Italian Cuisine: Behind the Scenes

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Analyzing Michael Pollan: Instilling Sustainable Values in a Consumption-Driven Society

 

Blog Post of Chapter 11: The Animals: Practicing Complexity

Professor Risatti

October 14th, 2014

Evan Conti, Walker Cammack, Jonathan Vicenty, Maureen Megson, Brianna Mackay

Over the past three weeks we have worked with Professor Risatti to analyze the animal production systems in the US. We then compared these processes to those of Italy and had field experiences at local farms and vineyards to see first hand how food systems can be sustainable. These experiences have caused us to look at the food we consume differently and wonder where exactly it comes from. Michael Pollan’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, set the stage for our curiosity right from the beginning of our travel abroad experience. In Professor Risatti’s class, our group was assigned to analyze Chapter 11: The Animals: Practicing Complexity and then produce a paper and presentation. We were encouraged to both support and refute the ideas proposed in the chapter. Below is a brief introduction on how we evaluated and investigated Pollan’s work, along with our own opinions on the issue.

In the last decade there has been a constant debate between key figures in the industrial and small-scale agriculture industries. They both argue that their agricultural methods are the most efficient techniques for providing the world with food.  In this chapter of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan spends a day working on Polyface Farm, an institute at the forefront of the sustainable permaculture movement. He analyzes the different systems that make up the farm’s ecology, including the various interactions between animals.  Pollan emphasizes that in order to be truly sustainable, farmers must try to work within the confines of the natural world around them. He believes in order to gain maximum efficiency, we must turn away from industrial monocultures, and take advantage of complex natural cycles. This is essentially the long-term solution to solving the world’s food crisis, but the biggest challenge will be instilling the values of sustainability within the consumption-driven society of today.

We focused on using permaculture as an alternative food production system that is capable of feeding our population in a way that is healthy for our environment. The video below is an example of how permaculture looks outside of the box when trying to overcome obstacles in creating sustainable systems.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F0UNYGi4v8Q

Pictures from our Field Experiences:

The pigs here have lots of room to roam and live

The pigs here have lots of room to roam and live

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We were able to actually pick the grapes off the vines and transport them

Vineyard uses solar energy panels to reduce their ecological footprint

Vineyard uses solar energy panels to reduce their ecological footprint

Our lunch consisted of all foods and wines produced at the vineyard

Our lunch consisted of all foods and wines produced at the vineyard

The grapes we picked that day were being put into the cement containers for fermentation

The grapes we picked that day were being put into the cement containers for fermentation

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Nichole and Connor

Nichole and Connor

Nichole and Connor

Connor and Nichole took Peter Fischer’s recommendation of trying a panino alimentari that was showed to us during the first week of classes. Salumeria Terziani is the name of the shop. It is owned by a man named Leonardo and has been run by his family since 1968. This alimentari follows the Italian tradition of closing mid-day for lunch and re-opening at night, and only buying the highest quality ingredients for their dishes. This brings us to our delicious panino we bought for lunch. It consisted of mortadella, pecorino cheese, and green olives, all on focaccia.

The mortadella on our paninos is sourced from Bologna. Leonardo pointed out to us that this is the only region where authentic Italian salami comes from. This is indicated by the packaging with the seal stating “Indicazione Geografica Tipica”. This is found on many products that you purchase here in Italy, showing the region of origin of a given product.

Connor1Leonardo tells us that he acquires his focaccia and other various types of breads from a bakery on the outskirts of Firenze. He says that it must be local and made from scratch in order to ensure freshness and quality.

Our paninos also had some amazing pecorino formaggio on them. We learned that the best and most authentic pecorino is made from 100% sheep’s milk, while “imitation pecorino” is made from 80% sheep’s milk and 20% cow’s milk. This creates a significant discrepancy in taste and texture. There was a bit of a language barrier between us and Leonardo, so we weren’t able to track the source of the pecorino down to a very specific source. He tells us that he has several sources, all of which make and age the pecorino within the region of Toscana.

Connor2Lastly, the green olives on the paninos came from the region of Calabria. Calabria is famous for its olive production, particularly its olive oil. It is regarded to be among the best (if not the very best) olive oils in all of Italy. These delicious olives may be our favorite ingredient on our paninos.

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Brianna, Maureen, and The Pizza Man

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Brianna

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Maureen

Yesterday our Cultural Workshop class had an outing to a restaurant called Pizza Man for dinner. The place was located by our school on Bargagli, on the street Via dell’Agnolo.

The place is very authentic and attracts many locals too. It is our professor’s favorite pizza place in Florence! The outside did not look like it was going to be anything special. The road it is on is just another typical street through the city, nothing very appealing with a bright fluorescent sign hanging above the door. There were classic Italian posters and pictures hanging throughout the restaurant with brightly painted walls to stimulate a friendly environment. We

All having pizza

All having pizza

could tell the restaurant had a family friendly atmosphere and was very inviting. The space wasn’t huge, but it was nice and cozy for sharing a meal with everyone. The doorways throughout the restaurant were all framed with arches, contributing to the Italian appearance. The place was very nice too, we had tablecloths and cloth napkins, which is usually a sign you are in a genuine Italian restaurant.

When we arrived, our professor explained to us all the different kinds of pizzas and all the toppings we could choose from. We were able to order one pizza for ourselves and a drink of our choice. We ordered a half-liter of white wine for the two of us. They said the wine is from Tuscany and it was very crisp and delicious.

Maureen ordered a pizza called Burratta, which had mozzarella that was cooked in butter, fresh tomatoes, and riccola lettuce. The cheese and tomatoes are from the Puglia region of Italy, which is the southern part of the boot of Italy and the riccola is a local salad. Brianna ordered a pizza called Salame e Ferrell, which had lots of seasoned cheese and very spicy salami called nduja. The seasoned cheese comes from Naples and the spicy salami is from the region Calabria, which is also southern. Both the dough and sauce for the pizza are made fresh in their restaurant everyday. The sauce uses tomatoes and garlic.

We talked with one of the owners of the restaurant, named Piero. He was very friendly and loved answering our questions. He told us that there are seven Pizza Man restaurants all over Florence but this was the most central one. All the waiters were very friendly and we received our food very quickly for having 18 people with us. All the food was absolutely delicious and we think that the pizza was the best we have had in Italy so far! Even beating out Gusta Pizza! We definitely recommend stopping by

To Go Box

To Go Box

Pizza Man if you are ever in Florence!

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