Piggies – fantasy and reality, wild and domestic

Tuesday, 17 ottobre 2006

After that incredible lunch, we had a little bit of time to relax. Sandino played chess with Charlie, and I spent some quiet time in il giardino segreto (the secret garden) with a book, my notebook, and camera. I didn’t go far, since I was trying to heal my foot before our big road trip to Poggio Antico andSan Gimignano the next day. But I found some interesting fiber sculptures just off the trail.

Later that afternoon, the class took a tour of the Cinta Senese pigs, an heritage breed making a comeback at Spannocchia. The Cinta Senese are perfectly adapted to the woodlands of Spannocchia, where they are raised with care in fenced areas. The little piggies above are only one week old.

The tour concluded with a visit to a basement storage room where prosciutto hangs to cure, and a tasting of the different items that are produced from the farm’s pork. I heartily support and applaud small livestock farmers who produce their own meat with love and care, but I have a hard time meeting the animals that I eat. Plus I just recently began eating pork again after years of not eating it for a variety of reasons. Even though we didn’t meet the specific animals that we ate, it was psychologically difficult. But I tried all of it, and enjoyed the salume the most. We ate these again on pizza night and on Friday, when we had lunch outside in the courtyard.

Coincidentally, there was an opinion piece in the NYT today, Cure Me, about the sad inflexibility of the USDA in prohibiting the sale of traditionally cured meat in this country. This is why I can’t find locally-produced ham or bacon that is traditionally cured without nitrates. The USDA is not interested in putting more effort into monitoring food production or inspecting meat for safety, and they make decisions based on what is best for big agribusiness, not for consumers or independent farmers. When I was growing up I remember when my godfather, Mr. Wade, brought us a cured ham, which we hung in our unheated utility room. You have to cure it yourself or have connections to get this kind of good food in the U.S. now.

My photos from the dinner that night did not come out, but here’s the menu for the record:
Primo – Risotto con spinaci (risotto with spinach)
Secondo – Arrosto (literally, roasted meat; specifically, veal with mushrooms)
Contorno – Porri (baked leeks – so good!)
Insalata (salad – radicchio)
Dolce – Dolce alla Frutta Fresca (literally – sweet with fresh fruit)

To be continued…

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