Seeking Quality

Seeking quality is why it seems to taste better sometimes in Italy—no chemicals.

The Italians tend to seek out the best when they have to purchase a food item, often  going to the source if possible from their own region. Our experience in the Abruzzo restaurant noted in my book Convivio, verifies this when the menu not only lists the ingredients of each dish but also the source of the product. They demonstrate how proud they are to seek out the best which the Italians often demand. The Italians prefer to know where the product came from rather than to be given a list of colorful adjectives to describe a dish on a menu. To take only the region of my ancestors, a region not discovered yet by tourists, many towns have their specialty. To name a few of which the restaurant noted for example, if serving lentils they are proud to note that they are the rare breed of tiny brownish violet lentils from Santo Stefano di Sessannio famously noted for this product. The town of Altri may be known for having the tastiest liquorish, but as for carrots, the best according to the Abruzzese is from Fucini.

Needless to say, unknown to most Americans may be the red garlic of Sulmona, home of my ancestors. It is sweet and delicate with a reddish tinge that does not have the bitterness of most other garlics. It is sought out by chefs of Europe. For most Americans a garlic is garlic and a carrot is a carrot. When exposed to the best in quality is when it is hard to accept others of lesser quality and one becomes more demanding which the Italians are and therefore the market must meet their demands. This garlic has been publicized for its medicinal properties since the time of Hippocrates and most in the Western world have never heard of it. It is a natural antibiotic used for centuries for various medical needs.

My family always had a braid of it hanging in the kitchen as I do in Tuscany since braiding helps the circulation of air, preserving it for at least 10 months eliminating the needs of chemical additives to keep garlic fresh. Here in my kitchen I have the circular braid and the hanging braid, as found in  most Abruzzese kitchens. Braiding was done centuries ago to allow the garlic air to breath so that quality could last. It has never been treated with chemicals like most other garlics. Again, quality counts.

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