THE HOME OF TASTE RAFFAELE FERRAIOLI
THE MEANING OF AN INITIATIVE SALVATORE GRIMALDI
A NEW ROUTE FOR DEVELOPMENT NINO D’ANTONIO
TASTE AND ENVIRONMENT EZIO FALCONE
SEA AND MOUNTAIN CUISINE GIUSEPPE LUCANI
PRESIDENT OF THE AMALFI PENINSULA MOUNTAIN COMMUNITY
THE MEANING OF AN INITIATIVE Protect the countryside, manage the land, save the agriculture, upgrade the environmental and cultural resources, promote the typical products and produce - all these are phrases repeated daily, some resulting in further complicating, while others still try to untie the thousand knots of the current debate regarding local development. It is not easy, however to foresee what the future holds for the rural world, as worldwide trends are conflicting - transgenic as opposed to biological, typical against globalised. These are complex and delicate questions requiring a wide-ranging and often dispassionate vision able to conjugate past, present and future, the three key values of our existence, in other words tradition, evolution, and innovation. And these are equally noble objectives, but are they always compatible? A thin veneer of nostalgia often induces us to treat the past as if it were a “still life” painting, yet a vision more in keeping with the computer society relates our daily-life experience to the fabric of history. Hence there follows that “material culture”, certainly protected if not exalted, which is after all the very matrix of our present-day living. To re-interpret the past, re-propose life-styles and models of existence, to transmit valuable knowledge and well-tried practices to the new generations - these are our real aims and objectives. The Amalfi Coast preserves intact its invaluable asset of being unique. Authenticity is still the distinguishing hallmark of the hill and hinterland area of this exceptional “cultural heritage” that belongs to Humanity, as it has been declared by Unesco, but it cannot afford to rest on its laurels. The pledge to forestall the metamorphosis which it is currently undergoing is vitally important, as this risks bringing about the disappearance of the testimonies of that extraordinary symbiotic relationship which over the centuries Man has learnt to knit between Nature and his environment.
One can and must have at all costs the courage both to bet on and invest in the future of these ‘highlands’, that are now outcast and almost excluded from the social and economic development that tourism has distributed along the Coast. Our utopia lies in being able to save the ‘other face’ of the Coast, meaning that territorial ‘backland’ which still proves to be an almost inexhaustible showcase of valuable resources, by reinserting it within the economic circuits, but with a more advanced development. The tourist market, which already is and still remains our reference market, is now offering new and interesting opportunities, which it would be foolish not to seize. A place within this strategic perspective is occupied by the activity of our Mountain Community, which has always played the role of an institutional intermediary “pivot” between local subjects and the higher-level regional and national institutions. This activity takes the form of intervention aimed at safeguarding agriculture, which is viewed not so much through cultural re-conversion as entrepreneurial innovation. Here agriculture is everything, and there is widespread consensual awareness of this. We are convinced that this area’s future is linked to overcoming its present crisis. The diagnosis is unanimously agreed upon, but the method of treatment less so. Yet we have no doubt that it is first and foremost necessary to remove certain false dogmas and allow ourselves to be guided more by reason than by sentiment. Intervention must be made on the operator for a change of attitude, and for a new approach. What is expected from the farmer is that his occupation is being progressively transformed into a profession of syntheses, at the cross-roads between production, nature protection and land management As this continues, the farmer’s role will
open up to flexibility, giving full rein to what today is called multi-activity and which tomorrow will become the new rural entrepreneurship. The value of agriculture no longer resides, as in the past, in its primary raw produce and products, but in the numerous additional qualities granted by technological progress or by marketing activities. The relevance of its non-material contents (trade-mark, label, packaging, typicality, traceability )is increasing. It is evident, therefore, that value for the consumer lies more especially in services, quality, and in organization. The farmer must no longer simply set himself the problem of how to produce, but of what types of produce to direct his production towards, who to produce for, when to sell, how to sell, and who to sell to. Agricultural policies are now being modified within the constraints of this new perspective, and range from sectional interventions to complex territorial ones, so that having once established its own strategic objectives, our Mountain Community has in fact acted accordingly. And it is herein where the logic of the numerous activities lies that have been brought into being for the re-launching of the economy, amongst which the integrated project of The Wine Route (La Strada del Vino) and The Home of Taste (La Casa del Gusto) deserve special mention. The first of these, namely The Wine Route, is seen as an innovatory alternative tourist-cultural itinerary, supplementary to, but by no means in competition with the classic â€œdriveâ€? along the coast, but seen rather as a restyling and enhancement of the all-inclusive Amalfi Coast tourist packet. The second one in contrast, namely The Home of Taste, figures as an inducement and energy multiplier, as an organization system of the locality, devised and articulated in such a way as to compete more effectively on the global market. The Home of Taste, located at Tramonti along the course of the Wine Route and in the heart of the agricultural and wine-producing
area of the Amalfi Coast is called upon to act as permanent research laboratory to carry out training, communication, sensitization and education programmes all with regard to food. A function therefore totally dedicated to identifying, emphasising and promoting the pleasure and culture of high-quality food and wine. A structure earmarked for providing information, giving pleasure, entertaining and educating with regard to food, and which at the same time acts as a meeting place for producers and consumers alike. The idea is to create a platform where direct information about the most excellent wine and food products of the area may be exchanged at a supply and demand level in a mutually beneficial context. A ‘Home’ that is to say, that has a clearly-defined cultural and didactic ‘mission’, so to speak, and with an equally positive function of providing an economic drive for quality-catering and for commercialising and trading its typical products. And all this in the full awareness of belonging to a land, the land of Amalfi, with its distinct vocation for agriculture and food, together with its typical products of excellence. In this ‘sanctuary’ as it were, there will be room for everything and everyone concerned with food, including small-scale quality productions, protection syndicates, producer and consumer associations, business concerns, food specialists and connoisseurs, food and wine enthusiasts, as well as ordinary citizens and tourists. An outside area is also provided fitted out with thematic display systems, linked to teaching routes, including for example “Vigneto della Volpe Pescatrice” (i.e. Vineyard of the Angler Fish), consisting of a field-catalogue of the highly precious native grown vines of the Amalfi Coast, as well as the “Frutteto della Memoria” (Orchard of Not-to-be-Forgotten Fruit), that is to say an arboretum with fruit plants typical of our territory, now risking extinction. The “Home” will be articulated into three main areas, comprising the museum area, which is interactive and equipped with the most advanced and updated technological
backup, in addition to a permanent exhibition of high-quality kitchen and catering utensils and gadgets; the teaching area, supplied with a periodicals room, a multi-media library, and a specialized food and wine library; a tasting and sampling area, distinguished for the types of goods it offers, with an annexed wine display and confectionery. In the teaching area training-courses may also be organized, as well as refresher courses regarding food and taste education designed for residents and tourists, and also prearranged courses for developing biological agriculture and implementing teaching farms and experimentation fields. From here the development of short-stay study courses follows with a commensurate extension of the tourist season. A visit to the centre may also take place virtually in the form of on-line distance learning by surfing the Internet. By adopting the same system it will be possible from the Tramonti â€œsiteâ€? to visit places and business firms on the territory in order to gain in-depth knowledge in preview, as it were, and verify their contents. It will be necessary to stipulate an agreement between our Mountain Community, which owns the centre together with the Communes of the Amalfi Coast, and the private actors operating on the territory. This will be an agreement that defines both the political aims of the initiative, and identifies the economic spin-off for local development. An articulated communication campaign,(and this publication is concrete evidence thereof) is already underway, whereby all those who are interested in learning more about this project may become further informed. As the works begin, it becomes imperative at this point to initiate a course of confrontation and consensus of the enterprise. A prearranged orchestration chart is required to set up as wide a participation as possible and, as we proceed, to gather contributions, suggestions and proposals that will be useful for the overall success of this important initiative. But this is just a beginning.
PRESIDENT OF “THE AMALFI COAST WINE ROUTE”
A NEW ROUTE FOR DEVELOPMENT The Wine Routes, according to the definition that the constitutive law assigns them are “routes marked out and publicized with apposite road-signs, along which natural, invaluable cultural and environmental assets are to be found, including vineyards and cooperative winegrowers associations that are open to the public”. In order to function they require a disciplinary measure that defines the quality standards for those who form part of it, a management committee, a system of indications and instructions, guides and explanatory advertising and publicity material. These, in short, are the main instruments through which the winegrowing territories and quality productions may be promoted, publicised, commercialised and enjoyed in the form of a commodity service offered to tourists. Following the specific rules and regulations issued by the Campania Region, “The Amalfi Coast Wine Route” has now come into being which has DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata i.e. Protected Designation of Origin) as its main element, with three sub-zones, namely Tramonti, Ravello and Furore with their Red, White and Rosé wines, respectively.
The primary objective our initiative sets for itself is to upgrade the hinterland zones of the territory, which are in sharp contrast with the impressive tourist area extending along the coast-road from Vietri to Positano. An ever-weakening agriculture exists in these hinterland zones which still performs an essential function of environmental and landscape protection of the territory. For various reasons however, the hill area proves to be almost totally excluded from development, although able to offer resources of exceptional value on account of the creation of a homogeneous ‘territory’ product that is characterised by its strong identity. Thus our objective is directed towards a redistribution of tourist flows not to be seen as being in competition with the coastal ones, but rather as integrating with the same, aiming more specifically at a particular segment of society, namely that of the ‘wine traveller’, which in turn may lead towards a socio-economic re-appraisal of the entire district. Based on the reasoning of these premises “The Amalfi Coast Wine Route” has created a route which starting out from the Chiunzi Pass progresses along two leading roadways, the first of which descends towards the sea through the entire territory of the town of Tramonti until it reaches Maiori. From here along the route of the Amalfi State Road, on one side it goes towards Vietri, and on the other, it crosses Minori and reaches Castiglione di Ravello. The second main route also leaves Chiunzi, crosses all the upper part of the township of Tramonti, continues towards Ravello, goes as far as Scala, and then drops towards the sea again, crossing the first main route. The route continues in this way passing through Atrani, then Amalfi and eventually, on climbing the mountain once more, arrives at Furore.
Along this route it will be possible to come across and visit the vineyards where the vines are grown which produce DOC grapes, as well as the Amalfi Coast wine cooperatives and the winegrowing producers associations, which in the last few years have won ever wider acclaim both at home and abroad. An opportunity will thus be provided to appreciate the hospitality of the agritourisms (farm holiday centres) which have enthusiastically taken part in this project, as well as become an occasion for tasting the local products of the territory, from the IGP Amalfi lemons (Indicazione Geografica Protetta) i.e. P.G.I. Protected Geographical Indication, to Scala and Tramonti chestnuts, and to the ‘Piennolo’ (small pendulous tomatoes) from Furore. The wine tourist will be able to taste the DOC wines, to receive information about them and about all the cooperatives taking part in the ‘Wine Route’ enterprise, as well as to learn about the production of Limoncello and the numerous rosolio wines produced in this area, besides having the opportunity to taste the typical dishes in the restaurants associated with the “Route”, as well as to discover the characteristics of the cheeses of various makes made from the untreated milk of flocks grazing freely over the mountains that crown the territory. Along this route, and quite rightly so, is included “La Casa del Gusto”, that is to say “The Home of Taste” called “territorial museolization” by experts, which through its thematic sections and the field-catalogue of the vines, will offer the wine-tourist the possibility of going back in time and revisiting the history of the territory and all its typical features. The next few years to come will be devoted to gourmet (wine and food) tourism, marked by a desire to understand, and by a determination to cover kilometres for the pleasure of discovering a particular wine and its territory. Thus The House of Taste will not be a ‘museum’, a place for memories, but rather the site for relating what a land produces and its history.
NINO Dâ€™ANTONIO JOURNALIST
TASTE AND SURROUNDINGS There is an age-old controversy regarding taste, namely whether we eat for want of precise taste categories to refer to, or whether we eat for the close dependence that taste has on the territory, of which taste is certainly an expression. In this latter case, even before becoming a geographical entity, territory is equivalent to customs, to living habits and relationships, to deeply-rooted practices and convictions: in a word to tradition, to which taste is never a stranger. Among the factors which contribute towards determining taste, a first and foremost reference is provided by the location of the place and its physical features, which determine whether it belongs to the mountain or to the coast, to the plain or to the hill accordingly. Yet these distinctions, seemingly very sharp ones, do not always tally. At any rate in our South they don't, where the borders between sea and mountains - with what the two realities have with regard to climate, produce, activities, settlements are often indistinct and exposed to frequent incursions from both sides. If we think of the Alps, the argument clearly does not hold. But if the mountains are those of the Apennines - a much more extensive, tormented and varied system - running narrowly along the entire peninsula between two seas - then contamination ( i.e. mixing of ingredients of different provenance) is not only possible, but does in fact have widespread roots dating back to ancient times. This phenomenon, ever so varied in the southern lands of Italy, assumes a special significance along the Amalfi coast and hinterland, where the territory loses its distinctive features of a definite geographical layout, to lay itself open to anarchical forms of unpredictable mixings. The reasons for this are to be sought in the presence of a widespread volcanism, whose manifestations have throughout the centuries ended by upsetting the original shape of the landscape. The outcome is that of a difficult and disorderly territory, where the want of homogeneous elements is replaced by an intrigue of valleys, ridges, gorges, precipices, mountains, canals, cliffs and waterfalls, which succeed each other in
a highly disconcerting layout. A restless landscape that drops headlong down to the sea with hazardous precipices, or extends across the skilful arrangement of its terracing, but is always protagonist of amazing scenery. The various forms of impact produced by the volcanic activity have created a variety of physical features according to the thickness to the earth’s crust, so that where this has proved more resistant there has been the cone-shaped accumulation of the Lattari Mountains, and where weaker, the lowering of the NocerinoSarnese Plain. But on closer examination also the Lattari Mountains do not present themselves as a unified chain, but rather as blocks of sheer roughly-shaped isolated rocks extending from the Cava dei Tirreni Gap to Punta Campanella. This the territory of the glorious Republic of Amalfi which along the range of these heights - from St. Maria del Castello to Monte Cappullo to Mount Conocchia and Mount Faito to be exact - has long been linked to its hinterland’s destiny. To render the territory even more incoherent and undulating are to be added the clayey nature of the terrains and their subsequent erosion. Two elements which have induced the waterfalls to dig out deep chasms, especially where the absence of woodland has excluded every form of water drainage. Hence the occasional landslides and earth-slides, which now also form part of the landscape. Yet not only has volcanism “constructed” so to speak, the Amalfi Coast landscape, but it has also made its terrains extraordinarily fertile, thanks to the varied nature and chemical composition of the materials emerging
from the eruption, which have covered the entire territory to a thickness of several hundred metres. A deep and unassailable layer that has conferred enormous potentialities on the countryside at the farm-produce level, in addition to providing a defence against every danger of infestation. This may be valid for all cases of the vine disease, which although devastating the entire peninsula did not affect the coastline, and thus spared its celebrated vineyards which are still thriving today. All things considered, if the effects that proved to be devastating for Pompeii and Herculaneum are excluded, the eruption of 79 A.D. could in many ways be shown to have been a blessing. Without volcanism and its frequent disturbances, not only the Amalfi Coast, but also the charm of the Phlegreian Fields and Ischia would enter the canons of a regular geography, but if they did so they would lack the fascination and myth which accompany their exceptional identity. To give a definition to the landscape there remains at this point only the intervention of man, who, with his patience and wisdom, and with a strength and faith bordering on heroism, has made these lands hemmed in between rocks and sea, yet laden with a wild inhospitable beauty, one of the most fertile settlements throughout the Mediterranean area. Thus towns and villages which one may justifiably claim to have been created by clearing space from rocks and digging into their inner parts wherever a rift provided an opening, and, furthermore, by marking out the territory with a network of tiring stairways which by means of thousands of steps would link the mountain to the sea; but above all by distributing the terrain carried laboriously on menâ€™s shoulders into the neat checkerboard of their terra-
cing carved out between cliff ledges and rock recesses. A work of extraordinary engineering, imposed by the necessity of creating spaces for their very survival in which they could grow the produce of vegetable gardens, vines and lemons, and to set out the huts for the cultivation of those small tomatoes which an incomparable sun has destined to become the small red ones called â€˜pien-
noliâ€™(pendulous tomatoes). Once again the want of available land comes up with the solution of planting vines on natural living supports in the shape of almond-trees, walnut-trees and medlar-trees - on which the grapes ripen together with other fruits in a sort of fruit orchard-vineyard garden. And the practice of this pergola cultivation is to be traced back yet again to lack of space, and comprises a framework of chestnut stakes around which the fruit finds space to grow some two metres above the soil. The solution has several practical advantages. Not only does the pergola system enable the underlying terrain to be used for growing other crops, but is also ideal for protecting plant roots variously exposed to heat risks from drought. Is the Amalfi Coastline a long one? This in fact is that landscape that tourists have immortalised in thousands of photographs and which the cinema at large has always celebrated. But only in part is it a reality that is actually in anyway different, since all the coastal resorts between Positano and Vietri descend from the mountains to the sea, even if the excellent reputation of the seafront resorts with their bathing activities has encouraged the development of reception and recreational facilities along the state road, often causing the hinterland to disappear. In contrast Montepertuso and Nocelle form an integral part of Positano and retain
their most authentic features, after the explosion of the nineteen-sixties gave the fishing village the image of a spectacular and colourful show-case. And this also goes for the entire coastline starting from Amalfi, which in addition to its strikinglyattractive seafront and its built-up area that climbs up from Porta Marina through the Valle dei Mulini, is also to be experienced and explored in the rural society of its countryside that overlooks it in a scenic backcloth of green and tranquillity. This explains why, in spite of its sacrosanct tourist locations, the Amalfi Coast continues to live a dual life, the rural one and the marine one, faithful to its ancient image which has it that its inhabitants keep one foot in the vineyard and the other at sea. A duality that is also perfectly mirrored in its cuisine where, on account of an ancient tradition, fish is hardly ever prepared as an autonomous dish, but is almost always combined with produce from the land (we may think of the classic tattler fish and potatoes), and is open to a range of solutions between sea and countryside. A contaminated cuisine and tastes, therefore, distinguished only by the changing rhythm of the seasons, just as it is in the history of the entire Mediterranean. A tradition certainly linked to a poor economy which did away with food bills by insisting on making the best possible use of the resources from the vegetable garden and the less reliable ones of the sea. The basis of this cuisine - which was to learn how to exalt flavours and aromas by conserving the properties and characteristics of the various ingredients integrally - today rests on two elements, and rightly so, between myth and legend. The fantasy of women (and the acknowledgement is doubtlessly restrictive), capable of renewing the
daily dish of home-made pasta by combining it with potatoes, cauliflower, cabbage, artichokes, pumpkin, not to mention a whole range of legumes; and the small-scale barter that prevented them from having to pay for the corn-grinding or olive-pressing operations, the only activities carried on outside the tiny patrimony of a farming family. A privileged exchange commodity, especially among the coastal centres, was wine, which from Tramonti to Ravello and Furore was consumed over the whole territory and in many Naples wine shops. An anonymous wine from the cask, almost always made up of carefully dosed measures selected from among various grapes, in accordance with the outcome of the grape harvest. The final result was linked to the vine-dresserâ€™s skill and in keeping with sound tradition. But the years destined for the discovery of the native vines of the Coast of Amalfi, up to Doc recognition of its wines were yet to come. Now let us turn to taste understood both as an attribute of the senses and more simply as a test-bed for the quality definition of a foodstuff or substance. Having once established the relationships that taste has with the territory and tradition which still represent a safe and secure haven, no matter how dependent they may prove to be - but regarding all the rest everything becomes uncertain and controversial. And not only for the absence of paradigms to refer to, as much as for the presence of other factors, which are also variable and debatable, and which contribute towards defining taste. If taste involves all the five senses (yes, also hearing! Think of the noise produced by eating an apple or a carrot, for example!), yet taste is able to transmit only certain stimuli, such as being salty, morbid, spicy and so on. This makes the organoleptic analysis of a foodstuff, compared with that carried out for a wine or oil less complete and so less indicative. Without considering the fact that there are no acceptable experiments regarding gustatory investigations, and that our sensory sphere has become remarkably impoverished compared with that of past generations.
Touch, taste and smell have undergone a marked regression, caused both by the reluctance each one of us shows towards discovering certain special pleasures, as well as by the excessively fast rhythms imprinted on our lives. Two factors which expose the younger generations to the risk of losing sight of the real significance of the act of feeding, together with its links with the land and the seasons, and thus its health and cultural value. Hence, while the average level of food culture has improved with a more widespread service of information (albeit often on an advertising basis and thus a consumer basis), which has nevertheless promoted a greater education in food, correspondingly wiser and healthier diets have not been recorded. Our work commitment, distances to be travelled, the tyranny of time, all of which often force us to consume foods which, apart from the shortcomings at a nutritional level, openly violate our sense of taste. And at this point it must be remembered that food goes beyond the simple act of eating. The colours, aromas, the taste, contrasts and harmony of a dish deserve not only to be acknowledged, but also to be enjoyed and appreciated. This means tasting, which makes the difference from the simple act of feeding. Yet he who loves a good table does not only trust his own palate. Itâ€™s enough just to think that being blindfolded and with their noses taped only very few people are able to identify a foodstuff. Thus the full involvement of all our senses comes back onto the scene beginning with sight, even if the aesthetic value of a dish (and here the so-called â€˜creative cuisine makes its mark) does not always represent a sure indication. Often the fanciful and showy presentation of a dish is deceptive, and so the response passes to the other senses, which, although involving several different organs all intervene at one and the same time, or at most with a slight anticipation of the sense of smell. But is the judgement which we finally give about that dish acceptable? And most of all, to what point does it go beyond the limits of our personal
taste to set itself as an objective fact? Do you remember the age-old maxim ‘De gustibus non est disputan-
dum’ - ‘there’s no accounting for taste’? We often repeat it, and its being attributed to Cicero sounds outrageous. Rather it is a question of medieval Latin, very close to macaronic Latin, but serves to confirm that with regard to taste each one of us has his own preference, and it does well not to question this. Wisdom that goes back to the Greeks even before ever reaching Rome. The Sophist Prothagoras had no doubts about the fact that the knowledge from the senses is subjective. Indeed he adds that not only does it change from one individual to another, but also from one moment to the next in the same person. An extremely true conclusion, if one thinks that we make a different judgement about the same food if there is any change in our health situation, or - as Brillat Savarin teaches us - if there is absence of of conviviality comprising places, people or circumstances that had a positive influence when we first tasted a particular dish. So it would seem we are at a stalemate, at least regarding the question of the subjectivity of taste. Yet even this assumption is questioned. Taste is not only the evaluation made by the senses about what is good or bad, of what pleases or displeases, but it is also knowledge, sagacity and its impulses come from the brain. For which it cannot be considered a subjective and incommunicable fact, but is rather objective and communicated. Thus taste is presented as a cultural experience that is transmitted right from birth together with the other variables which concur to define the ‘values’ of a society. And here there comes into play latently, but no less assuredly, the close relationship among taste, territory and tradition - among the elements, in a word, that make up our anthropological culture, including uses, customs, beliefs, superstitions, modes of behaviour, relationships and language. The hard core of a taste understood in this way is the popular cuisine, which still preserves its ancient deep soul, albeit
under a series of incrustations, ranging from folklore to myth. It is the cuisine of childhood and memory, of the humble yet perfect flavours, matured through the wisdom of generations, whose culture - also when it has left the
popular setting to receive acclaim
among bourgeois circles- has never lost its ties with nature and the seasons. A cuisine that has travelled afar, born around the fireside (as it has been since the times of Homer), when the culture of the table understood as a place for food consumption was yet to be discovered, but which nevertheless already knew the pleasure of convivial conversation. Then time has permitted the most popular dishes of this cuisine to reach delicate and intelligent proportions whereof tradition has become jealous guardian. The countries which are concerned about and carry out research into gastronomic sagacity - Antelini writes are in an intellectually evolutionary phase. It will be expedient however, to be clear regarding the expression ‘gastronomy’, which despite very recent excessive boosting, refers back to its certain origins in an ancient past. As early as Greek times a distinction had already been made between cuisine and gastronomy. The former had familiar roots and was managed by the women, whereas the latter had a sacred character and was entrusted to the men-folk. This was the case of banquets, which were closely linked to sacrificial ceremonies. The distinction between the two practices was also to be observed in Roman times (consider for example ’Petronius’ ‘Satyricon’) and conversely what is believed also in the ambiguous Middle Ages, until the radiant outbreak of the Renaissance season, which from the Borgias to the Medicis was to mark the triumph of the good table. So if cuisine thrives on the knowledge and respect of the rules which represent the technique of each and every honest operator, then gastronomy is invention, fantasy, and art. A mix which is often translated into a break with tradition, if not into a rejection of it, but which does not exclude the tie with the territory with regard to ingredients, even if they are mixed with others of a different provenance.
This is because by being absent one of the main ingredients of a master cuisine would be missing, so to be original does not imply the refusal to be defined as typical, that is to say connected to the land in which it is born. Rather it is a question of labels which mean very little, unless accompanied primarily by quality, and quality which is not only created by the careful choice of raw materials (which in the best cases means real and proper research), but by the skill and expertise with which they are approached and utilized. Food, on a par with or perhaps more than the spoken or written word, if it contains and expresses a stratum of traditions, is also an important mediator among different cultures, in that it opens cuisine to portmanteau expressions, exchanges, and contaminations. And the Italian cuisine is in fact the happy outcome of an “exchange cuisine”, an interchange among the various regional realities which have taken shape in the course of those centuries, and which have witnessed the pumpkin followed by spelt, then rice, potato, and by the tomato. An accumulation of ingredients, but also of history and experience, which being ably governed has created the identity of our cuisine. It is now time that a generic and misunderstood food education were replaced by an education in taste, which passes through the ensemble of interdisciplinary proposals I have referred to. And this not so much in order to obtain a veneer of intellectuality - which would not be much good to anyone and which gastronomy certainly has no need of - as much as for the numerous tributaries which convey their waters to the riverbed of taste. An institution that bears the concise name ‘Home of Taste’ cannot be but the ideal headquarters for this excursion, and which also enjoys the privilege of developing along the Amalfi Coast territory, which has witnessed its own history - as William of Apulia testifies - opening up to traffic and exchanges with the entire Mediterranean basin since as far back as 1000 A.D. A busy mercantile activity to which cuisine was no stranger and which had long known how to amalgamate sea and land cultures into one.
PRESIDENT OF THE AMALFI HISTORY AND CULTURE CENTRE
SEA AND MOUNTAIN CUISINE The Amalfi Coast is a land of infinite resources. An exceptional stratum of art and culture, overflowing with innovative environmental and naturalistic opportunities, extending from folklore to customs reflected in the great tradition of its cuisine. Recent studies have shown that the ‘garum’ obtained from the fermentation of certain fish through salting, dates back to the Neolithic peoples who inhabited the western region of France, and was subsequently adopted by the Romans. They, like the Greeks before them, chose the coasts of Campania as their leisure and pleasure centres, bringing with them the recipe for preparing 'garum' or, in classical Latin, ‘liquamen’. This product has been handed down until our day with the name of ‘Anchovy Dripping’ (Colatura di Alici), which became the symbol of Cetara, where the art of salting fish and thus of filtering the dripping is passed on from father to son. Large quantities of anchovies are pickled in a wooden container almost always made of oak, called ‘terzigno’ (the third part of a barrel). On completing the anchovy seasoning process which takes about 5-6 months) generally by the beginning of December, a hole is bored into the terzigno, from which an amber-coloured liquid “drips out”, which is filtered into apposite ‘cappucci’ or hooded caps. This is the “colatura” the “dripping”, the noblest of garum derivatives. The vintage liquid is established as a condiment - first of salads and then of spaghetti or linguine (i.e. tongue-shaped ribbons of pasta) - as abstinence dish on Christmas Eve. Now we proceed to the other typical dishes sacred to the Amalfi Coast, starting from
the Amalfi Sfusato, which is a lemon unique in Italy and famous throughout the world, and perhaps the sunniest among all citrus fruits. The continuous trading that the Amalfi people practised with the Orient and the Mediterranean in general, favoured the introduction of lemons, the cultivation of which would have been imported through Sicily from the East. The Amalfi Sfusato belongs to the history and more especially to the countryside of the entire Coastline. Grown on pergolas, it takes its name from its tapering shape, just like those represented in the mosaics and paintings found in the Herculaneum and Pompeii excavations. It is distinguished for its porosity and the thickness of its peel, as well as for its succulent scented pulp, qualities that make it almost invaluable for preparing drinks, liqueurs, ice creams and for flavouring cakes, creams and biscuits. The lemon pergolas alternate along the Amalfi Coasts terracing with those destined for the grapevine. Before becoming wine, the grapes are used as food for consumption in the Amalfi hinterland. Since the 10th century the production of uva-pane (sun-dried grapes of currant bread or raisins) and Moscadellone had been considerably widespread, which even today - wrapped in lemon leaves - is bathed in rosolio wine with the addition of a piece of orange peel and passed into the oven to bring to life the exquisite Follovielli. For wine production, the range of grapes is extremely rich, beginning with the historic grapevines including Mangiaguerra, Cannajuola, Mannavacca, Pere’e Palummo, Sciascinoso, Ginestra, Tronto, Falanghina, Fenile, Ripolo, and Tintore. On being harvested the grapes are “appizzolata” - meaning that the bad grapes are removed from the bunches - then washed and pressed. The work is completed by means of the “palmentum”, a sort of wooden press connected directly to the “lavellum”, a bathtub where the must is collected.
A quality of wine named “Latin” was generally sold in the shops and in the taverns, among which the variety named “Greek Wine” excelled being defined as “bono claro et traficato” “i.e. good, clear and travelled”. This Greek-Amalfitan wine was tasted and appreciated in 1550 by the English traveller Thomas Hobs during his forced stay at Minori, where he had been stranded on account of a storm. The wines of the Amalfitan lands that have obtained the D.O.C. label, include the White with its adorable taste and a very delicate bouquet, and the Red which has a dry and full-bodied taste. On the hill side terracing the pomodorini (small tomatoes) “grow on the ground and it is easy to mistake for poppy fields…..it is sufficient that its plant is set surrounded by a warm ray of sunshine for the magic fruit to sprout”. The piennoli (small pendulous tomatoes) are gathered into clusters, which are the typical decoration of terraces and balconies before finishing up in the saucepan to flavour sauces or to be eaten raw, with a drop of oil and a leaf of basil. As is common knowledge it is not easy to identify the earliest shapes of pasta, but the Amalfi ones were very likely as follows : 'Ndunderi, Ricci, Lagane, and Piscitielli or Cazzilli and Criature. ‘Ndunderi recall the “polenta caseata” i.e. thick maize/spelt porridge, a dough of flour and curdled milk, then made into balls and boiled in water. Ricci are in contrast, a pastry which the Coast housewives skilfully manage to wrap in a small string round a thin iron. They are consumed with fish, meat and vegetable sauces. Piscetielli or Cazzilli and Creature, are so called because they resemble the shapes of an infantile virility, and are produced by rubbing a 4/5cm piece of foil on the breast. The housewives and the restaurateurs of Vietri sul Mare offer them in fish sauces, extracting their main seasoning from them, which was meat broth. Then, in the Seventies, the Amalfi chef Enrico Casentino, fascinated by the aroma and taste produced by the mixing of several qualities of seafood in boiling oil, aromatized with pomodorini del piennolo (small pendulous tomatoes), parsley and garlic, “composed” for them a special type of pasta, which he called Scialatielli, a speciality that has the merit of having exported the aroma and the flavour of Amalfi cuisine beyond the national fron-
tiers. The colours and tastes of winter arrive on the table together with the chestnuts. Our present times know this fruit as the symbol of well-being, especially associated with Marrons Glacès. But Chestnut Soup, daughter of the poor tradition, continues to conjure up a picture of blackened fireplaces and cold winter evenings. The Scala and Tramonti chestnuts are widely acclaimed in the Coast’s confectionary tradition, with tarts, chestnut cakes, cannòli (cream-filled horns), zeppole (sweet-baked doughnuts) and calzoncelli (savoury turnovers). At this point, the production of milk and its derivatives is not to be overlooked as it has always held an important place from ancient times. It is no mere coincidence that the mountains embracing the Coast are called “Lattari”, precisely in fact for the great number of cows and sheep that have always grazed there, producing cheese made from cow’s, sheep’s and goat’s milk, including fiordilatte (mozzarella cheese made from cow’s milk), provolone (a roundish firm cow’s milk cheese), smoked provola (fresh cheese made in a round shape from buffalo’s milk), caci caprini (goat’s milk cheeses), and the famous caciocavallo (cheese produced from whole cow milk), a produce existing as early as the Middle Ages, made with soft and hard dough, that may be used to substitute the more common diffuse parmesan cheese. Then, talented skilful hands have invented trecce (twisted or plaited mozzarella) and bocconcini (mozzarella nibbles ) with whipped cream, olives, rucola (ruchetta) and soppressata (brawn), making these products reign supreme among the most appreciated in Italy. For the Coast’s confectionary tradition it will be necessary to refer to the fantasy and creativity of local housewives as well as those of nuns and friar who baked in order to celebrate the important religious occasions including patron-saint feast days with cakes of various types, such as Pasticciotti and Bocchinotti. The Santarosa Cake was created by the pious hands of the
nuns of the monastery of Santa Rosa of Conca dei Marini, who gave them the shape of the monastic hood cowl, filled with bran cream and dried fruit refreshed by rosolio. This form of dessert has in time undergone slight modifications in its shape, until it has become the modern “Sfogliatella”, which still continues to be called Santarosa so as not to forget its origins. Authentic works of the confectioner’s art are therefore the lemon cakes and creams, leaders amongst which are the famous ‘Delizie’- ‘Delights’, sweet-tasting and flavoured by the unmistakable aroma of the Amalfi Sfusato lemon. In the Maiori territory the ancient tradition of the aubergine gateau made with chocolate still survives, a dessert sweet which has no equal elsewhere and still enjoys a great reputation. Among the most widespread Rosolio wines on the territory there has always been the one obtained through the alcohol infusion of laurel leaves and orange peel from cetrangolo (i.e. Seville or sour oranges) with the addition of a rosewater and honey syrup, which was made to facilitate digestion. Today the Amalfi Coast houses a myriad of small laboratories, almost always family businesses, which carry on the tradition of the rosoli. A series of strong sweet wine infusions whose basic elements are made up of fruits of berries, typical of the territory and alcohol, including nocillo or nocino (walnut liqueur). A place of honour goes to ‘Concert’ which releases fragrance and flavour of our native herbs and oriental spices. Then there is bilberry, laurel, and nanassino (fig liqueur), the fragolini (wild straw-
GIUSEPPE LUCANI ARCHITECT
WITH M.CARMELA FRACASSI AND ANDREA CAMMISA
PROJECT OPTIONS The enterprise includes rebuilding the edifice currently earmarked for the GAL headquarters, as well as organizing the adjoining area which at the moment houses a sports field. The project has essentially been aimed at preserving the current plan layout with the possibility of connecting the area below that is destined for a teaching garden to the area set aside for The Home of Taste. Seen from this viewpoint the project provides for the implementation of the large glass cylinder which, in reflecting the surrounding countryside acts as pivot between the built-up part and the garden. It will be possible to reach the first floor of the premises destined for â€˜The Home of Tasteâ€™ by the outer stairs encircling the glass cylinder or by the balcony. If we imagine the route taken by a hypothetical user, the visit cannot begin elsewhere but from the information desk located in the large glass cylinder. From the information desk the user arrives at the large wine shop, where he can sample the typical local wines from the large barrels located in its immediate surroundings, and visit the kitchens and sampling room that will offer typical dishes of the local cuisine. The main point of the initiative will be the preparation of a menu that takes into account the seasonal availability of local produce and proposes dishes in keeping with tradition. From the stairway he will enter the areas set aside for temporary exhibitions, where certain key themes on the territory will be rebuilt with multi-medial panels and sound sources, including themes on nature, life, and on country life. The architecture of these rooms is to be interpreted in a unified way so as to involve the visitor in the theme currently being dealt with. This objective is achieved by using materials, lights, colours and sounds which help one to get an insight into, and become involved in, the various viewpoints
and sensations. The visitor will be able to live the experiences thanks to audio-video equipment which will enable him to see and discover and induce him to relive on the territory the sensations experienced during his visit. For greater emotional impact part of the audio-material will be activated automatically on the visitor’s entrance into the rooms. From the temporary exhibition areas he will arrive at the laboratories. The function of these spaces will be to enable the user to follow a kind of course to learn about the history, habits and the farmers’ workings of the earth’s produce. The biggest area will be earmarked for use as a conference-hall cum lecture-room, courses and projections. The flexibility of the layout will also permit its use as a teaching-cum- demonstrationroom in which to hold cookery courses, food preparation and conservation classes. The area outside facing the building, with its background scenery of surrounding mountains will house the teaching garden with it lemon groves and vineyards. Taken as a whole, “The Home of Taste” will be provided with a multiplicity of functions which range from informing visitors to promoting local resources and products, and from displaying special contents by means of thematic settings; from back-up teaching material for schools to a meeting place and documentation centre of the local situation, and to a research centre. The visitor will be encouraged to activate his own five senses within this logic by touching, exploring and generally stimulating and by being stimulated by the structure along a route that is partially real and partially virtual. For its implementation an innovative form of explanatory language will be sought with equipment devised as reactive structures, in which display cabinets, explanatory panels, images, projections, and audiovisual
stimuli will exist side by side. Since the Home of Taste will be visited by adults and children alike it will be necessary to make introduce expository languages expressed in various degrees of simplicity and complexity. The progression of the visit, in the several types of apparatus, will be devised in accordance of a logic that is equally ostentatious as it is didactic, and interactive, characterized by the maximum involvement of the visitor, who from simple observer is to be transformed into an active participant able to interact with the themes dealt with. Likewise it is envisaged that the locality will be used as a point of reference for cultural and research activities that are fundamental in maintaining good cultural autonomy and in activating local community traditions. The people who make use of the structure must not only be visitors to the territory interested in discovering the traditions and local products, but also academics and experts in the various fields involved who will be encouraged to come along in order to carry out on- the-spot research or to exchange their expertise and experience. Neighbourhood schools and groups from further afield will be invited to make visits, as well as teachers interested in refresher courses and training in matters promoting local traditions regarding taste and flavours. The involvement of local citizens (with special reference to the elderly and artisans) becomes particularly relevant for transmitting traditional knowledge and traditional â€œflavoursâ€? among future generations.