February 2, 2007

Make way for the wild boar

Today's entry is dedicated to Shelley and Food Week at AHIR (At Home In Rome): all food, all drink, all week leading up to World Nutella Day on Feb. 6. The piece is the opening to an article for the annual international insert of a conference management industry trade magazine group. Julia and James are college friends of mine, now living in Boston.

"Julia Meigs often accompanies her husband James to medical conventions, and a couple of years ago they traveled as far as Mantua, Italy. In the introduction to a collection of letters she wrote home during her family's subsequent sabbatical year in Verona, she describes her first taste of dining the Italian way: “We had enjoyed three different wines matching the three exquisite preceding courses at a seated dinner for 70 people. And now the fourth course was arriving, the roasted boar, a huge caramelized confection resting on a pallet garlanded with a rosemary runner interwoven with figs and kumquats — a far cry from the one-course American banquet meal featuring chicken with mystery sauce.”

No doubt about it, meals are a distinguishing factor between European and American conferences — not just the food itself, but the purpose of mealtimes, defined along a spectrum that includes nourishing the body and nourishing relationships. Food in Europe is a conduit to social relations, never nourishment for its own sake, and social relations are the basis for doing business. Would the idea of a sabbatical year in Italy instead of England have materialized over an e-mail exchange while dropping sandwich crumbs onto a laptop computer? Not a chance. A relationship first had to be formed over a roasted boar. That done, James' Italian colleague simply shook out his linen napkin and asked: “Why don't you spend the year here in Italy? I'm sure we could find a place for you at our hospital in Verona.” And he did."

So Shelley -- that's the power of food, Italian style.

a domani,

1 comment:

Shelley - At Home in Rome said...

Just back from a weekend visit to Biella where our friend and wine expert lives...won't even begin to tell you about the mountains of incredible food we ate and exquisite wine we drank. The social aspect of food is so important here in Italy and I really enjoy it.