(UPDATE 1/10/09: Contest is closed. The winner is SimplyForties! Thanks to everyone for participating.)
If you’ve read any of my articles focused on Italian living and lifestyle over the last 6 months, then you’ve probably come to the conclusion that my Italian roots (and those of my parent’s) are firmly situated in the mezzogiorno (the word mezzogirono references the southern region of Italy, including the regions of Basilicata, Campania, Calabria, Apulia, Molise, Abruzzo and the islands of Sicily and Sardinia ). In turn, I often shy away from writing about northern Italy because I’m both unfamiliar with the region and also because so much has been documented and said about areas/cities such as Toscana, Roma, Sienna, Genoa, etc. But when a good friend forwarded me an article from a local newspaper in Connecticut I know I stumbled upon something special, namely, a new book by husband and wife team Matthew Scialabba and Melissa Pellegrino entitled, The Italian Farmer’s Table, Authentic Recipes and Local Lore from Northern Italy (see the accompanying website here!).
Like the movie Julie and Julia, Matt and Melissa ate, worked, and lived their way through every region of northern Italy by way of agriturismi (subsidized, working, family farms that provide lodging and meals to travelers). The couple also documented 150 northern Italian recipes from the farms, including many dishes I’ve never read or encountered in Italian cuisine. The 150 recipes are translated with great care and they can, for the most part, be easily adapted for the American kitchen. In addition to the recipes, the book also include tidbits on local traditions, events, and, of course, food items (for example, in the the chapter on the Casa Al Campo farm we learn about the Dolomite Mountains and the hunting rituals surrounding deer and chamois). The Italian Farmer’s Table also features great photography, especially photos taken with the farm owners and their local products.
(photo: via the Italian Farmer’s Table, making pasta)
I loved the Italian Farmer’s Table so much that I asked Matt and Melissa if they were willing to offer a free copy of their book to a lucky Scordo.com reader and, echoing the generous spirit of the Northern Italian farmers referenced in the book, they agreed! Here’s how you can enter to win a free copy of The Italian Farmer’s Table:
- Prize Giveaway includes one (1) copy of the The Italian Farmer’s Table
- What you need to do to enter: 1. leave a comment under this post on your favorite Italian region or city that you’ve visited (if you haven’t been to Italy which region would you like to visit?) and 2. sign up for the Scordo.com What’s New Newsletter here.
- Only one entry per person please.
- The contest is open until 12 midnight on 1/10 and a single random user will be picked via Random.org (sorry contest only open to folks from the US given shipping logistics). The winner will be announced immediately on Twitter (so please follow me) and on Scordo.com by 5PM on Monday, 1/11.
- Please use a valid email address when leaving a comment so I can contact you just in case you’re the lucky winner (I’ll need your shipping address).
- Globe Pequot Press will send out the book during the week of 1/11.
Finally, Matt and Melissa were also nice enough to answer a few of my questions on local versus organic food, the agriturismo industry, why Italians place so much emphasis on eating well, etc. You can find the full interview below and also purchase the book via Amazon.
1. What inspired you pick up and leave the US and live in a foreign country. Was it difficult to adjust and handle the practical elements of living a foreign country.
We had been toying with the idea to write a cookbook about the Italian agriturismo for about six years. After numerous rejection letters from publishers, we decided to do the trip ourselves. We knew that the whole agriturismo system was practically unknown to the American tourist and that as the farm to table mantra began to pick up steam here in America, the timing was right for a book of this nature. We had both lived in Italy before so being there again was not that big of an adjustment. I think the hardest part was living out of a suitcase for four months and changing farms every 5th day.
(photo: via the Italian Farmer’s Table, fennel)
2. There’s been lots of talk in the media surrounding organic and local foods. Should shoppers concentrate on buying local versus organic?
Hopefully if it’s local, it’s also seasonal and not shipped across the country or from another country. While we commend organically grown food we are not that big on its status symbol and government approved stamp. There is nothing better than eating ingredients that are in peak season and harvested close to where they are sold. Many of the farms we visited considered themselves “independently” organic, farming naturally without pesticides or chemicals, but perhaps lacking an official organically grown certificate. Hopefully, most locally grown food available to consumers are adopting a similar philosophy.
(photo: via the Italian Farmer’s Table, harvesting grapes)
3. How do Italian shop for food and is there a big emphasis on organic or local foods?
Italians shop for the day, often going to the markets every day to seek out what’s fresh and looks the best. Kitchens often have much smaller refrigerators than we have in the US and they eat far less processed foods and snack food.
4. What’s an agriturismo?
An agriturismo, is a working farms with accommodations and restaurants, where everything grown and raised on the farm are served to guests. The system was formed in the eighties to help preserve small family farms. By allowing them to open their doors to overnight guests, farms were able to supplement their incomes by providing food and lodging. They have experienced tremendous success, and there has been a huge movement throughout the country as crumbling farms are being renovated and revitalized. There really is no better way to experience rural Italy than to stay at an agriturismo and soak in some local culture and eat and drink like a real Italian.
5. What makes local Italian food taste so good and is it really possible to recreate the dishes in your book here in the US?
Prime ingredients that haven’t traveled hundreds of miles. We have adapted all recipes for the American home cook
6. What’s your favorite northern Italian region?
Too difficult a question – each region has its own personality and charm
7. You mention the “Italian countryside lifestyle” – what exactly is this?
Living sustainably and with the seasons consuming what one can grow and raise locally.
(photo: via the Italian Farmer’s Table, fresh ricotta)
8. Why do Italians put so much emphasis on eating well and how does good food contribute to such a high quality of life in Italy?
Eating well means everything to Italians. Eating means so much more than consumption, but rather, a time to be with friends and family and to sit down and enjoy company and conversation united by food. This all contributes to a high quality of life focused on more intrinsic values with less emphasis on material objects.
9. What’s your favorite, local, Italian dish to prepare in the US?
For us, in CT, we love linguine with clams. Fresh local little necks, garlic, hot pepper, white wine, and lots of parsley. Summer or winter, the briney salty flavor is a classic Italian (southern) favorite.
10. How is local farming set up in Italy and how can this system of food production feed a large western country and is it possible to replicate this system in the US?
The Italian agriturismo can prove to be a model example of how small farms can succeed and operate. As more and more Americans are shopping at farmer’s markets and becoming interested in learning about where their food comes from, smaller, family run farms have begun to experience success and economic sustainability. While we are moving in the right direction, there is still much to change about American’s eating habits. The White House’s first garden is symbolic of more awareness about the importance of eating well, and there’s hope on the horizon for a better and healthier American diet.