Cucina Povera

A Reflection on Technology

Advancements in technology have changed the way our world functions.  These days, it’s difficult to keep-up with the ever-changing landscape of mechanical devices that we depend on--from phones that act as mini computers to immersion circulators for our lamb to poach in--we are all affected by technology.  In my own life, I am conflicted about its hand in everything, often wishing for a simpler time.  However, I find myself in awe of progress when I think of how applied science and technology saved our son Nico’s life at Children’s Hospital, when just 40 years ago it would not have been possible!  Technology is a double-edged sword, or scalpel, or chef’s knife, as the case may be.

Maybe our fragmented culture, or the abbreviated timeline of our shared history as Americans, made us more susceptible to the guiles of a technological era. The world of food has not been missed in this revolution.  Like young children, we jumped into the pond with both feet and forgot to look for leeches. Industrialized food systems from farm to fast-food table have changed the way we eat and think about food--sucking the life blood of traditional farmers, leaching the nutrients from our plants, freeloading on government subsidies, and leaving our earth and our bodies depleted. 

I believe it is, in part, the American reconstruction of the food system that sends me running for Italy whenever I have the chance. This is not to say that the Italians have not made technological advances or are not being threatened by the fast-food mentality, but overall they are more resistant to its changes.  I resonate with a culture that values its food from the source to the plate.  The Italians are steeped in tradition when it comes to food--recipes that are indigenous to each town or region, regional food-pride shown through sagras (food festivals) to celebrate heirloom varitals or local specialities, handmade pastas where the techniques are passed down through the generations, foods that evoke memories and bring a story, and personal relationships with local hunters, butchers, foragers, shopkeepers, farmers and restauranteurs. Even those with limited means, can eat like kings and queens in Italy. 

Recently, we had visiting cookbook-author, Pamela Sheldon Johns, In the Kitchen.  Pamela’s newest cookbook, Cucina Povera, highlights the peasant dishes of Tuscany as shared through the stories of local people.  Our time together In the Kitchen included all the makings of a perfect Italian day--Mataio and Pamela caught up on old times while hand-rolling pici pasta, guests arrived and found their seats at long, family-style tables, Pamela shared stories from her book and her years living in Italy, and we all feasted on new olive oil, chicken liver crostini, pici pasta with tomato-garlic sauce, chestnut polenta with fresh sausage, pork rolls with fresh ricotta and spinach, and baked apples.  Ah, to have a little taste of Italy, at home, was fantastic!