Buddy’s Blog 05/01/14
There are so many reasons why I enjoy traveling throughout Italy, and without mentioning all of them I am going to share one of my favorites with you. The Italians have a story, legend or tradition for most elements of their lives but especially for food and wine.
I am reminded of a legend my friend in Milan Licenio Garavaglia told me about how the people of the fourteenth century would gild their food because gold was supposed to be a cure for what ailed them. Only the wealthy could afford this, however, which gave a painter from nearby Brianza the idea to gild the risotto to be served at his wedding with a harmless coloring agent used in his paints. Thus, the poor attending the wedding were treated to the “gold risotto.”
Today, saffron is common in the culinary delights of Milan. The great Roman restaurateur, Fortunato Baldassari, owner of one of Rome’s finest restaurants, da Fortunato, and my good friend delights in regaling friends and customers with a story about a German Bishop who asked one of his servants to visit Italy and search for great wines. The man servant’s orders were to write the word “Est” on the doors of establishments serving the quality wines so when the bishop arrives he will know where to go. Upon his reaching the village of Montefiascone the servant found a wine so good that he wrote “Est” three times on the door of a local tavern. Today, Est! Est! Est! is one of the most popular wines to serve with Roman cuisine.
In the beautiful town of Taormina in Sicily, my longtime pal Santo at the Ristorante da Lorenzo, was overheard one evening telling a table from Germany about the legend of William the Hermit who was invited to dinner by Sicilian Royalty and was served macaroni. To his surprise the noodles came to the table stuffed with Sicilian soil instead of ricotta cheese. Unfazed, William proceeded to bless the dish and by a miracle the soil turned to ricotta, which is the traditional recipe today. Good Italian food…Good Italian wine…. and Good stories. All perfect together.
As I gazed around my office recently, I realized I have “decorated” it with objects which symbolize or reflect what is most meaningful and important to my life. I never thought about purposely doing it. It just happened, as memories of my family, religion and heritage either occupy space on my office walls or sit on my desk. Photos of my wife from our life together are most prominent as are those of my children and grandchildren. I even have a little bowl my son made when he was in third grade and a poem my daughter wrote when she too was in elementary school. Photographs and memorabilia of my grandchildren are quickly becoming more obvious as they nudge their way to prominence! My parents are remembered also. But I have something on display too often overlooked. I have pictures of my immigrant grandparents, after all, they are the ones who had the spirit of Columbus as they ventured to a new land. An uncharted land to improve their lives and those of their family.
Did you ever pause to give thought about your immigrant family members who had a will to provide and make your life better? To forget is to disown them and your heritage. Has this great wave of bravery been forgotten? Have their positions in your family history been taken for granted? We must never forget our heritage because it is part of the fabric of America. We are not Italophiles but something more important and meaningful. We are of Italian heritage. Be proud and display it.