One of my first stops (after regaining consciousness after a debilitating 2 days of jet lag) was Sciolze – a small, beautiful city outside of Torino/Turin where I would meet my faculty advisor, Dr. Simone Cinotto. I stayed with a family of three – a French-speaking mother who restores 16th century paintings, an Italian-speaking father who runs an enoteca (wine store) in Torino, and a teenage daughter who is learning Spanish in school. Completely exhausted from traveling in Milan’s heavy traffic and toll roads, I asked Antonieta if she could recommend a wine store nearby or had some wine I could purchase in order to stay in for the evening. Her husband, Bartolome, returned to give me a lesson on wine, explaining in such beautiful Ital-ish how his wines were locally sourced.
One startling difference between living in Muncie and venturing in Italy is everything is local. Your wine is all local, your cured meats are all local, your fine cheeses are all local (no need for fancy Brie) – and most likely, if you ask the server, slicer, or any plain ol’ Italian about its background, they’ll probably give you some delightful details on its origin.
That night, I not only received a small lecture on local wine culture, but enjoyed a lovely bottle of wine, a sampling of meats and cheeses sliced fresh by Antonieta, AND my first bowl of homemade pasta that they shared straight from their kitchen. It was undoubtedly one of the best experiences I had in Italy because it enabled me to see how kind, giving, and selfless Italians are when it comes to food. Having a drink of wine? You must have some food on your plate. Not very hungry? How about just a snack of an entire plate of food? Interested in a bottle of wine? How about we give you a bottle of our own delicious homemade wine as a gift in addition to a locally-sourced bottle of wine you can drink tonight? Hungry for breakfast? We normally just drink a cappuccino for breakfast, but how about a homemade tart, warm just-baked croissants, delicious amber jam, and sugar cookies along with your cappuccini? I’ll take it! Ultimately, my stay at Antonieta’s and Bartolome’s taught me that food culture more than just consumption – it’s the people, their homes, their gardens, their families, their communities, their cultures, their histories, and so much more.