Discovering and Tasting Tuscany…

by : Serenella Leoni

A newly arrived person might be struck by the style and panache of the impeccably dressed business men sipping an aperitivo in an urban piazza, by the flair of women’s overall “look" as they hurriedly go about their errands or by the surprising bouquet from a glass of full-bodied, local wine at an Enoteca; but one must realize that, as in art, music, and even love-making, the beauty of the outcome is predicated on the enjoyment of a series of precise details; a fact that renders each moment precious.

Every day, Tuscans do what they love and lovingly carry out what they do, moment upon moment.? Details are carefully blended so there is nothing “out of tune."? Life is in sweet balance and experienced to the fullest.

As in the past, everyday tasks, craftsmanship and art coexist and flow into one another (consider that when Michelangelo began his career, most sculptors were considered craftsmen):? One passion inspires another; art begets literature, literature begets music, music is the creative impetus for food that is too good to be true....?

One bite of food can be a lesson in history and sociology:? Traditional dishes are made with fresh, local ingredients and based on simplicity rooted in la cucina povera (poor or peasant cooking); often, they reveal the identities of the various cultures or groups who imprinted their culinary marks on Tuscany over time – Etruscans, Romans, exotic invaders, traders, monks, etc.??

“A tavola non s’invecchia mai" (you never grow old at the table)! Tuscany is a place of simple, impeccably fresh food and is blessed by a generous sun, rich, mineral earth and abundant water. Organic is common in Tuscany – lovingly organic! At summer’s end, the flavor of a ripe tomato (a treasured gift from the New World) smells fragrantly sweet and explodes in your mouth like a symphony of consecutive, sensual bursts until you actually taste the fiery rays of sun, the rich, native soil and the perfumed air that caringly and patiently ripened the fruit to perfection. The approach of the organic farmer is “tantric;" he does not work his land – he makes love to it.

The respect and care with which the laws of nature (seasons, moon risings, winds, and sky signs) have been observed for thousands of years yield the lustily flavorful crops.? Wheat, grapes and olives (or bread, wine and olive oil) – three basic and astonishingly simple ingredients - are the cornerstone for thousands of unforgettable dishes. The sumptuous aroma of traditional, unsalted Tuscan bread made from stone-ground grains, natural yeasts and baked fresh in a wood-burning oven permeates the morning air.? When slightly stale, it is a perfect base for soups and salads. The talented, proud food artisans continue to create many varieties of hand-made cheeses, including fresh or aged Pecorino Toscano (Tuscan goat cheese) that cannot be resisted, especially when accompanied by fresh, perfectly ripened fruit and an alluring glass of local buon vino. The village salumieri still salt their own hand-cured prosciutto and hand-made sausages taking pride in their closely guarded, secret family recipes.? Your mouth waters at the thought of the smooth, toasty chestnuts; varieties of throat-soothing, velvety honeys; woodsy, aromatic, fresh porcini mushrooms; abundance of intensely-flavored wild game and fresh, abundant Tyrrhenian seafood!? Amorously crafted meals are slowly relished at restaurants, locande, trattorie and homes, in even the most remote locations.

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