Sunday, October 29, 2006

That Fine Italian Hand

1972- The author, at his grandmothers table. It was
the dawning of the age of a curiousness about things Italian.

Made by hand, hand-rolled pasta, hand-sewn shoes, hand-tilled soil, hand-crafted. For as long as I can remember there has been a sense of importance over the making of something with one’s hands. Italy can lay claim to being at the epicenter of that development over many years.

Just look at my grandmothers table. Everything on it was made by her. She didn’t have a Viking 6 burner stove with double oven and salamander broiler. She didn’t have a stainless steel SubZero double fridge with separate built in cooling and crisping drawers. She made her food by hand. She grew some of her food in the back yard between the fig trees and the roses.
On a recent trip to Tuscany and the area around Montalcino, people were using their hands. The American Italian Chef, Damian Mandola, raising his left hand in a conductors approach to orchestrating a meal at his hillside villa. The industrial giant, Lionello Marchesi, in a moment of confidence with his winemaker and then in a show of gratitude for all he has been given. Banfi’s leader, John Mariani, explaining with his hands an approach, one that changed the face of sleepy little Montalcino and propelled it from one of the poorest hill-top towns in the 1970’s, to now, one of the wealthiest ones. Starting with the hand.

Most sacred to many Italians is the land. From the land the work by the hand brings some amazing things. An estate near Leonardo da Vinci’s home is shown here, a study in order and composition. There are vines in the scene.
The hand tools that work the grape harvest. My friends, The Losi family, thought it odd that I’d stop and make a picture of their brooms and shovels, stained with the blood of Jove.
The hand made noodles. Both my grandmothers made them, as my mom does and sisters too. My aunt Amelia had a little apartment with electric burners. She could out cook Batali in that kitchen.
Paula Lambert-i, in her kitchen in Montalcino, feeding 12 people from a single pan. Herbs and vegetables from the back yard (again), no one went to bed hungry. Or thirsty.
And while sometimes living in Italy seems like jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire, ask most Italians. They may leave home in the physical sense, but they will be living on Mars and hanging out the hand-made casalinga for the afternoon meal. It’s meals like those last week and 34 years ago, that make for great memories.

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Travel Italy said...

Beautiful fotos and thoughts to go with them.

I believe you have evidenced the secret of a successful culture, business or personal life.

As the founder of the Northampton shoe manufacturer Church's said, "With these hands we make great shoes."

133 years later the company still creates great shoes, different hands, but still great shoes.

Italian Wine Guy® said...

aw shucks, you guys....

Tracie B. said...

i've said it before and i'll say it again--da da da-da da-da daa...welcome ba-ack (bu-ba), your dreams were your ticket out...

lash45 said...

i LOVE italy.

Marco said...

that picture of you and your aunts(?); life lived and the expectancy of life to be lived reflected in your eyes & face

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