Masters of Food Culture

So: we’ve done it, and here’s the proof… with the sad exceptions of Marta, Louisa and Donghyun who could not join us, being in the other three of the four corners of the world.

We’d caught that Colorno bus – here crossing Ponte Caprazucca just for us – one last time yesterday morning…

Climbed the stairs to our second floor hang-out…

And then had a subdued graduation ceremony, probably due to the late night revelries that preceded this particular morning after. There were speeches, from absent friends – Carlo Petrini was in Mexico warming up for the Slow Food world congress…

Unisg’s director Carlo Catani, and Slow Food Italy president Roberto Burdese

After some frolicking in the garden with our diplomas, taking pictures

and being taken,

we returned to enjoy a Spigaroli buffet –

all our old friends were there, the king of culatello, Massimo Spigaroli himself

and lots of lardo,

a veritable blizzard of that puffy and insubstantial bread of Emilia Romagna…

a complete dearth of vegetable matter… ah, Italia.

So, thus fortified, dispersed to various napping venues where we readied ourselves for the last night party which I left around 1.30 I think, the dancing queens showing how it is possible to keep trim and limber over a year of food studies.

And now it’s all done, and we’ll spend the next few days securing the profitability of Poste Italiane before disappearing into new lives out there in the four corners of the food world.

On the way home this morning from another expensive trip to the post office, I had a farewell visit to my favourite Pugliese specialities shop where I have been buying quantities of taralli over the past few months. It was gratifying to realise I was able, after a year! to exchange a few Italian pleasantries with the shopkeeper. She was thunderstruck when I told her I would miss taralli when I was back in Canada – it hadn’t occurred to her these weren’t a staple food everywhere, I guess. Hers are particularly good so even if I do find a version elsewhere, well, it certainly won’t be the same. There’s the inescapable fact that food just tastes different in different settings: so here, with foodie classmates, in a land with well established food traditions, everything will taste quite different than it might on the most carefully-provisioned table in London or Victoria.

So, I prepare to leave with the sadness I’d feel leaving anywhere I’ve lived for a year. Lots to miss in the new food habits I’ve been cultivating. We’ve all noticed dramatic increases in the quantity of olive oil we consume. I’ve developed quite an Acacia honey habit. The fresh buffalo mozzarella, oh what can compare? And here’s one of my absolute delights: Visner di Pergola:

We had something like this in Le Marche, called Visciolato, a dark cherry wine made from the local sour cherries, Visciole. I would love the chance to taste that wine side-by-side with this one, which is absolutely delicious. It tastes like pure cherry juice, with a little kick of alcohol to warm it all the way down. Oh my my my my my.

And, yes, the taralli, oh the taralli.

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