October…cold windy weather in many other places in the country. (And, of course, it would get cold and rainy right after I write this…)

USUALLY, however, (like last week) October is when we, in North Carolina, seem to enjoy the Perfect Summer: cool nights in the 50s and 60s, beautiful sunny days in the 70s and 80s, and low(er) humidity…
I did a CSA work-share at the CCCC student farm this summer, and Iʼm still harvesting and taking food home from the farm: gorgeous peppers (many kinds Iʼve never even seen before), the most voluptuous eggplant, and beautiful burgeoning bulbous sweet potatoes. The tomatoes are still hanging on, and Iʼve even seen some new plants springing up in the tomato row…

So, with the weather so delightful, and the farm food looking so inspiring, Iʼm thinking about cooking and wine and life and…find myself thinking of of Italy. In my former college career (in Philadelphia), I was fortunate enough to spend a fall semester in Italy. This is also what the weather is like in Rome at this time of year. (And, I never really thought about it before, but after the dreary weather of the northeast, Iʼm sure somewhere in my subconscious, I decided I had to live somewhere with better weather…)

…And, I also thought of Italy probably because my farm box looked like it should be an oil painting, and I have all the ingredients for things like eggplant parmigian, roasted peppers, roasted tomatoes…I could make a frittata…I could make sausage and peppers and onions…

Farm painting box

(At this point, I suppose I should confess that cooking is not my forte. My mom, who did all the cooking in my house, never really taught me how to cook. In her defense, her mother didnʼt teach her how to cook either. Thereʼs a famous story in my family about my mother calling my grandmother to ask how long to cook a roast. Gammy, who was a big believer in having a cocktail at 5 every day, had a straightforward, if not characteristic, answer: “Two drinks!”)

ANYWAY – I digress. Thanks to spending time in Italy, I have found that it is possible to cook by sense of smell, and if you put enough garlic and olive oil in something, you can make anything taste good. Also: keeping it simple – especially if you have great produce – works perfectly fine…and, Iʼm told, is really the foundation of cooking Italian.

I know carbs are getting a bad rap these days, but I do so love the bread and pasta (also important components of the Italian meal). And, speaking of pasta, there is also gnocchi. Gnocchi is basically pasta made of potatoes. Gnocchi means ʻkneesʼ in Italian (…just thought I’d throw that in). AND…apparently, the sweet potato is not anywhere near as ʻbadʼ as a ʻregularʼ potato as far as carbs go. Theyʼre in a class all by themselves. They arenʼt even on the Bad Carb list. Totally good for you. And so, I give you, dear reader, a most intriguing recipe for Sweet Potato Gnocchi:

http://www.aidamollenkamp.com/2012/11/sweet-potato-gnocchi-with-balsamic-sage-brown-butter/

At this point, I have to say, whilst musing on things Italian, that Iʼm pretty sure we like good food just as much as they do. Yet, we seem to be perfectly satisfied with a much lower quality of food. Yes, our food is ʻcheaperʼ, but we get exactly what we pay for: substandard nutrition and flavor.

Itʼs true, at our core, we are a bit stoic and austere; after all, weʼre essentially a nation of peasants and merchants and farmers. But look at what weʼve done! This country rocks! Weʼve worked hard, dammit! Thereʼs nothing wrong with enjoying the fruits of our labors.

One area should most certainly be the quality of our food, no? I, personally, think we deserve better. Not only that, we NEED better. In Italy, (and France, for that matter) a meal is an EVENT. It takes TIME (like, at least two hours) and you surround yourself with good people and good food and presumably good conversation follows. Itʼs good for you – all of it. It feeds the SOUL. And if we could just recognize – like the Italians seem to – that the earth and life and love and food (and naps!) are all interconnected and GLORIOUS…

I know that in America, weʼre proud of being “self-made” and hard workers and independent. But I donʼt think itʼd be at all shameful for us to acknowledge that we do indeed need each other, and we can help each other, and it can be mutually beneficial, and everybody wins. We can recognize INTERdependence. We can celebrate our interconnectedness.

“We are more than just a mere biological machine that munches on food for fuel. We need life. We need love. We need intimacy. We need relationship. We need meaning. And interestingly enough, we need beauty.”
– The Institute for the Psychology of Eating.

Take a little time. SAVOR your life. Like the Italians do. After all, why else are we working this hard?

– Jen Kidwell

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