What I learned from Italians.
Updated: Sep 13, 2018
Espresso & Vespas.
How can one country have such a stark contrast in values & pull it off while looking so darn good.
On my sixth trip to Italy I sat in the kitchen learning how to cook from Stefanos mother in her mid 70's, or watched the neighbors coming and going outside the family's bar during the afternoons, and I realized something.
Italians are a living dichotomy.
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What we create as a society, our products, services, systems, says so much about what we value in life and I looked around at the little vespas zipping past the beautiful peaceful fields and it hit me.. Italy is a country where there is such a strong contrast between values, at least compared to how we do things in the US. What country values both the quickest strongest version of coffee ever invented (the standing up while you drink it espresso bar) and at the same time questions, not how long it takes to turn grapes into wine, but just does it.
If its the BEST way to do it, just do it that way.
(Some Porcini's hand delivered in a basket one
afternoon by a neighboring villager).
I am so inspired that things don't have to be one way.
The coffee is quick but the wine is slow.
We were at the table and someone said, "oh you must try this salami it is the best it is so good, remember that pig we used to pass on our way down to the river every summer? yes yes it is that pig, (another) what a noble end for such a pig, yes yes, (eating commenced in agreement)".
All those years of care and hard work for just one single pig. I remember him, he lived alone in his little piggy barn by the purple flower fields filled with the matching lavender butterflies, and the guard dog that would let you pass if you knew his name, so we could take the shortcut. I thought about how I would have thought it was such a waste to keep a pig for so many years just to eat him in one moment,
but then I realized that..
if everyone thought like that there would be NO MOMENTS.
Making Pasta with Livia & Ringo & the method for Marinara & Marmellatta that lasts three years!
-The Vespa (means wasp) the quickest way to get to and fro, hop on hop off, no frills.
-The Lamborghini - the most ostentatious way to get around with absolutely no cares given to practicality.
-The Espresso - There is no "coffee" here, only little shots of glorious velvety espresso and if you want something larger get a cappuccino which will still be smaller than you expect and definitely not for carrying around. I heard one Italian say that the Americans idea of a cafè is a giant container full of milk and sugar that you can have in order to walk around with it in your hand..well ya! But it is hilarious to me that the idea of slow drinking a coffee sounds novel to Italians.
-The Language - Speaking Italian, so fast, so loud, there is no pausing here..no time.
-The Pasta - the most delicious comforting food enjoyed around the globe that takes all afternoon to make.
And one second to eat.
-The Wine - The little grapes, the roses at the end of the vineyards to tell if the vines are healthy, the fires lit in the winter to keep them warm, and then the process and the simple ingredient of time. Wie is king when it comes to the quality of patience.
-The Cheese - years of care and work all for one single bite of perfection. All the years for the cow to grow and eat, the ingredients, the time, the space it take to just simply let the cheese be.
How many things are truly spectacular if you make sure to make time to simply do nothing and let them be.
I think it is this balance, this dance between taking your time if it requires the outcome to be fantastic, and being swift, where perhaps, just to make up a little time in between, maybe Italians thought "Hey, espresso? Takes no time to enjoy and tastes the same..Bread? MUST must must be let to rise in the right room, Prosciuttio? Must have the the darkest basement with the right vents in the morning for the fog to roll in and cure it, no shortcuts, it must be. Car? not important, switch to two wheels, smaller, faster, no doors, saves time."
I am inspired at the idea of doing things for the simple reason that it is the best way we know how, with the best results, and the rest, well the rest seems to be able to sort itself out after that.
Personally I think, what is the point of it all if the reason we do things is just in the name of efficiency as priority? What does that even mean? Where are we trying to get to or get back by being efficient with things that can really be done so much better?
I think in the long run, learning how to relax from the Italians, to enjoy, to create with an artisinal mindset, with the eyes of an artist, IS the point of everything in the first place.
Think about it, we rush all day, all week, so that maybe, later in the year, we can go somewhere else and sit down and enjoy something slow, or take a cooking class, or remember what it feels like to savor something amazing..
I volunteer my life as an experiment, I want to see what it is like to just make things and do things because it is the best way and not worry about how much time it takes.
After my dad came out of the hospital this year, I had a great talk with him about how if we don't ever relax in life and then we expect our bodies to do it on command it can be a very disheartening realization that we just don't know how to do it, and you sit there on that vacation with the list of some other life running through your head.
I started asking him regularly "Dad, are you practicing relaxing today "
This is what I learned from the Italians, I may never be as good as them at it, but I am willing to try;)
-Aja Lee Faassè