Before translating what the natives had to say about their respective regions, Fred Plotkin gave us a few pointers on how to let go and really enjoy Italy.
- First of all once setting foot on Italian soil, visitors should say no to stereotypes.
- Second, no town is better than another, be adventurous, on return trips explore different regions rather than always go back to the same place.
- Stay open to surprises rather than look for confirmation of your first impression (first love).
- Do not treat Italy like an imaginary place, a fantasy like 'Under the Tuscan Sun'.
- It has become a cliche to say that Italian food is great because great food, wine and culture has existed in the Italian peninsula for centuries.
- Misuse of Italian products (like sundried tomatoes) in American kitchen sometimes brings complaints from visitors. Members of the Italian diaspora share the blame for presenting dishes that you will never find in Italy .
- Italians abroad need to be ambassadors for their regions.
- The DOC labels created in the 1960's reflect producers pride in their products.
- Some Italian products can become victims of fads. Quantity gets the upper hand on quality. With demand created for balsamic vinegar, much of the so-called balsamic vinegar available on American store shelves has very little to do with the real thing and much of it has a better chance to have been mass produced in the Midwest than anywhere near Rome.
- There is a correllation between taste and origin, a sense of place, tradition, craft, the soil. Things that cannot be transplanted. Every gourmet product should bear a label stating clearly its precise origin.
- Fred Plotkin concluded his love letter to Italy by suggesting that for Italy to keep its identity, it should stick to its gold standards, its love of good and beautiful things whether it's fast cars, shoes, clothing, design, architecture, wine or foods.
- After all Opera was born in Florence in 1590 and still going strong 400 plus years later.
Hungry for more of Fred Plotkin's passionate take on Italy, an updated edition of his Italy for the Gourmet Traveler was published by Kyle Books in May 2010.
My next and last piece on Casa Italia Atletica will share what I learned from each region present at the event.