Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Digging in the Dirt

Last night, as I was going to bed, I read a little out of a book called, How I Learned to Cook. It chronicles world class chefs who've written short essays on lessons they learned in their early lives and careers. I must say, I've only read 47 pages, to be exact, but what stopped me there to pause and notice the page number was a short paragraph.
I've been fine tuning my culinary point of view, for a little while now, but didn't quite know how to put it into words until I came across his, Chris Bianco. Have you heard of him? I hadn't until I read his chapter, Digging in the Dirt, in my book. Chris Bianco is famous for his Italian and southwest cuisine. His restaurant in Arizona, Pizzeria Bianco, is suppose to serve the best pizza in America. Pizza on earth and good will to all! This is a huge accomplishment coming from someone with simple beginnings.
Chris Bianco said he learned to eat well before he learned to cook. In fact, for much of his early life he thought of cooking as a chore. Can you believe it? It wasn't until he took a trip to Italy with his Italian father that his eyes opened to discover there was meaning behind the food. He listened to his Uncle tell the story of the pig before he ate his prosciutto and stared out the window as his Uncle pointed to the wine country to say this is where my wine came from. Their last stop took them to his Uncle's friend's asparagus farm. As guests, he expected a lavish meal to await him but was surprised to see a rustic picnic table next to a propane fueled single burner stove. His Uncle's friend took them on a tour before they would sit down for lunch. They unearthed a hefty bundle of asparagus and tied it together with butcher's twine. And in no time at all his Uncle's friend disappeared into the barn and returned with a half dozen eggs. He plunged the twine wrapped asparagus into the pot of boiling water and followed with the eggs. His wife laid down a ceramic platter on the table, she pulled out the asparagus, snipped the twine, and scattered them on the platter. Next she took the hard boiled eggs, peeled and then crumbled them right on top of that asparagus. They doused everything with splashes of wine, sea salt, and cracked pepper. Chris Bianco's life was changed forever.
And you may ask, how could such a simple experience make such a difference to a young man? The following is an excerpt from his essay,
"At the table, there was an unassuming sense of pride in what we shared and our hosts' role in that gift. I am eternally grateful for the meal they served because that's when it happened: everything about food made sense to me for the first time. I thought, 'There's the dirt, there's what's pushing out of the dirt, there's what's harvested from the dirt, and here is how you celebrate what comes from the dirt.' That was how you were suppose to eat."
So, if I don't make it to page 48 for awhile, it's because I too have decided to do some digging in the dirt.

1 comment:

  1. Erica,
    Hey, I too was moved by that chapter. That particular chapter was what I remembered most about the book! It has since made me even more aware of the natural flavors in fresh food, and how cooking with less is better and truly more of an appreciative art that we can share with others. Anybody can go in the kitchen and cook, but not everyone can "prepare" a meal with passion and love. Have fun in the dirt!
    Love you. Kathy