Last week, at the Italian Cultural Institute of San Francisco, I concluded the series of events dedicated to the celebration of “October Month Of Italian Style” Second year. Last event made in symbiosis with Italian filmmaker Nico Cirasola, my homonymous and not related, was aiming at shining the light on the southern Italian region of Puglia, where both Nico and myself were born and bringing to America our roots, culture and food.
As a self-proclaimed ambassador of my land of Puglia, I centered my talk on the reasons why being an interior designer I didn’t write a design book first, instead I turned to writing two books on food and cooking.
The reason is simple, I explained. I had the feeling when I arrived in USA that not many people in America knew about Puglia as much as they knew about Rome, Florence, Venice and Cinque Terre or Tuscany. That is understandable, tourists always have limited time during traveling, thus they select well-known spots to fill their trips and satisfy their knowledge. However, it irritated me every time I had to explain where Puglia is located and it seemed that if I had come from Mars it would have not made any difference.
Italy is made of 22 regions and everyone has contributed to the history and the making of the republic of Italy. My talk continued with flashes of history, architecture, traditional costume and new habits. It ended with the presentation of my books and the benefits of the southern Italian cuisine, so much appreciated in the world without the world even knowing it. In fact most of the Italian cuisine abroad is based on the southern cooking with our olive oil, the “green gold” of our land, as we call it.
My talk was about amusing and informing my audience and as the ambassador the only thing I wanted to do was to encourage people to plan a trip to Puglia and experience my roots and my culture.
That’s why I felt a mission toward my country region to write two cookbooks before a design book.
Nico Cirasola showed his docu-film entitled “Focaccia Blues” with English subtitle.
Nico’s documentary is a hilarious recount of how a small bread bake house in the small town of Altamura was able to induce McDonald, the American fast food giant, to close its doors after only a couple of years of operation. The only McDonald in the world that has closed business!
The small town of Altamura in Puglia is renowned for its tasty, succulent focaccia and bread. For its inhabitants was almost an offense to their traditional food. Of course at first McDonald drew attention to its joint, it was a new food in town, it was yellow, red and big and it was American! Kids flocked to the big M, attracted by the games and French fries in a paper basket. After watching American scenes on T.V. or at the movie theatres, the big Mac now was a reality in their life too. The adult population of Altamura was willing to try it, but with a reservation. In their minds the aroma of fresh-baked focaccia next-door at Digesu’s bread bake house was unsurpassable. After a few times of trying McDonald’s food, people just decided to abandon it.
The filmmaker Nico Cirasola, who is an interesting and fun person, did not intend to criticize the fast food giant, but to tell a story “a cuor leggero” lightly and heartfelt on how simple food won a silent battle against processed food. The filmmaker’s dry view of the flat land of Puglia mixed with the dry local humor resulted perfect to describe the simplicity of people who have drawn for centuries from the land the resources of their healthy cooking and diet.
As the N.Y Times reported when McDonald closed:
“McDonald’s didn’t get beat by a baker. McDonald’s got beat by a culture.”
And that to me is the essence of what I am expressing here. My southern Italian food is excellent, simple, healthy, once you get used to it, it is difficult to stray away.
My Puglia style of cooking keeps people young, energetic and spunky, with that comes all the positive energy you need.
Focaccia eats hamburger, Puglia food versus processed food wins 10 to 0.
I have embraced globalization even before the word was coined. I have learned to accept other cultures and to be part of the moving world. However, traditions need to stay alive and when it comes to my identifying origins, I know who I am and what I can give to the globalized world. I prefer to keep myself Italian and Pugliese in my cooking and in my style.
The evening in Puglia with Cirasola & Cirasola and Focaccia Blues Film at the San Francisco Italian Cultural Institute concluded as I said earlier the 2011 events of “October Month Of Italian Style”.
Next year events will be bigger and better and will mark year number three.
If you ever need to know more about a trip to Puglia, or even how to decorate in Puglia style (it will be the subject of next article), I shall be here prompt and ready to tell you all about it, just leave your name in the box below. Ciao,
Copyright © 2011 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved
Valentina Cirasola is an Italian Interior Designer with a passion for kitchens and cooking. She operates in the USA and Europe. She loves to remodel homes and loves to turn unattractive spaces into castles, but especially loves to design kitchens and wine grottos, outdoor kitchens and outdoor rooms, great rooms and entertainment rooms. She is the author of two Italian regional cuisine books available on Amazon
Robert Taitano, a friend and business associate of http://www.wine-fi.com says:
“Valentina – an International Professional Interior Designer is now giving you an opportunity to redesign your palate”.