Today was the field trip I was waiting for—visiting a farm in Italy! We went to Località Il Piano, a sustainable and organic farm in the Umbria region. The farm is run by a family: husband Adolfo, wife Darcy, and children Ben and Fafa.
From the minute of our arrival, Adolfo was full of energy. His passion for his work was apparent in the way he would dart here and there to show us an unusual fruit tree or a weed that was good for foraging. Who would imagine that Queen Anne’s lace, before flowering, is actually wild carrot? Or that Cornelian cherries can make a jam with the same taste as cranberry sauce, but can be grown in a more sustainable way than cranberries?
Adolfo especially, and I think Italians in general, have a closer connection to their food than most Americans. When asked how he would describe Italian food, Adolfo responded that food is “truer” and “closer” to Italians and not as industrialized as in the United States. Having had the opportunity to visit the farm and to have a tour from Adolfo, I could really get a sense of this “closeness” to food, both literally and figuratively. In the literal sense, Adolfo and his family live on the farm and are able to obtain much of their food from there. However, the closeness to food is also a mindset. Food seems to mean more to Italians than simply fuel for the body. Mingled in with this understanding of the nutritional potential of the food is an appreciation for the quality of the product, as well as for how the food was grown or produced.
Having visited several producers in Italy, the general pattern I have seen is that they are passionate about their product, though I have never felt pressured to buy anything, nor have I ever been pushed through a gift shop. Additionally, many of the producers are part of family owned businesses, which ties into the idea of food being “closer” to Italians.
This idea of food being “closer” to Italians will be interesting to consider as I prepare to return to the United States. If someone were to ask me to describe American food, how would I respond? Something to think about…