My friend Luigi has a farm, EE-I-EE-I-O.
And on that farm he has some…well he seems to have everything really.
Luigi lives very close to us in Loreto Aprutino. I exaggerated a little when I said he has a farm, he has a piece of land outside the town where he grows plenty of fruit and vegetables for his family for the year. Tomatoes, beans, courgettes you name it I bet Luigi grows it. The only fruit he doesn’t seem to grow is grapes. He buys them from a grower he trusts and makes his own wine – very tasty wine it is too.
His piece of land isn’t short on animals either. Ducks, geese, rabbits are there along with the big guys, the pigs.
A little while ago Luigi invited us over for dinner. “We’re having pig” he announced. What he meant was that he had killed a pig and that day, after the cuts had been taken and passed on to family and friends, they were having a celebratory meal and we were invited.
This was not a meal for vegetarians.
On the menu were slices of pork, pasta with a pork based sauce and various types of salsicce (sausages). All washed down with his very own Montepulciano D’Abruzzo.
Earlier that day as I was walking by, Luigi called me to his garage and there, instead of his car, his motorbike or his Ape, were benches set up for food preparation. With a few friends he was busy mincing the pork to make the pasta sauce and the salsicce.
I’d offered to help but our host would have none of it. I think he felt that it was a job for professionals and amateurs like me would slow the process down. I was good for eating the result – I think he had me sussed.
Later when we arrived for dinner we saw that a little miracle had changed the pork into perfectly formed salsicce.
I asked Luigi if he buys anything he eats from the shops or supermarkets. It turns out he does but not very often. Typically he grows it or raises it himself, negotiates with friends who have what he needs, buys from the market and then, maybe then, buys from a shop.
Being able to trace what’s on your plate back to its very place of origin, food provenance, has become an important issue in the last few years. I bet Luigi could tell you exactly where everything on his plate came from.
I grew up in a city and that ensured I had no real exposure to growing vegetables or raising animals. I’ve grown a few tomatoes, potatoes, peas and beans in buckets, raised beds and pots. Not enough to feed a family for a week but still I grew them and it was fun.
I don’t have a romantic notion of owning/renting a bit of land a growing food for a year. It’s hard work and although very rewarding I think my skills are better served elsewhere right now.
Luigi is retired but you’d never think it. He’s an inspiration. An early riser, he takes care of his animals and all he grows while the sun is not yet too hot. If there’s a festival of any sort being organised he’s usually in the thick of it. I think he only stays still when he’s eating.
We had a great night and when we eventually waddled home to our beds we vowed we wouldn’t eat again for a week.
Well that didn’t happen.