I write this sitting in the George Byron Pub on National St in Rome. An oxymoron. I found this place yesterday, drawn in by the rain and the promise of a Guinness. I’ve come back for the Guinness.
I know that doing so violates one of the basic principles of being in Rome – the food and especially the wine. Trust me. I’ve had my share. I’ve heeded the advice of friends and stuck to the back streets and alleys. The food has been incredible. Nothing is hurried here. You are seated. Your drink order taken and a menu given. Some time later, your drink of choice arrives. Red wine. A half liter. In a pitcher. Your food order comes to the table. The wait staff doesn’t hurry you. Dine in peace for they hardly check on you.
It seems that most establishments have at least one person who can speak English, but the language barrier hasn’t been a real issue. Pointing works. When you are done you can stay as long as you like. The check comes only when you ask for it.
This morning I strolled along the back streets. Fresh vegetables were being delivered in little 3-wheel trucks. Yesterday, I chatted with a butcher at a local grocery. All the meat on display was sourced local. Unfortunately, language did get in the way of that conversation. He ended up pricing me a 225lb dressed hog! I think I might have a few of those walking around back at the ranch.
You can tell a lot about a culture and its people by the food they eat and the way they eat it. So much food is regional. Whenever someone buys scrapple from me at the market, I ask where they grew up. Most often eastern PA, MD, and some parts of VA. No one eats scrapple if they didn’t grow up on it. (If you have to ask what it is, just consider yourself permanently outside the club on this one.)
Much has been written about our American food culture. One word describes it – fast. Whether it’s at home, in a restaurant, or on the road, we don’t want to spend more time than necessary. We have things to do, people to see, worlds to conquer. We live out that quip – “The business of America is business.” Busy-ness. And we pay for it. Poor digestion, diabetes, obesity, just to name a few of our lifestyle diseases.
In recent years, there’s been a movement to change things. The “Slow Food” movement, begun in Italy (of course?) has emphasized heritage breeds of vegetables and animals, bringing taste back to the table with the thought that if our food tastes better, perhaps we’ll linger longer. On the other hand, maybe we can pay attention to the immigrant cultures around us. They still seem to pay attention to the food/family connection. Of course, that would mean getting to know our new neighbors.
In the creation myth, the LORD God gives our first parents food before he gives them work. Is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil a metaphor for over-work? I drift into dangerous territory… All I know for sure is that rest, not work, is what is promised in heaven. Oh, there’s a feast too.
Pardon me, my prosciutto and mozerella just arrived…