Archive for the ‘Blog Posts’ Category

Chianti Classico

June 12th, 2016 by cmconn18

IMG_2838During my short time in Italy, it has become clear to me that wine is a very integral part of the culture and history here; especially in the region of Chianti (where we are staying) which is the birthplace of Chianti Classico. One particular visit to the vineyard of Nittardi she even more light on the Tuscan trademark that is the Chianti Classico. In order for a wine to be a chianti classic it must be made from at least eighty percent Sangiovese grapes; however the Chianti Classico that Leon—the owner of Nittardi—makes is one hundred percent Sangiovese. Leon shared with us the history of the area and how the Chianti Classico came to be. Many, many years ago the region of Chianti was constantly being fought over by Siena and Florence, both major cities wanting to claim the abundant and fruitful lands for themselves. The story says that at one point, to settle the dispute, the two cities would send a horseman out and wherever they crossed paths (presumably in the middle) would be the “property line.” The rule for when to begin this race was when the first rooster crowed. Florence, in order to try to get the upper hand, starved their rooster for days before the race so that they would wake up earlier from their slumber. For this reason, a rooster can be found on the neck of the bottle of all Chianti Classico wines. Listening to Leon talk, it is incredibly clear how much pride he holds in what he does, the history of his home and how much the land has shaped the product.

At first, participating in the wine tastings was difficult because of my lack of knowledge about wine, but an article from class written by Steven Shapin really helped that process. This article gave me a list of adjectives that I added to my arsenal of vocabulary used to describe wine. Having a basic understanding of how wine is made and what processes brought out what flavors provided me with the tools I need to appreciate the Chianti Classico from Nittardi and be able to differentiate the different flavor notes from other Chianti Classicos.

Another article from class that made me appreciate my experience at Nittardi even more is the one on Geographical Indications written by Borghini. This article highlights the importance of location when it comes to defining food, and vice versa. The importance of land when it comes to Chianti Classico is transparent, especially when listening to Leon describe the history. The wine, while sold world wide, revolves around its origins in the region of Chianti, and the people who create this wine have an astounding resilience to the land. They understand that the land dictates the wine and what they do, not the other way around.

Overall, my experience at Nittardi was able to bring topics being discussed in class to life and gave me the irreplaceable opportunity to learn more about the area we are staying in and the wine we are consuming.

Making Gelato

June 12th, 2016 by vajack18

Traveling to Italy for the first time, I was excited for all the new experiences before me, and considering the course is titled the philosophy of food, I was especially excited for new experiences regarding food, namely eating authentic Italian gelato. Actually, I had the goal of eating gelato every day. Though, I’ll tell you, I haven’t kept to that promise (which is probably for the best), I have consumed a lot of memorable ones. However, surprisingly, the most transformative experience I had pertaining to gelato was not of buying one from an artisanal shop, made by someone else’s expert hands, but when I had the opportunity to make gelato myself.

Every Friday we have a cooking class taught by an Italian woman, LeLe, also known as our “Cooking Mamma.” In this class we learn to make an entire meal including an appetizer, a main course, a side dish and a dessert. The second class we attended, the dessert was gelato alla crème e vaniglia. A simple gelato requiring no ice cream machine and made with only four ingredients: eggs, sugar, cream, and vanilla extract. I was so excited that I would finally learn how to make my own gelato, and made sure to volunteer to help in making that dish. With my own hands, I separated the eggs, and beat the yolks with the sugar and vanilla. I whipped the cream, and egg whites (separately) until they reached the right solid consistency (the way we tested if it was the right consistency was by holding the bowl upside down over your head with out the contents falling out). I then folded them into the egg yolk and sugar mixture, making sure to incorporate enough air to make it light and fluffy. I filled the newly finished gelato into the plastic wrap lined mold and LeLe put the finished product into the freezer to get cold. I returned to my seat with a smile, knowing I had just made my first gelato. It was oddly satisfying.

At first I could not place why I felt so accomplished but after some reflection I thought back to the first article I read for this course, “The Pleasures of Eating” by Wendell Berry. In this article, Berry discusses our detachment from our food source and how that detachment enables the inhumane treatment of domesticated animals and the irresponsible treatment of the land, and considers that today’s consumers are passive. He goes on to give seven different ways in which we, as consumers, can engage with our food source. Upon my reflection of the experience of making gelato, I realized that the process aligned with some of Berry’s suggestions, one of them being able to prepare your own food. By making my own gelato I have become an active participant of a culture, the culture of making gelato, a culture that I admire and appreciate so much. Just like someone who owns a gelato shop, I have control and creative freedom over exactly what I make and consume: eggs, sugar, cream, and any flavoring I can imagine.

In preparing my own food, I have full autonomy over not only what ingredients I use, but also the quality of these ingredients. This brings me to another one of Berry’s suggestions, to buy food knowing where it comes from. When I go home and repeat this recipe, I get to choose the quality of the cream, making sure it came from a dairy farm with humane conditions for their cows and that they have not been treated with antibiotics. I get to choose the eggs, making sure they came from free-range chickens that were treated well. By making my own ice cream I have the ability to omit preservative and other chemicals. I do not have to worry about what is in that tub of Bryer’s ice cream before I buy it. Instead I have the peace of mind of knowing my food source. I have the power of controlling what I put into my body as well as the power to economically support sustainable farming through my responsible purchases. I am no longer a passive consumer, but an active one, making responsible choices.

To me, this is so much greater than just buying a gelato from a well-known shop even if they use organic ingredients, because I gained a skill that I can take home with me. I learned a skill I can share with my family and friends.

It is a little part of Italy that will always be with me.

Me folding in the cream into the egg yolk and sugar mixture

Me folding in the cream into the egg yolk and sugar mixture

Elissa (co-cooking teacher) holding the bowl of whipped egg whites over her head to test if they are firm enough

Elissa (co-cooking teacher) holding the bowl of whipped egg whites over her head to test if they are firm enough

The Finished Product!

The Finished Product!

What is that?

June 12th, 2016 by mmnguy18

In today’s modern age, technology acts as a chain that controls and prevents people from socializing with one another. Before it would have been difficult for two people to communicate if they were not close to each other. Now people would still text their friend even if their friend is standing right next to them. Technology and social media have created a bubble that has encased every user. The best way to pop that bubble is to put away the devices and enjoy a meal with others. 

On May 20th, we arrived in Italy after two long flights. During the car ride to Panzano, there were little to no conversations since we have not talked to each other that much besides exchanging basic information like name, age, and hometown. Despite being in town for a little over a day, there is already an event planned out, Dinner at Dario’s Cecchini. When we sat down at the table, almost everyone takes out his or her phone. The moment when the food comes out, the phones were put away, of course after some pictures. The meal is family style, therefore, either the huge plates of food or the individual small plates are required to be passed around. The act of passing the plates and asking someone if he or she wants something becomes a gateway for conversations. 

Besides from passing around the food, another way that can easily trigger a conversation is by having someone ask ‘What is that?’. This particular question can draw someone in and answer it with his or her knowledge and personal experience. Eventually, the conversation can lead into another topic, which would allow them to get to know more about one another. ‘What is that?’ or its various forms do not have to lead to another topic for the people to get to know each other. The question itself can inform the other person or the group about the individual who is asking the question. 

According to Fischler in Food, Self, and Identity, food can be a representation of our self and our identity. When a person does not know about a certain food or ingredient, it shows that he or she has not been exposed to it. It can be that it is not often used or cooked in his or her environment. This is also true for taste and preference. Someone might like something because he or she is used to eating that food and might hate something because he or she might not be familiar with it. The familiarity of certain foods is mostly framed by the individual’s environment and culture. 

By the end of our dinner, everyone is laughing and sharing funny stories. The result of the meal could have been different if everyone have ordered his or her meal and not share the food. Maybe there might have been conversations, but the progress would not be as progressive. The best way to bring people together is through a family style dinner that is served with food that is new to most people. So do not be afraid to share your food and ask ‘What is that?’ because it will always lead to interesting and meaningful conversations.  

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The McDario

June 12th, 2016 by kalena19

Dario is an exceptional butcher who has dedicated his life to raising animals in a humane way.  Why does he wait for twelve to fourteen years to use a cow for meat? Why is this a worthy investment? Dario’s philosophy is not derived from the “clean eating” craze that is occurring in the U.S. but it is rooted in a relationship between animals and humans. He acknowledges the need to understand that each time we are consuming meat, we sacrificed that animal for our own needs. Once Dario explained this dynamic and act of consumption, my relationship with food began to change.

After learning about Dario’s methods and overall philosophy and mission, I had an indescribable experience eating the McDario burger. Not only did I solely enjoy the burger, but I valued the entire meal. We sat down and consumed raw vegetables with olive oil and rosemary sea salt as well as some bread. The crisp carrots and celery as well as the warm and bitter flavors from the rosemary sea salt prepared my pallet for the main event.Once I received my medium McDario burger I thought that the plate was beautiful; the colors were balanced with the celery leaves, fresh tomatoes, and red onions. The smell contributed to an overall feeling of emotion that I find difficult to describe. The smell, the colors, the balance that was omnipresent throughout the meal represented the region as well as my own home. I felt the love, comfort, and thoughtfulness that I feel when I am home but I also found that this meal was beautiful and my excitement and energy matched how I feel at an art exhibit.

From my experience I found that I clashed with Elizabeth Telfer’s opinion of food as an art form. Telfer argues that food can only be a minor art because we cannot have an “aesthetic reaction to taste and smell.” I strongly disagree with her because a meal can withdraw my memories, experiences, and feelings with a smell or with the way in which the meal is assembled. Food can articulate how I feel at times when I cannot actually express myself clearly. Food screams louder, infiltrates my senses faster, and communicates more than some pieces of art can regardless of how bright they are, large, or detailed. Telfer may partially agree with my point of view, however she may argue that I am not calculating hunger into this equation. What she ultimately fails to recognize is our visual hunger for stimulation, color, and texture that can be satiated through the painting or visual that she is referencing.

Dario’s philosophy and dishes are exquisite to me and are works of art. They are aesthetically appealing and taste and smell greatly contributes to my emotions toward food. What also adds to the value of Dario’s artwork is the beautiful concept of a human being’s relationship to food and the respect that we must have of nature; our existence relies on the sacrifice of life.

This philosophy increases the value of the McDario burger in a way that is comparable to the stories behind some of the most influential and remarkable paintings.

Additionally, Dario’s philosophy highlights our role as consumers. It is essential that we understand our role in the food industry and the fact that we are an integral part of the food chain. Singer feels that the solution to inhumane treatment to animals is through vegetarianism or eliminating ourselves from the equation, however this is merely hiding from the problem instead of taking a proactive stance as a consumer. We need to have a better connection to our food and understand that each dish is truly one of a kind because we sacrifice a life in order to create it.

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May 16th, 2016 by mmcdonal

“Two there are who are never satisfied – the lover of the world, and the lover of knowledge.” – Rumi

To tell you the truth, I really haven’t traveled much in my life. In fact, I always tell my students that they should go abroad while they can because not going abroad is my only regret from my time at Holy Cross.

As it turns out, life moves in circles sometimes and here I am getting ready to go abroad with you all!

I’m MC, and I graduated from Holy Cross way back in 2003. I was a philosophy major then, and my studies took me to graduate school in New York and then in Boston, and then my teaching career took me back to Holy Cross in the Fall of 2014. Getting to come back to Holy Cross to teach in the classrooms where I first became inspired to study philosophy has been quite like living an actual dream.

Speaking of dreaming, I’m having a little bit of trouble sleeping these days. I’m too excited (and just a little nervous, if I’m being honest)! In just a few short days, we will embark on our trip and spend the next month traveling through Italy and learning about the philosophy of food. We will stay in Panzano, and visit Florence, Sienna, Lucca, Pisa, and Viareggio among others. Professor Borghini has put together a wonderful syllabus for us full of reading, trips, and visits to wineries and butcheries, and all sorts of things. We will see beautiful places, taste amazing foods, and learn Italian along the way. Along the way, we will go from a group of people who doesn’t know each other at all to a group of friends. If there is a better way to spend a month, I’m not sure I want to know what it is!

I can’t wait to get to know you all and have this wonderful adventure together.

For those of you reading, look forward to pictures and posts from all of us!