|Going ‘Pastafarian’: My Foray Into Industrial Food Devolution|
|Wednesday, 02 March 2011 00:00 | Written by Marita Prandoni | Blog Entry|
After a recent stint working on an organic farm in Italy, I’ve been exploring ways to carry on my latest wedded passions—amazing food and speaking Italian. So it’s no wonder that I gravitated to the radiant woman who sells local, organic pastas, sauces, pesto and savory butters at our nearby farmers market. Enter Luisella, my newest friend and colleague, and proprietor of Pasta Divina.
“Lu” holds a Ph.D. and an MBA. But her educational training has not led her down a path to academia or finance. Instead, she churns out supple, serpentine tagliatelle, linguine, fettuccine and pappardelle, often flavored with fresh basil, red pepper flakes, spinach and roasted garlic. Her ravioli is filled with butternut squash or ricotta, spinach and nutmeg. She concocts massive kettles-full of sugo di pomodoro (fresh tomato sauce) and sugo all’arrabbiata (spicy, or literally “in the style of the angry one”). And I, in my own adaptation to the “new economy” (patching together several little jobs), am training at the elbow of the master in her well-equipped commercial kitchen. I’m going “pastafarian”, but not the kind that believes in the flying spaghetti monster, the intelligent designer of all life.
My home is a train-ride away from Lu’s kitchen, and I often return with a sizeable wheeled cooler in tow. I’ve been helping Lu expand her product line’s presence at regional farmers markets and by doing demos.
I have to admit that it was with some hesitation that I agreed to help with in-store demos. Artificial social attitudes and my own perception of what my education should lead me to do imposed a temporary mental barrier to the idea. But I accepted, knowing that Lu has courageously busted the myth that we can follow our hearts, but only in accordance with what society deems acceptable. There is nothing more honorable than working to provide others with nourishment that is locally made, organic and, most importantly, crafted with love and laughter. Thanks to Lu, I am now part of the industrial food devolution and a social revolution.
Our workday usually begins with a sumptuous lunch. I told Lu, “You shouldn’t feel obligated to feed me every time I come to work with you.” Her animated and incontestable response: “Of course, I’m obligated to feed you. I’m Italian.” Keeping our taste buds perceptive and our palates receptive is a key requisite to carrying out our work. We innovate and test new recipes. Last week it was green-chili fettuccine and sundried-tomato roasted-garlic Mediterranean-herb pesto.
If the local food movement is going to work, the farmers and producers need some help. Almost any of us can grow vegetables or fruits in our yards, or even in pots on our porches, balconies or roofs. But we depend heavily on small food enterprise for sustainable protein fare—like nuts, grains, legumes and reverently produced meats—and freshly prepared grub. These folks are constantly being squeezed by industrial producers. Agribusiness is not only subsidized by our government to keep foodstuffs cheap, but its practices are the most polluting on the planet, requiring huge fossil-fuel inputs to power their equipment, fertilizers, pesticides, processing and transportation. There are myriad hidden costs—to the environment and our health.
If you are between jobs, underemployed or looking for ways to expand your skill set, lend a helping hand to a local farmer or organic food producer. No online applications, stressful interviews or specialized degrees will be necessary—just a willingness to roll up your sleeves and work hard. The compensation might be monetary or it might be nourishment—in more ways than just alimentary.