Wondering why northern Italy got hit twice in short order with earthquakes? I asked Jeffrey Park, coauthor of Dynamic Earth (Read it. It's about the earth you live on. The one we return to, call mother, mine, fight over, and, sadly, the one that puts the terror in terroir). He's a Yale seismologist who works on the seismology of northern Italy. Here’s what he had to say. A warning, there’s strong earth science language in this report, a suggestion that plates are getting stuffed in the mantle, plus a reference to a quake in the 1500s. Reader access to a geological dictionary is advised. ~ Steph
The earthquakes both hit very close to Bologna, where I spent a year's sabbatical while collecting seismic data. I once spent a night in Carpi, where the cathedral roof fell in.
07 March 2011
There is certain arrogance to being a foodie, a sort of lifted-up, unspoken status that of course means absolutely nothing other than the fact that you've survived being raised on Big Agri and have since reinvented your relationship with food. Indeed it is cool to embark on a life of tasting and pairing, spreading and dipping, and of course, adding cheese to anything and everything you can sample it with. And it’s fun to work the gastronome angle, show off your cheese exposure to your pedestrian-palate friends, dropping names and saying it properly as well. Admit it, it’s equally as fun to whip out the arbitrary seasoned or wine-crusted piece in gorgeous wrap and pass it off as just some little nothing lying around in your humble Sub Z. Admit it, knowing what’s out there is a constant source of amusement. Which brings me to my latest game: introducing myself as a blogger for an American cheese magazine, while befriending the Lunigianese artisan cheese producers and sampling everything in sight. Well it’s true, isn’t it? Wouldn’t you do it?
10 February 2011
Perhaps the best meal I’ve ever had was at a roadside truck stop. In Italy. On Sunday. I can’t remember which exits it was between on the Autostrada, or even which number of Autostrada I was traveling on, but it doesn’t matter. Autogrill is at all of them, a fast-food convenience chain geared toward the casual traveler or the serious trucker, with a range of merchandise for either profile, or shades between.
04 February 2011
Macerie di Filattiera, Toscana, Italy
Red kidney beans were pouting in a plastic container on the counter tonight, a half-pipe carved out where a sausage one laid. I was on leftover duty again, having proven my chops at the helm of late. Frozen ground beef, puree of tomato, loads of thyme, chili powder, cumin, garlic, and oregano... Lauren’s almost-authentic-except-for-the-cumin-Texas-Chili. I plunked a whole onion in the pot as well, creating a completely stewed and flavorful item to grill when the chili is gone.
Podere Conti Olive Farm
Tuscany, Macerie/Filattiera di Lunigiana/Pontremoli, Italy
03 February 2011
Sick kids and friend-in-residence at home with a cold all week + Regardless of weather, Spring is coming and so are guests + Newborn baby and four other boys keep Mom and Dad on high alert = Lauren digging through leftover ingredients and getting creative to use everything I pull out from deep within the restaurant’s fridge here at the Agriturismo.
I left the main house, sweeping past my room to grab the upside-down, nearly dry salvia (sage) from the knob on my kitchen cupboard and stuffing it under my arm. I grabbed a few other herbs from the side garden along the way: loads of thyme, rosemary, and oregano. In the restaurant’s kitchen there was an abundance of eggs, too many to use before expiry, and plates of miscellaneous well-grazed cheeses. Yep. Frittata.
19 January 2011
The BOOM of the hunters on the property never fails to send me straight up. I just can’t get used to the sound of them stalking the wild boar that roam freely through these hills. I can’t say I am dead against this way of life, as it is far more humane than raising them in crowded quarters with no land to run on. But the shock of the gun always catches me by surprise nonetheless. A gun never sounds less than a hard reality about our carnivorous ways, the lethal blast that ends one life to sustain another. The issue can inspire endless debate for another blog. But his one embraces food, glorious sustainable food. And today’s topic includes wild boar.
17 January 2011
Podere Conti, Pontremoli, Italy
Tonight I really gained insight into the birth of opera. The depth of tradition and honor in this country is something you can feel deeply in your cells, and with a little research one can integrate quite smoothly. I recommend starting in the kitchen, since it is the most sacred of spaces, second only to the centuries-old churches perched high on mountaintops and nestled into villages. The birth of an opera in this century, one might think, is highly unlikely, but I can assure you that an American in the kitchen of a traditional Italian home is a think tank for operatic composition.
02 December 2010
Amtrak Surfliner from Los Angeles to Goleta, CA
I have survived the Thanksgiving carbohydrate overdose, followed by the airline’s flight cancellation due to (inperceptable) weather conditions and the subsequent overnight at Syracuse Airport’s Holiday Inn Express, as well as the perk of making the most of it by indulging in Dinosaur BBQ, a 40-some-odd smokehouse and watering hole. The pulled pork at Dinosaur was actually recommended to me by Culture’s own David Newhoff, a man whose taste in food I would trust in even the worst of times. Believe me, being stranded in Syracuse qualified as such, but the AMAZING pulled pork at Dinosaur was definitely a big reward for my not having throttled the rude and flat-affective staff at the Hancock Airport (except you, Denise, Ms. Fabulous at US Airways!)
12 November 2010
I am sitting here in my apartment at the most gorgeous Agriturismo in a very underdeveloped part of Tuscany, wondering how I got here. What exactly have I done right? On the coffee table in front of me is an array of chocolate bars from the Stainer factory, just minutes from here, all mine for the tasting. I have officially been a food writer for three days, and there are enough top-tier chocolates on this table to impress even the most discerning of tastes for the finer things. And I mean FINE. In case you are wondering…Yes, it’s good to be Queen.