M mm v v. V f gfI just returned from a truly amazing 3-week trip traveling through Italy. My time there took the idea of “eating well” to a whole new level. We were treated to so many truly delicious dishes and I constantly marveled at how the most delicious dishes were also the simplest and ones.
Early in the trip, we were hiking between two towns in Cinque Terre. We climbed up yet another precarious set of steep and narrow stone steps and out of nowhere, we were surprised by the most lovely, elderly man next to a little table under an orange tree with a electric juicer and an cord that went up the hill to God knows where! He was selling fresh-squeezed orange and lemon juice for 2 euros each (pay the man!) to the lucky hikers. Standing there, looking at the gorgeous view and drinking that delicious juice, was absolute perfection!
On our last leg, we visited Sorrento, in the south. We hired a fantastic driver named Francesco, and while we weaved along the breathtaking Amalfi Coast, we chatted, mostly about food. He talked about how the volcanic soil created from the eruption from Mt. Vesuvius is perfect for everything they grow, including lemons the size of Nerf footballs, the juiciest of blood oranges, beautiful olives and grapes and their prized San Marzano tomatoes. Everywhere I looked, I saw these and other wonderful things growing. He was so proud and talked about how the key to their cuisine is most often its simplicity. Using simple and minimally-processed ingredients like their produce, fresh fish and meat and gorgeous and healthy olive oil and wine, they are already way ahead of the game, when it comes to healthy eating. Everywhere, there were locals growing their own food, or local farmers selling what they grow locally. Each region, of course, has their own cuisine, but the key is that they use what they grow and raise locally. Francesco loves to cook for his family and talked about his favorite dishes, including a fresh pasta sauce of olive oil, garlic, basil and cherry tomatoes. It’s certainly not a revolutionary recipe, but the difference lies in the quality of the handful of ingredients used.
I do my best to buy organic, local products, wherever possible, but I can’t help but be envious of the amazing ingredients they have at their disposal every day. It doesn’t escape my notice that I live in a beautiful place, also with many great food sources. But I know now that I’ll be even more mindful of seeking out the best our area has to offer and try to remember that more often than not, when it comes to the food we prepare for ourselves, our families and our clients, often the simpler, the better.