“Slow: Life in a Tuscan Town”

February 12, 2010 § Leave a comment

There is a saying in Italian, “Meglio spendere soldi dal macellaio che dal farmacista,” which means that it’s better to spend money at the butcher than the pharmacist.  In other words, eat well.

"This book is about some people I met and the lessons they taught me about living slow"

The Italian saying is found on front flap of Douglas Gayeton’s fabulous book, Slow: Life in a Tuscan Town, published late last year.  Which also happens to be when I came across it, browsing the bookstore as I have a tendency to do much too often.  It’s large, and it stuck out from the shelf, or at least it stuck out to me.  If you’ve read other posts on this blog you’ll know that’s probably not all that surprising given my love of food, and Italian food in particular (although I do have a French bistro fetish, but that is another post altogether).

Douglas Gayeton is a filmmaker, photographer, writer, and now organic farmer in Petaluma, California, who was sent to Italy by PBS to make a documentary.  The film never did get made, but the photos he took were arresting, and PBS posted them on its web site.  Gayeton’s genius was the concept of a “flat film” image created by combining multiple photographs captured over a period of time into one photo which portrays a meaningful representation of the event, and then layering each with “handwritten notes, anecdotes, recipes, quotes, and historical facts and that cleverly bring context and color to the subject of each sepia-toned image and draw us deeper into this romantic, rewarding, and progressively rare way of life.”  He describes the process, which he discovered one afternoon during a long family lunch, in a short video.

As you page through the book, a narrative unfolds, slowly.  Just as it should.  Each photo tells a story.  You’ll have to turn the book around to read many of the quotes and sayings.  You’ll want to meet Marino who makes marble funeral stones with his two sons, Fiziano and Luca, and Guiseppina, the egg lady who knows her chickens (Conosco i miei polli – I know my chickens).  You’ll want to learn a few new Italian words, like una scampagnata (an outing) and i funghi (mushrooms) and la moglie (the wife).  You’ll want to eat, well.  This gem of a book is an homage to a way of life that, even in Italy, is disappearing.

There’s a reason so many of us flock to Italy.  Almost anyone I know, after returning from a trip, says it’s the food, it’s the quality of life.  It’s about the pleasure of carefully choosing, preparing, and eating real food, and taking the time to appreciate it and those with whom we’re eating.  In America, this is known as “Slow Food.”

If we choose, we can incorporate elements of “Slow” into our lives here.  We can make an effort to know where our food comes from, and, whenever possible, opt for produce grown close to home or meat from animals raised in humane environments on small, local farms (more on this in an upcoming post).  We can cook and teach our children to cook.  We can sit down at the table, together, and enjoy a meal (A tavola!).  Douglas Gayeton reminds us of this, and that sometimes:

“Il troppo stroppia”

More than enough is too much.

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