Amatriciana for Amatrice: Slow Food founder calls for restaurateurs and diners across the world to support Amatrice in year-long campaign

best amatriciana recipeAbove: my friend and client Tony Vallone’s Amatriciana here in Houston.

In Italy yesterday, Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini proposed that “every restaurant in the world” serve Amatriciana for the next 12 months and donate €2 for every dish served directly to the Amatrice municipal government (see bank info below).

The village of Amatrice (AH-mah-TREE-cheh), known for its production of salumi and its celebrated Pasta all’Amatriciana (ah-MAH-tree-CHEE’AH-nah, long noodles dressed with tomato sauce and sautéed guanciale, cured pig’s jowl), was virtually destroyed in this week’s devastating earthquake in central Italy.

Petrini’s proposal, “A Future for Amatrice,” is a long-term fundraising initiative intended to provide sustained aid to Amatrice and its residents even after the “emotional wave of the moment has passed,” he wrote in a statement released to mainstream and social media.

Here in Houston, my friend and client Tony Vallone was already a step ahead of Petrini: yesterday, he began setting aside $2 for every dish of Amatriciana he serves (above) to be donated to Italian Red Cross relief efforts.

Ammado is the official micro-donation for the Italian Red Cross: here’s the link to donate.

You can also donate through the Italy-America Chamber of Commerce Texas (another client of mine). The Chamber is taking donations through PayPal and will donate funds collected to Italian Government relief efforts.

And if you want to send money directly to the Amatrice municipal government, here’s the bank code provided by Petrini in his statement: IT28M0832773470000000006000.

The destruction of Amatrice and a string of picturesque hilltop villages in this week’s catastrophe is a tragic loss for the Italian people and the world at large.

See the op-ed published this week by political commentator Beppe Severgnini in the New York Times.

“And in the space of just one summer’s night,” he writes, “Amatrice is all but gone.”

Posts from the Gulf coasts and dispatches on the spill

Above: Guitar legend Jimmie Vaughan is a master of the “Gulf Coast” guitar style. I snapped the above photo last year at Antone’s in Austin.

Just a quick end-of-the-day post to point your attention to a couple of Gulf Coast blogs where you can read about the local impact of the BP oil spill. The author is Ms. Ashley, who reps Kermit’s wines in the South Eastern U.S. (we met when I accompanied Kermit on his record party tour last year).

Check out her posts on the oil spill and how it’s affected gulf coast beaches and the local food and wine economy, here and here (with photos).

Thanks for reading: please don’t forget the victims of the BP oil spill!

On right health and good pleasure

Above: Pope Sixtus IV appoints Bartolomeo Platina prefect of the Vatican Library, fresco by Melozzo da Forlì, c. 1477 (Vatican Museums). That’s Platina kneeling. Click the image for the entire fresco.

The title of today’s post is a play-on-words, a riff on the canonical translation of Bartolomeo Platina’s De honesta voluptate et valetudine, On Right Pleasure and Good Health (as translated, superbly, by Mary Milham in 1998). Italian humanist, gastronome, and literary consultant to some of the most important cultural and political figures of his time, Platina authored a treatise considered by many the earliest printed work on gastronomy. It was overwhelmingly popular in Europe from the time of its initial publication in the late 15th century through the 17th century, by which time it appeared in myriad translations from the Latin. (I know a little about Platina and his book since I translated the 15th-century Italian recipe collection by Maestro Martino from which Platina drew heavily).

In the mind of the Renaissance humanist, good health and right pleasure were inexorably linked. As food historian Ken Albala illustrated so eloquently in his 2002 Eating Right in the Renaissance, inhabitants of 15th-century Italy believed — rightly — that everything you put into your body affected your health, emotionally, intellectually, and physically.

Sumus quales edamus: we are what we produce (äfere), we are what we eat (lèdere).

I’m no Renaissance man but I do believe that right pleasure and good health go hand in hand, so to speak.

That’s why I’m thinking today about “right health”: President Obama’s signing of the new health care legislation (however flawed, however riddled by political posturing) marks for me the fulfillment of a dream (both personal and civic). As David Leonhardt wrote in The New York Times today, “The bill that President Obama signed on Tuesday is the federal government’s biggest attack on economic inequality since inequality began rising more than three decades ago… Speaking to an ebullient audience of Democratic legislators and White House aides at the bill-signing ceremony on Tuesday, Mr. Obama claimed that health reform would ‘mark a new season in America.’ He added, ‘We have now just enshrined, as soon as I sign this bill, the core principle that everybody should have some basic security when it comes to their health care.'”

As a long-time self-employed translator, writer, copywriter, and musician/songwriter, health care has always been a primary issue for me. To my mind and in my heart as a member of American society, the inequality of health care in our country has always represented a tragedy in our affluent nation.

So today I ask you to consider a step forward in our country, toward an inalienable right that is guaranteed, however imperfectly, to citizens in most Western countries.

What’s next? Will we outlaw the death penalty? I’d certainly drink to that.

In other news…

Please read BrooklynGuy’s excellent post today, with its oxymoronic title, How to Buy Excellent Cheap Wine.

How I stay so thin

From the “just for fun” department…

WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES FOLLOW!

jeremy parzenPeople ask me all the time how I stay so thin when I work in the food and wine industry and indulge — perhaps too often — in the hedonist pleasures of eating and drinking.

Yesterday, after the nth photo of a Jaynes Burger (my favorite dish at Jaynes Gastropub in San Diego) appeared on my blog, Tom G commented and noted: “You need a dietician, you return to Cali and go for the Burger and fries in the land of fresh fish and veggies, better lay off that Chicken fried steak for a week. I also think you need an extra dose of red wine.”

Tom, thanks for the comment and for the genuine concern. Unfortunately, Tracie B and I are headed to Dallas for a Saturday evening and lazy Sunday of unusual wines and chicken fried steak “prepared with native yeasts” by Italian Wine Guy. So, the diet will have to wait until next week.

Above: Cake tasting for our wedding celebration in La Jolla. Tracie B wondered out loud: “wouldn’t it be great if you could spit at a cake tasting the way we [wine professionals] spit at a wine tasting?”

In fact, I do pay attention to my health (that’s me, above left, on tour with Nous Non Plus in May, poolside in San Jose before the show; Tracie B and I got engaged the next night after the show in LA!).

Above: On an account call in Arkansas for lunch, I asked our waiter for the restaurant’s “signature” dish and she brought me Frito Pie. Sometimes, as a food and wine professional, you find yourself in situations where you have to make unfortunate food choices and so it’s important to take care of oneself. The pie wasn’t so bad and I only ate a small portion of it. It did pair well with Primitivo.

I try to follow these simple rules:

  • I never eat when I’m not truly hungry;
  • I only eat at mealtimes, at most three times a day;
  • I never eat something that doesn’t truly appeal to me, even if I am hungry;
  • I try to eat as many leafy greens as I can;
  • I try (not as hard as I should) to stay physically active.
  • Above: California is the Golden State (not so much these days, actually, with its budget crisis) and Texas is the Lone Star State but Texas rivals California on any given Sunday for its gorgeous produce. I’ve found it’s easier to find farm-to-table produce here than in my home state and that farm-to-table isn’t limited to higher-end eateries. That’s the insalata mista at Dough Pizzeria in San Antonio.

    I do believe wholeheartedly (pun intended) that as food and wine professionals, we have a responsibility to project balance (aequitas) and good common sense in our daily lives and eating habits.

    Above: Ceviche, camaronillas, and grilled mahi mahi tacos at Bahia Don Bravo in Bird Rock, La Jolla (San Diego). Photo by Tracie B.

    When we go home to visit in La Jolla, Tracie B and I do tend to indulge in foods we can’t find here in Texas, Asian cuisine in particular. On this recent trip, I took mama Judy to lunch at Spicy City (an excellent Szechuan restaurant in Kearny Mesa, San Diego, highly recommended). Or the superior seafood (see above) we find at places like Bahia Don Bravo in Bird Rock (La Jolla) or Bay Park Fish Company on Mission Bay.

    I’m not sure what Italian Wine Guy has in store for us tonight but I know tomorrow’s “supper” will center around Kim’s (i.e., IWG’s SO’s) secret recipe for chicken fried steak.

    Stay tuned… There’s more food porn to come. Thanks for reading, everyone, and happy weekend!

    Post scriptum: with this post I’ve added a new category to Do Bianchi — de santitatis or on health.