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Viva Italia: Farm Fresh Food

August 1, 2010

Two years ago we spent a month in Italy. In the south between Rome and Naples, the Compagnia considered to be Italy’s kitchen garden. My Husband was working and we rented a place by the Mediterranean, neighbouring the summer house of his Italian colleague’s family. All set-up because this Italian colleague had a French wife, Isabelle, and they wanted their kids to practice their French with our kids.

After unpacking, one of the first orders of business was groceries. We go the grocery store; there the produce section was tiny with some wilted lettuces and rotten tomatoes. I didn’t understand. But Isabelle explained, no, you don’t fresh stuff here, we go to the farm. In that part of Italy people don’t go to the store for produce, they either have a farmer nearby, or the farmers that live farther out, drive into town with a trunk full of whatever crop, park somewhere with traffic, pop their trunk and have a sort of tailgate sale. No prices posted of course, Italians know what things are worth. And you don’t touch the fruit as we do here, but you didn’t need to, all the fruit was ripe and ready, they weren’t selling the hard-as-a-rock-bread-for-shipping fruit from California stuff they try and sell us in Quebec. So the one Italian word I did learn was ‘questo’ which meant ‘that’. I would point questo, questo, questo, then with fingers the farmer would give me the price. Which I am sure I was overpaying. But I didn’t care; the prices were always lower than what I would pay in Canada for way lower quality produce. And it was real fruit. The melons and oranges had seeds, the tomatoes skins, and lots of taste, not the bland engineered stuff we get in Canada. It was great; definitely a highlight of the trip, I’d go every day to find some farmer to sell me stuff.

Today our Italian friends are in Toronto, so we drove in to meet them (a 12 hour drive), can’t wait. Although they will find food shopping a disappointment here.

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