I have a long list of places that I would like to travel to, but Italy wasn’t one of them. I knew I’d love the country, but it didn’t spark my imagination like other destinations do. That changed when I found out that I have distant family there and they were excited to meet their lost American family (the portion of my family that came to America generations ago lost contact with the Italian side, and they have wondered what became of us).
Most of my family lives in small towns in the Central and Southern Apennine mountains (Mid boot, all the way down to the heel). Because of the places they live I was able to observe the Italian food production, distribution, and sales up close, I was able to have many more observations then I otherwise would have because a couple of my cousins have small farms of their own.
I’ll begin with the Italians demands for their food. This applies mostly to small to medium towns, and not large ones as Rome, Napoli, or Pisa, of which I couldn’t observe very well.
Most of the produce in summer months in Italy come from the surrounding hills. Most people have their own small farm with a couple of employees and market their produce to small stores in the city, or sell it with a fruit stand.
I heard it from several people, if they don’t know exactly where their produce came from, “which hill,” as they put it, they were very skeptical of it,
We ate these Heirloom Tomatoes that were picked the day before for lunch with local Mozzarella Cheese. They were magical, and my brother who doesn't like Tomatoes even wanted more. Italy: grown in their garden or $1/lb. US: Grown states away, $5/lb. Often moldy in store.
One way that they keep their food local, and wholesome is that when they can, they grow their own food. They are not faced with the same daunting problems that China’s food industry is facing (enormous pollution problems that make it difficult to grow wholesome food), but like the Chinese, when they have the chance they grow their own food.
Now Americans may not have the choice as to where the grocery store buys their food from, but every neighborhood has a local gardening, or hardware store where people could get the tools to build their own garden. Your Freshest Food brings people the freshest produce we can, but we know Garden Fresh is the best.
My take away from Italy isn’t lamenting the American food system and wishing we had the Italian, locally produced and wholesome food system. I understand why they are different. My take away is more of amazement that the Italian Culture says “let’s go work in the garden” vs. “let’s see what’s on TV, or what’s happening on the Internet,” as it is in much of America.
Working in a garden, getting fresh air, playing with dirt is almost always more beneficial that what Americans replace it with.
Picture to the right is a distant relative and her small garden. Behind the cameraman she has a couple of fruit trees. That is the entirety of her back yard. In her garden she grows lettuce, tomatoes, cilantro, squash and a few other veggies.