“What’s been your favorite meal so far Lola?” This has been a repeatedly asked question by my friends and family back at home since being in Italy. They always expect me to say some pasta dish or pizza pie, but this was not the case. My favorite meal so far has been the hamburger or the “MAC DARIO” at the Mac Darios restaurant. We went to Mac Darios on May 24th, only five days after arriving in Panzano. By this point in the trip, I wasn’t missing American food yet so I didn’t think I’d be as excited to try the hamburger and potatoes from this place. However, let me tell you, I was so wrong. Everything about this meal was perfect. We were seated outside and given bread, olive oil, and their delicious salt mixture to start off with. Next our burgers arrived and I was immediately taken aback by the lack of a hamburger bun. It was just a single burger patty, surrounded by potatoes, celery, and fresh tomatoes. I was hesitant to try the burger without the bun because that wasn’t how I was accustomed to eating a burger. Ultimately of course I tried it anyways and it was a fantastic first experience. Normally I’m not big into thinking or noticing different meat qualities, but with this meat the quality could not go unnoticed. It was so tender and thick; you could taste the juiciness with every bite. Even the potatoes were perfectly cooked with just the right balance of crispiness and softness. And on top of it all, at Mac Darios they have three original sauces to go with the meal. One of them being a mustard sauce that reminded me of what we have back in the states known as honey mustard. The combination of the burger and potatoes with this sauce simply made everything so balanced together. By the time the meal was over my plate was completely clean. That was when I knew this was going to be one of my favorite meals in Italy.
Like a lot of the meals I have back at home, I am completely unaware of where my food comes from. However, before arriving to Mac Darios, we learned a lot about how, Dario Cecchini, the owner, runs his business. All over the world, Dario is known for being of the best butchers. To him, there is no such thing as a bad piece of meat. Every part of the cow is valuable in some sort of way. That is why Dario makes sure to use the entire cow during the butchering process. He has become such a humanitarian that he even started his own project. This project allows the cows to roam freely until they die on their own. Once they die, that is when Dario plans to use them for production and consumption. Although this project is expensive and may result in complications with the meat’s tenderness, Dario is nonetheless sending a message about animal liberation. In a relatable manner, McWilliams in his piece, Loving Animals to Death, discusses the problems with killing animals with kindness. Moreover he discusses the problems against treating animals nicely before killing them for consumption. Whether it’s through the distribution of antibiotics or by simply showing them affection, McWilliams argues it can be deceitful and wrong to gain an animal’s trust and then return the favor by killing them for personal benefits. In opposition, Dario’s project seems to represent the exact opposite of this practice.
Knowing Dario’s philosophy beforehand made the entire meal experience 10x more special because I knew the quality of my food was coming from a respectful and trustworthy source. This food awareness is something mentioned in Wendell Berry’s article, The Pleasures of Eating. Berry mentions that a lot of times as consumers we are very naïve about where our food comes from. By learning about Dario’s business/project, as well as by visiting the meat production site and cow plantation, I ate my meal at Mac Darios responsibly, as Berry would call it. This was honestly one of the first times I knew the exact origins of the food I was about to consume. It was a refreshing and new experience that I do plan on trying to recreate more often back at home. Overall, even with just a week left on the trip, there has yet to be a pizza or pasta that has topped the Mac Dario’s burger for me.