Friday, 11 May 2012

Viva Italia

The early morning May sun rises and starts to heat up Levento, a small town on the edge of the Cinque Terre. I hear the footsteps of the local mama’s heading to the bakery to buy the first crisp bread of the day. Butchers eagerly cut up prime mussel of fine Italian beef; the fish monger displays his glissing fish on ice with a smile. The green grocer with cigarette lighting and eyes heavy with bright blue eye shadow arranges her seasonal vegetables in a beautiful display wordy of any florist. This story has been played out for generations. It’s a story about food and culture. The town folk of Levento cherish their early morning walks, they chat and purchase their provisions for the coming day. In the shadows of the evening light, fresh pasta is sold by the gram. Two men busy rolling, kneading and shaping all kinds of soft yellow dough. This is food, woven into the very fabric of these people. They know how to cook simply and perfectly. They know what is in season and what to look for; they have not lost touch with their forefathers. Knowledge will be passed on to the young people who in turn will also pass this precious gift on to the next generation. Our food, some of the best in the world is being exported all around the world to people who will pay premium prices for it. Why does the bulk of it not stay here for us to enjoy? Many Irish people have lost the art of cooking, all too reliant on readymade meals. We eat alone, on the hoof; we have no time to sit down at a table with our loved ones. Our small traditional bakeries are closing; butchers can no longer slaughter their own animals because of stupid and costly regulations. Our airports have become our fish markets, importing all kinds of farmed fish while our native fish is enjoyed in Paris, Milan and Barcelona. An English supermarket chain has taken a strangle hold on our food and we go like sheep to support it. This is wrong on so many levels. We have to seek out our small local retailer, the local butcher, baker, fish monger and green grocer and support them before it is too late. We need to take back our food and culture and be proud of it and enjoy it.