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@RiseandRender’s photo of their thumbprint cookies – a little flatter and crispier than mine but probably equally as delicious.  Check out their photos of making Ina Garten’s recipe.  World, expect cookie Xmas gifts.

 

This Thanksgiving was probably unlike yours – calm and quiet with almost zero hustle and bustle in the kitchen.  I spent the day making Thumbprint cookies with raspberry/cloudberry jam centers for men at The Sleeping Room (the local men’s shelter in Muncie, IN), before serving them dinner.  The menu: from-the-box stuffing, from-the-can green beans, 2 cans cranberry sauce, a dismantled homemade turkey, Sara Lee pumpkin pie, and cookies (my only genuine contribution).  When we arrived Betty, the mom in a mother-daughter 2-person team of shelter managers, was sorting through the day’s food donations from Feed My Sheep.  What seemed like a bounty to Betty left us confused.  Opening the bags we found the offal of pantry discards: 4 jello snack packs.  A can of black beans.  A package of expired cheesy rice.  A can of kidney beans.  A can of tuna.  A jar of toffee-flavored coffee sweetener.  How do you make breakfast and dinner for 10 men every day with these pantry remnants?  “We are so blessed,” said Betty.  Thankfully the holiday cheer drives a flood of donations, while the rest of the year the shelves dry up.

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A snapshot of The Sleeping Room – 10 beds in a studio apartment.  The small kitchen and dining room is just behind the camera on the other side of these beds, while the bathroom with shower is down a small hallway.  Upon entering you relinquish all pocket contents and bags in exchange for a clean set of pajamas to be worn after your shower and dinner.

 

The hour spent there was quick but meaningful.  We returned to spend the evening enjoying the warm weather by our backyard campfire deep in thought over the experiences of our country’s homeless.  What is it like to survive on the streets?  How does involuntary urban camping change your daily habits: when/where to go to the bathroom, what counts as entertainment or dead weight, and what types of behaviors (like sitting on a curb or carrying a book bag) while completely normal for many attract unwanted suspicion and attention?  How long can you survive being homeless?

Most of all, it made us think how completely insufficient this tiny studio apartment-turned shelter for 10 men was to quell the needs of the local homeless.  Elizabeth, a Chicago-area women who recently Airbnb-ed our spare room for a night, told us about her work advocating for Chicago’s homeless population of 140,000.  An estimated 14,000-15,000 men, women, and children each day sleep on the streets of Chicago, yet the city provides only 140 beds for the homeless.  With the high price of real estate in the city, and more and more middle- and upper-middle class professionals paying high rents to gentrify previously poor neighborhoods, there’s no economic incentive to convert Chicago property into shelters.

Homelessness should not be balanced on the backs of people like Betty and Elizabeth alone.  How is homeless everyone’s problem?  And how can the solution be the result of everyone’s work?  So grab a cookie and let’s discuss.

Thumbprint Cookies

 

This is a snapshot of Martha Stewart’s recipe for Thumbprint Cookies, (although I used salted butter and added salt to balance out the sweetness from the raspberry/cloudberry jam).  Eat no less than 3 per day.

 

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Skip to the bottom for 6 global food recipes from 1950s housewives in Walla Walla.

Meatballs.  I grew up eating small, thumb-sized beef meatballs microwaved from their frozen plastic bag and then dumped into a pot of 2 cans of 99 cent Hunts spaghetti sauce.  After swirling my fork around a lump of store-brand boxed noodles, I stabbed each juicy meat pocket before adding a final dollop of sauce for a perfect bite.  Because a whole bag of frozen meatballs was allotted for a family of five, I had a shot of getting 5-6 meatballs to start me off before grabbing a few more for seconds after the first round. If you were really lucky, there were some leftover store-brand hot dog buns on which we lather Country Crock margarine with our butter knives before sprinkling yellow-dyed garlic salt.  It was heaven.

It's like you're photographing my memories! Hot dog bun garlic bread, straight from my margarine covered fingers.

It’s like you’re photographing my memories! Hot dog bun garlic bread, straight from my margarine covered fingers.  Check out Near to Nothing’s recipe here.

Frozen meatballs!?  Spaghetti sauce from a can!?  Store-brand noodles from a box!?  No actual garlic!?  I hear your criticisms through space and time.  No, I did not cut open real garlic until college.  Although I didn’t really know it then (and didn’t really know what I was missing since my siblings and I mostly just befriended each other), it was the best my mom could do.  Teaching fourth graders from 7-4 PM or later, with three kids plus one adult male child for a husband who worked all day, it was all she could do to make sure we were fed quickly and cheaply so she could get some sleep.  And I don’t regret it.  This version of preserved, hydrogenated, frozen Italian American food has always been my most favorite meal.  Spaghetti and meatballs is the perfect combination of salty and sweet, carb, vegetable, and protein, main course and dessert.  It’s good cold or hot.  It’s quick and wholesome — comfort food fast.

Sam's Club meatballs! With a family of five, you gotta buy them in bulk. Check out this recipe for Swedish Meatballs from Laura's Latest here.

Sam’s Club meatballs! With a family of five, you gotta buy them in bulk. Check out this recipe for Swedish Meatballs from Laura’s Latest here.

Yet meatballs haven’t always been joyous spaghetti speckles of opulence.  At Global Food: Local Perspectives on October 22 at Purdue University, Dr. Simone Cinotto gave an interesting lecture about the myths and realities of Italian American food culture which can be reduced to the transformation of the lowly meatball. Presenting material from his book The Italian American Table, Simone argued that Italian food culture has been mis-remembered as always being rich and plentiful, but that it was instead a post-immigration shift for the majority of Italy’s working-class citizens.  Italians who ventured to the US did so out of economic necessity, often shaking out bread crumbs and clinging pots and pans to create a symphony of cooking for neighbors for meals that never existed.  Working-class Italian families in the US were able to finally afford rich meats, breads, and cheeses in ways they never could in Italy – ultimately producing a dense and diverse Italian American food culture in New York City and beyond.

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Check out these gorgeous photos by Vicky Wasik who breaks down a recipe from Serious Eats for the juiciest, tastiest meatballs.

Although spaghetti and meatballs is considered a classic Italian dish (perhaps made most pop culturally famous with Lady and the Tramp), large baseball-sized meatballs of pork, veal, beef, and spices haven’t always been a sign of opulence.  Meatballs were a working-class tool for spreading meat out farther, stretching the cheapest cuts of ground mystery meat by mixing in nearly equal amounts of bread crumbs to make golf-ball sized polpettes.

Oh dear, have I eaten some Ikea meatballs in my lifetime.

Oh dear, have I eaten some Ikea meatballs in my lifetime.

According to John Surico at Serious Eats:

While more wealthy northern Italians tended to move out to central and western states, southern Italians made landfall in downtown Manhattan within proximity of Kleindeutschland, or Little Germany—an enclave of German transplants settled in the Lower East Side, who ran many butcher shops that sold beef and pork. In Italy, those meats were hard to come by in the south, and usually were accompanied by high prices, so a ready supply of more affordable red meat became a gold mine for the growing Italian population…The meatball-as-convenience-food concept grew steadily through the turn of the century, as more and more of New York and the country settled into a standardized eight-hour workday. With a greater percentage of the workforce—male and female—conforming to a 9 to 5 schedule, pre-made dishes like meatballs functioned as a kind of fast food, especially when loaded into a crusty hero loaf. Reliable, recognizable, and reasonably priced, they made for an easy meal with few strings attached. And along the way they solidified the American understanding of what “Italian food” meant.

So, in practice of Global Foods: Local Perspectives, in celebration of the World Series, and in remembrance of all my delicious microwaved food of my youth, here are TWO recipes for meatballs from Walla Walla, Washington in 1950, along with several other delicious globally-inspired fusion recipes from Cold War-era housewives.  Dig in and read Lisa Banu’s coverage of Global Food: Local Perspectives here!  More reflections to come.

World Recipes from pg 17, Walla Walla Union Bulletin October 1, 1950

World Recipes from pg 17, Walla Walla Union Bulletin October 1, 1950

Dear world,

You are invited to attend an important symposium exploring international influences on local food culture.  Global Food: Local Perspectives will be Thursday October 22, 3:30-5:30 in NLSN 1215 at Purdue University.

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The symposium will feature a keynote lecture by Dr. Simone Cinotto, Professor of Italian American history and food studies at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy.  He will present material from his most recently published book, Making Italian America: Consumer Culture and the Production of Ethnic Identities (2014).  Following his lecture, Dr. Lisa Banu (local food/design studies blogger at HungryPhil.com) will lead a roundtable discussion with three local restaurant owners from Thai Essence, La Scala, and Shaukin about their food memories and philosophies.  A complimentary food tasting for the first 50 people will accompany their discussion.  Visitor parking at PGG (Grant St., West Lafayette).

Purdue Map_Event in NLSN

This event has been curated by Kera Lovell as part of her 2015 Global Synergy Grant.  The event has been sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts’ Global Synergy Grant, the School of Interdisciplinary Studies, the American Studies Program, the Italian Studies Program, the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, and the American Studies Graduate Student Organization all at Purdue University.  Thanks to Kirsten Serrano (La Scala), Miinal Bhatt (Shaukin), and Ake Waratap (Thai Essence) for donating their time for this event.

I took the last post discussing my experience visiting Slow Food International’s University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy, yet wanted to take a little more time to talk about the meanings and practices of Slow Food.

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Slow Food International’s restaurant, Osteria del Boccondivino, in Bra, Italy 

According to the Slow Food USA website, “Slow Food is a global, grassroots organization with more than 150,000 members and 2,000 food communities throughout 150+ countries.  Slow food International states that “Slow Food is a global, grassroots organization, founded in 1989 to prevent the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions, counteract the rise of fast life and combat people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from and how our food choices affect the world around us.”

Yet for Life in the Food Lane blogger Francine Spiering, slow food means a more authentic experience with culinary sustenance.  It is a whole body, whole lifestyle, whole world experience:

Slow Food for me is appreciating food in all its diversity. It is discovering regional cuisines and local ingredients. Raising a child to know the chicken, not the nuggets. Favoring individual chef-owner restaurants where the cooking is good and done with passion. It is a good wine, a microbrew beer, a signature cocktail. It is crusty great-smelling bread, artisan cheese, traditional charcuterie, and the ripe freshness of seasonal, local produce. It is always cooking fresh food at home (I believe the buzzword is “real food”), and taking time to enjoy food together. Slow is more than food. Slow is an unhurried lifestyle, even if you are in a rush. It means taking time for things and someones that matter to you. Slow is setting your alarm to watch the moon be eclipsed in a red-hued shadow, even if you have an early rise the next day. Slow is living the dream, when the dream is to cherish the life you live.

For me, slow food is going to your friends’ houses to pick up some fresh zucchini.  It’s buying raw milk from a local dairy farmer.  It’s discussing family over a long meal at a big table.  And slow food in the US is hard to come by.

Bra, the birthplace of Slow Food International, serves as the perfect case study for understanding the meanings and practices of slow food.  After visiting the university, I ate lunch at Slow Food’s restaurant – Osteria del Boccondivino in Bra.  Set in a beautiful hidden courtyard outside the organization’s headquarters, the restaurant specializes on new daily menus that cater to the market’s fresh ingredients.

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Osteria del Boccondivino, Slow Food International’s restaurant in Bra, Italy

Additionally, the restaurant (and just about every other place in Italy) offers local wines you can drink with your multi-course meal.  The restaurant’s wine selection specializes in Langhe and Roero traditions in the northern Piedmont area of Italy.

When all wines are local, you know you're in a good country.  (Photo by Simon Bussiere)

When all wines are local, you know you’re in a good country.

Likewise, the University of Gastronomic Sciences has the Wine Bank (la Banca del Vino) which serves as a depository of different wines from all over the world.  Although it wasn’t open for tours when I was on campus for a visit, luckily I was able to check out Slow Food International’s pavilion at the Expo which featured raised beds and wine tastings from the Wine Bank. This still didn’t feel very Slow Foody. Back in Bra, however, my Airbnb host recommended visiting Giolito’s cheese shop down a back street of Bra.  I was about 2 minutes too late, with the doors already locked for a lunch break, but they agreed to open the doors (probably seeing dollar signs and pure excitement in my eyes).  That day they featured hundreds of different cheeses, some paired with special jams.  Confronted with the option to try and buy a lifetime of affordable cheese from the shop owner himself – Fiorenzo Giolito – I opted for “I’ll try literally anything,” and was only pleased. I bought an equivalent to about $30 worth of cheeses and two jams (cherry and orange marmalade).  THAT, unlike the restaurant, the pavilion, the university, felt like slow food.  To have a conversation with someone about how the cheese tastes, where it’s made in Italy, and what the name of the farmer was, was priceless.   Eating cheese for the next week was also priceless.

Because it is renowned for its quality and quantity of cheeses, this tiny shop supplies all of the cheese for Mario Batali’s restaurant chain Eataly.

Giolito’s cheese shop in Bra is a Slow Food shop specializing in hundreds of local and European cheeses delivered fresh weekly. They supply the restaurant chain Eataly with all of their cheeses. Eataly’s photo

They also host a biannual cheese festival in which more than 150,000 visitors converge on this small Piedmont town.   You can watch in all of its spectacle here.

Mind you, I did eat lunch once at McDonald’s in Italy, and I completely regretted it.  😉

The University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy:  This is an aerial view of the grounds which includes a hotel, Slow Food International’s offices, and the University of Gastronomic Sciences. Could you tell it used to be a castle? Check out the hotel here (where this photo is from): http://www.albergoagenzia.com/welcome_eng.lasso

My second stop after visiting my faculty advisor, Professor Simone Cinotto, in Torino, was visiting the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy.  As you can see from the photo, there’s just about nothing in Pollenzo except for this gorgeous castle-turned school/hotel, a scattering of homes and businesses to the right, and miles and miles of farmland and agritourism sites as far as you can see.  When I asked Dr. Cinotto to recommend a good place for lunch, he only suggested about 5 great farm-to-table restaurants within a half hour (and Italians are not easy to please when it comes to food).

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Here is a plaque detailing some of the historical roots of the castle at the university.  Towering above is the campanile or bell tower (often located at the historic city center), shown above.

Fortunately I was able to spend the night in Bra with a graduate student at the university from California who is (at this moment) doing her required internship at an organization in London.  She took about 2 hours to give us the inside scoop on the school, describing how the course schedule works, types of classes offered and the ones she preferred, and the city in which she lived.  For example, in the university’s undergraduate program seen here, the course schedule includes a range of classes, from Sensory Analysis and Microbiology to Territorial Sociology (<–??).

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Inside a classroom at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy where you get to taste the food and eat it too!

In addition, programs include required food studies field trips to events in Bra and neighboring cities, another destination in Europe, and then another outside of Europe.  The school is hard work, don’t get me wrong, but for lunch you get to eat fine Italian cuisine made by aspiring chefs in a gorgeous castle.  That sounds awesome.

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A look outward from the University of Gastronomic Sciences which is now a UNESCO World Heritage site because it was once the Royal Palace of Savoy: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/823/documents

Although this young and selective university has only gone on to graduate a little more than 600 students since its beginning in 2004, the school has produced major talent.  I would personally like to vouch for two young vibrant graduates, Anna Bellotti and Grégoire d’Oultremont, who opened their beautiful restaurant L’Alfieri in Bra.  It’s intimate and modern, yet fun and colorful with an ever-changing menu and a chipper bartender that greet you upon entry (and offered us up some special cocktails which now have me putting black tea in every liquor).  Here you can read an adorable interview with them about why they decided to open their restaurant.

A super awesome photo that I did not take from Trip Advisor.

It was one of the best – if not the best – meal we had in Italy, so I highly recommend it.  Here is a beautiful mind map of the owners that I had to share, which highlights all of the intricacies of the restaurant, their quest to create a community-minded space that feels right to be there, with a strong professional backing that rigorously plans, sources, and funds their creative ideas.  And if I can find pictures of the food I ate that night, you all will be the first to see them.

Last but not least, here are some final shots of the university before I headed on my way to Parma.  Soak in its red brick archways, trailing vines of ivy, and gorgeous views and circulation patterns.  What a university.  By the way, interested in going there?  Check out the university’s website here or go crazy – apply for the university’s Fulbright and earn your MA from there in 1 year for free.

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The University of Gastronomic Science Grounds

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Part of my grant included my meeting and networking with Dr. Simone Cinotto, Associate Professor of Modern History at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo (a food studies university run by the farm-to-table organization Slow Food International).

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Dr. Cinotto arguing with a woman (who argued back) about the most recent year one could buy a pet at the market.  I stood by attentively…. 

Fortunately (!), Dr. Cinotto suggested we meet in Turin at Porta Palazzo – the largest open-air market in Europe.  Needless to say, I jumped into my rented Fiat and sped through crimson poppy-lined toll roads to make it there!  His instructions were simple:

Dear Kera can we meet at the corner of via Milano and Porta Palazzo (Piazza della Repubblica) at 11:00 am Friday? I trust you can find the intersection I am talking about on Google Maps. If you think it’s confusing let me know and we’ll choose another location.

I am 52, 6 feet, big, white hair, and black-frame looking glasses.

I responded:

Perfetto! I am 5 feet, very pale, am blind but wear contacts, and speak terrible Italia-ish, but I have seen your photo enough on various websites that I should be able to hunt you down.

See you soon e grazie!

And did I get lost?  No sirr-YES.  Yes, I got lost.  But luckily not too lost before I found him waiting patiently at one of the market’s busy entrances.  But I did spot his sterling gray locks from about 300 feet away (be impressed).

The rain-soaked streets of Turin

The rain-soaked streets of Turin – did I mention it rained that day?  What a great city to get some rain.

I apologized profusely for our delay, and he did what any Italian professor does best – he graciously extended, “Piacere” (nice to meet you), and dove right into a delightfully interactive lecture on the history of the market while we meandered through the vibrant tightly-wound alleyways of market stalls.  No time to stop and smell the roses though, since the pace moves rapid-fire, requiring you to “throw up ‘bows” to make it out of there with your wallet.

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Colorful fresh fruit at discount prices – all at your fingertips.

The market is HUGE, with more than 50,000 square meters, which works out to about a bajillion feet.  You can find more pictures and a brief history at The Wandering Epicures (this blog particularly emphasizes the fine meat selection available there).  Most importantly, what I learned was that the history of immigrants is essential to the food history of Italy.  You should actually check out Rebecca Black’s book Porta Palazzo: The Anthropology of an Italian Market, which Dr. Cinotto highly suggested I read to fully capture the rich cultural diversity of one of Europe’s main commercial spaces.

See those tiny squares? Those are food stalls that spread far and wide, inside of buildings and outside. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Needless to say, I didn’t buy anything 😦  There were too many choices and not enough time (since the market closes by about 1 PM).  You should definitely go!

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Simone and I walking through the fish market inside Porta Palazzo 

Traveling to Italy resulted in one dramatic realization – the names of Italian foods and wines are geographically significant.  The caprese salad, for example, (a simply delicious layering of fresh mozzarella, large tomato slices, fresh basil leaves, salt and pepper, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar) is named caprese because it’s from Capri.  Like the classic Margherita Pizza, the salad’s freshness embodies the island’s warm Mediterranean climate, while its colors mimic the tri-color configuration of Italy’s flag.

The salad is usually served as an antipasto (or starter) and therefore is not really considered a salad but an appetizer in Italy, since they usually eat leafy salads after the main meat entree.

This is a photo of blogger Whitney’s version of her caprese salad (click for a link to her blog).

As food writer Nigel Slater explains, salad is as simple as reading from left to right.  The key is collecting the best-tasting ingredients in their prime:

Shopping rather than technique is paramount. This is not the moment for parsimony – only the most expensive buffalo mozzarella will hit the spot (it should be soft, quivering inside with a texture that is almost jelly-like. It should smell of cool, fresh milk). The tomatoes are more difficult to get right, but in a summer like this there are many good ones to be had. Keep them until they are so ripe they feel heavy with juice and have a deep herbal scent. Although cool tomatoes are most refreshing, they won’t be at their best straight from the fridge. And while good olive oil is important, it is the ripeness and flavour of the tomatoes and the quality of the mozzarella that matter most. Use the largest basil leaves you can find. The larger they grow, the more peppery and aromatic they will be. They should, legend has it, be torn gently into pieces by hand, not shredded with a knife, as this will breed scorpions.

Most American versions of Italian classics result in terrible train wrecks when TV chefs are at the wheel trying to make a quick buck on an updated variation.  A quick Google search turned up more than 800,000 hits for “caprese salad recipe,” Perhaps the simplicity of this culinary classic has helped preserve its roots.

Now back from the Italian coast with my souvenir balsamic vinegar from Modena – the birthplace of balsamic vinegar, with some aged varieties so expensive, tastes cost hundreds of dollars – I decided to try a little farm to table version.  I currently live in Muncie, Indiana, famously known for the Middletown sociological study conducted in the 1920s and now home to about 140 meth labs and thousands of acres of soy beans and corn.  My house, however, is a haven for homegrown veggies and herbs.

The mozzarella was freshly made in Cincinnati, the tomatoes from my aunt’s garden in Hahira, GA, the basil grown fresh on my back porch (where this photo was taken), the cucumbers harvested fresh from a coworkers’ garden two blocks away, and the drizzled balsamic vinegar transported all the way from Modena.  Here’s a map I made using Google maps, which you should definitely check out to see behind-the-scenes details and photos: https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=zJOHE5yzytcA.kRbVXmGH1-lU&usp=sharing

Mapping my Middletown Caprese Salad

Mapping my Middletown Caprese Salad, from ancient Rome to Muncie, Indiana, using Google Maps

And here’s the final product!  It was definitely a transatlantic culinary success (although I still prefer the classic).

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In a spark of pure wonderful coincidence, I stumbled across the concept visualization of Expo 2020 in Dubai – and boy does it look amazing, so I wanted to share.

To begin, Dubai’s Expo abstract theme, “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future,” is organized into three main sub-themes: mobility, sustainability and opportunity that are visualized by three main plazas at the center of the park, shown here:

In contrast to Shanghai’s Expo park which was organized similar to the block patterns of New York City, and Milan’s Expo park which was generally organized chaos, Dubai’s Expo is organized with a strong center complex that serves as the heart of the park, housing shared pavilions for entertainment and commercial and diplomatic networking.

As demonstrated by the visual, these three plazas are supported by a dynamic structural architecture that directs airflow and traffic to the three corners of the park.  (This is really going to come in handy when tons of people are saturating the park’s core in search of shade on those scorching summer days in the desert sun.  Dubai Expo, if you’re listening, you should have some walk-through misters like Disney World.  That’s all I’m saying….)

The map of Shanghai’s Expo, 2010, which reveals how the park was organized along main lines of circulation

Expect more details in the future breaking down the map, design, and concept of Milan’s Expo for 2015.

In honor of American Independence Day, I wanted to give you some details about the US Pavilion at the Milan Expo!  In contrast to the USA pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo in 2010 (I’ll give you a better comparative study another day), this pavilion not only has corporate sponsors but also government funds which enables more creativity and flexibility in the design process.  The building’s design – a very simple two-story building with a linear stacked design – boasts one of the world’s largest vertical gardens that flex horizontally to catch the sun’s rays.  Designed to mimic the structure of a barn, the pavilion’s theme of “farm to table” food is part of the US’s mission to work with companies and nations to use simple farming, good nutrition, and agricultural engineering to feed the world’s 9 billion people by 2050.

A rendering of the USA Pavilion at the World Expo in Milan, with one of the world’s largest vertical gardens

Follow the USA pavilion on Instagram @usapavilion2015 to see today’s US-sponsored events – today they have marching bands, cheerleading, flash mobs, and cupcake sales in honor of the 4th.  On their Instagram account you can also see a super quick behind the scenes look at the US pavilion.

Happy 4th!!

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The view of a vineyard and the epic Basilica Superga in Torino from PanPerdu B&B

One of my first stops (after regaining consciousness after a debilitating 2 days of jet lag) was Sciolze – a small, beautiful city outside of Torino/Turin where I would meet my faculty advisor, Dr. Simone Cinotto.  I stayed with a family of three – a French-speaking mother who restores 16th century paintings, an Italian-speaking father who runs an enoteca (wine store) in Torino, and a teenage daughter who is learning Spanish in school.  Completely exhausted from traveling in Milan’s heavy traffic and toll roads, I asked Antonieta if she could recommend a wine store nearby or had some wine I could purchase in order to stay in for the evening.  Her husband, Bartolome,  returned to give me a lesson on wine, explaining in such beautiful Ital-ish how his wines were locally sourced.

One startling difference between living in Muncie and venturing in Italy is everything is local.  Your wine is all local, your cured meats are all local, your fine cheeses are all local (no need for fancy Brie) – and most likely, if you ask the server, slicer, or any plain ol’ Italian about its background, they’ll probably give you some delightful details on its origin.

Antonieta and Bartolome - my wonderful hosts at PanPerdu Bed and Breakfast

Antonieta and Bartolome – my wonderful hosts at PanPerdu Bed and Breakfast in Sciolze, Italy.  In the words of their website, “The ‘panperdu’ is the name given to an ancient recipe of Piedmont where the old bread, to be thrown away, becomes a delicious, nutritious and healthy breakfast: precisely that feeling for tradition and the old, together with the creativity that characterizes our life. ” Check out their B&B here: http://www.panperdu.com/

That night, I not only received a small lecture on local wine culture, but enjoyed a lovely bottle of wine, a sampling of meats and cheeses sliced fresh by Antonieta, AND my first bowl of homemade pasta that they shared straight from their kitchen.  It was undoubtedly one of the best experiences I had in Italy because it enabled me to see how kind, giving, and selfless Italians are when it comes to food.  Having a drink of wine?  You must have some food on your plate.  Not very hungry?  How about just a snack of an entire plate of food?  Interested in a bottle of wine?  How about we give you a bottle of our own delicious homemade wine as a gift in addition to a locally-sourced bottle of wine you can drink tonight?  Hungry for breakfast?  We normally just drink a cappuccino for breakfast, but how about a homemade tart, warm just-baked croissants, delicious amber jam, and sugar cookies along with your cappuccini?  I’ll take it!  Ultimately, my stay at Antonieta’s and Bartolome’s taught me that food culture more than just consumption – it’s the people, their homes, their gardens, their families, their communities, their cultures, their histories, and so much more.