‘Garfagnana Dove Il Tempo Non Corre’ is the motto printed on aprons sold by the tourist office in Castelnuovo di Garfagnana. It means literally, ‘Garfagnana where time doesn’t run’. We might say, ‘where time stands still’. In fact, it creeps along slowly.
A slow apron
I’ve just reread a piece by Rebecca Solnit in the London Review of Books (29 August 2013) in which she reflects on some of the effects our electronic age have had on our experience of time: the interruptions to our concentration, the fragmentation of our solitude and relationships. She wonders how far we will allow big corporations to shatter our lives. Will we all be wearing Google glasses with continuous pop-up messages reminding us of practicalities while causing us to forget to ‘contemplate the essential mysteries of the universe and the oneness of things’?
Then she muses:
‘I wonder sometimes if there will be a revolt against the quality of time the new technologies have brought us… Or perhaps there already has been, in a small, quiet way. The real point about the slow food movement was often missed. It wasn’t food. It was about doing something from scratch, with pleasure, all the way through, in the old methodical way we used to do things. That didn’t merely produce better food; it produced a better relationship to materials, processes and labour, notably your own, before the spoon reached your mouth. It produced pleasure in production as well as consumption. It made whole what is broken.’
Reading this I realise it’s that wholeness I see in the producers to whom I take my clients: an immersion and satisfaction in what they do. It’s not that they don’t have to work hard or that they don’t have troubles, but that doing something from start to finish, from sowing to harvest, from slaughter to salami, from fiber to fabric, for themselves, their families and their communities produces a contentment way beyond the monetary value of their work.
I can think of so many examples it’s hard to know where to start or stop.
Ismaele Turri rears pigs and makes salumi.
He bakes bread…
…in a wood-fired oven he built himself heated with wood he chopped himself. He didn’t grow the wheat, but he does grow farro and corn. The farm is an agriturismo which he and his wife Cinzia run. And he has a bar a short walk from the farm.
Ismaele still has time to teach his skills to others.
Paolo Magazzini is another unhurried multi-tasker. He’s a farro and beef cattle farmer. He fertilises his fields with the manure of the cattle. He ploughs, plants with his own seed corn, harvests and pearls the farro. He provides the pearling service for about a dozen other farmers.
Paolo proud of his farro of the Garfagnana IGP (photo: Andrew Bartley)
Paolo is also the village baker, carrying on his mother’s trade. His recipe includes his farro flour and his own potatoes.
Paolo carves the initials of my guests in the loaves they’ve made.
Time is suspended when Paolo tells a story. (photo: Alex Entzinger)
Romeo Ricciardi weaves with antique hemp.
His mother-in-law Carla prepares balls of hemp from the tangled skeins.
From her smile, I wonder if she’s thinking about the beautiful finished articles he weaves.
Romeo says he’s happiest at the loom and hunting funghi. (photo: Carolyn Kropf)
Marzia Ridolfi and her husband rear cows, sheep and goats which she milks twice a day.
She makes cheese from the milk.
Her hands press the whey from the curd. (photo: Anne Shelley)
Stefania Maffei loves the silkworms that connect her to her grandmother’s work.
Schoolchildren come to her workshop to learn about the history of their families and Lucca in the silk trade.
Severino Rocchi laughs during his work as a pork butcher. (photo: Margi Isom)
His brother Ubaldo and, even better, his son Gino work with him.
Gino will carry the business forward with a smile into the next generation. What more could any parent hope for?
Elements by Inger Sannes at Christopher Newport University, Virginia
Inger changed her career from business to art… (photo: Neal Johnson)
…and now expresses herself through her hands. (photo: Neal Johnson)
Carlo Galgani can make anything from metal…
…in his forge powered only by water.
Vitalina makes cheese from her goat milk…
…and matures her cheese on wooden boards.
It takes considerable inner fortitude to resist the health and safety inspectors who want her to use stainless steel.
Andrea Bertucci (centre) at his Osteria Il Vecchio Mulino (photo: Sergio Perrella)
Andrea is never short of time when he can spend it with customers who he feeds with his latest artisan food finds.
Roberto Gianarrelli abandoned driving a lorry to make craft beer.
He dreams up new recipes when he comes to check his beer in the middle of the night.
Daniela ladles cheese curd slowly by hand.
She has plenty of time to sit in the shade and play with her younger daughter.
Riccardo is a weekend truffle hunter…
…and the long hours he spends in the woods with his dog infuse his family and work life too.
Who knows what he’s contemplating while stirring polenta for his village festa.
The wholeness of my producers’ lives floods over to envelop my driver Andrea Paganelli and me.
For a moment we’ve escaped electronic intrusions. (photo: Neal Johnson)