never be possible with any other drink. Experiencing a bottle of good wine is nothing like getting wasted on cheap discount spirits (or cheap blended wine). It honestly annoys me when the two are equated in the same category.
I can’t stand those who crusade against any type of alcoholic product. I fully support a civilised and conscious drinking and I am not a prude: I had (and still have) my fair share of fun and I don’t think inebriation is something we should completely deprive our lives of. We should most certainly control it, as we should control fried food, fats, sugar, carbs… but there is nothing evil in enjoying the effects of wine, or whisky, or Cognac… as there is nothing wrong in having a full-fat dessert once in a while.
Enjoying inebriation does not mean being an alcoholic or unloading rancour on others – as enjoying a dessert does not mean eating chocolate bars every two hours.
We should drink well: good wine is money well spent. It means supporting real artisans, quality producers and should be a pleasure – as it is drinking, enjoying and understanding good wine.
As usual, comments and thoughts are very welcome.