Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Changing the Rules

“Italy is a mess”, a Sicilian friend told me in a recent conversation. “It is like the 1970’s, with more potential for an explosive revolution, sitting below the surface, like a volcano ready to erupt.” As we proceeded through the evening I pressed my colleague further. What is the motive, who is doing this, what will we see? “They are changing the rules. It has become a society of Dottores, minute people with large diplomas and important connections. It is just like it used to be, but now instead of a mafia alone, now they have their fraternal organizations, their unspoken unions, their society of entitlement.”

We talked about the education in Italy. I learned that, with all the education I have received in the United States, in Italy I would also be called Dottore. I howled. We were shown the gates of hell those years at the University. One teacher opened up the future and laid it all out. Oh he missed computers in the pocket and instant communication, but he got all the rest. The inability to assimilate all the information that is being thrown at us. He was prophetic.

I hear that Slow Food and Gambero Rosso might be parting ways soon. Being more of a Slow Food’er than a Gambero Rosso’er, I don’t know what to make of that. One more Italian wine authority climbing on that Tower of Babel?

I have my doubts about the legend of how Slow Food got its inspiration. The story has it that Carlo Petrini inadvertently founded the international movement when he joined in a protest against the opening of a McDonald's Restaurant at the foot of the famous Spanish Steps in Rome in 1986. However, a distant memory ( was it just a dream?) has it that that McDonald's was there back in 1971 when I first went to Rome. I remember going into it because it seemed so strange to see it there. I also remember buying a hamburger for the curiosity of it all. The bun was a hard crusty bread and the “burger” was leaner, maybe a lower fat content meat. Probably grass fed. Somewhere I have a picture of it. Curious that a movement, called Slow Food, would find a fast food joint after it had been there for 15 years (For all we know it may have only been a dream).

The matter of another wine guide, though, is just too much.

I get emails, all the time, from wineries, from importers, from everywhere, touting this wine or that, and the rating they got. The selling world, however, sees those things as bullets without the rifle. One must still load up the blunderbuss and go out hunting. Bring ‘em back, dead or alive. But get an order. Get an order.


The reality is that there still have to be those folks out there on the front line. There are enough REMF’s putting their heads on their comfortable pillows every night. Teachers who don’t know how to teach something as simple as a follow up letter after an interview. Because they never had to do it. The ranks of the unqualified aft are growing faster than the price of a barrel of oil.

Scrambling for the gold and the silver, whether it be wineries or lap dancers. That’s the mantra of the day. Go for the gold, get your silver buckle, get yours, get it, go get it, fetch, retrieve, bring it back, dead or alive.


And by the time you get your gold medal or your 95 points or you exceed your quota, then what? Will the rules change again? Will things be what they appear to be? Will it all be worth it?


Italy has never been what people think it is. It isn’t spaghetti and meat balls. It isn’t California wines on the list. It isn’t Caesar salad. It isn’t Porterhouse steak. It isn’t any one thing, for it is a world in motion. And it is a world that you really need to slow down and pay close attention to, using your mind and your heart and your soul and taking it one heartbeat at a time.

Things don’t always end up being what they seem to be. But try telling that to the experts.

Photo by Chema Madoz



1 comment:

David said...

Interesting things are going on across the world. Tendencies are changing in Italy as well. Without pining over the latest of our Prodi I am green with envy knowing that you will taste Tartufo, fresh from the ground with a nice Barbaresco...

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