Traffic in Italy may be hectic, but most other parts of Italian life are much more laid back. And one of the most relaxed aspects is eating.
It is no coincidence that Italy is the home of the Slow Food Movement.
We are enslaved by speed and have all succumbed to the same insidious virus: Fast Life, which disrupts our habits, pervades the privacy of our homes and forces us to eat Fast Foods.
To be worthy of the name, Homo Sapiens should rid himself of speed before it reduces him to a species in danger of extinction.
A firm defense of quiet material pleasure is the only way to oppose the universal folly of Fast Life.
May suitable doses of guaranteed sensual pleasure and slow, long-lasting enjoyment preserve us from the contagion of the multitude who mistake frenzy for efficiency.
Our defense should begin at the table with Slow Food.
Let us rediscover the flavors and savors of regional cooking and banish the degrading effects of Fast Food.
In the name of productivity, Fast Life has changed our way of being and threatens our environment and our landscapes. So Slow Food is now the only truly progressive answer.
That is what real culture is all about: developing taste rather than demeaning it.
Slow food is a way of life in Italy.
Most people (in Termini Imerese at least) eat lunch at home. About 1:00 in the afternoon, shops close, schools let out and business executives head home.
The traditional meal begins with pasta. After that is finished and the plates are cleared, the meat course is served. This is often accompanied by a simple salad made with lettuce, oil, lemon and salt. The final course is fresh fruit.
On special occasions, the process is even more elaborate and deliberate.
I enjoyed such an experience one Sunday at a family celebration. The table was set up outside on a patio. Antipasti were set out about 12:30. We stood around chatting and snacking on olives, nuts and cheese.
About a half hour later we took our places around the table and were served bow-tie pasta with freshly-grated parmesan cheese.
The empty plates were taken away. And the table was loaded with various meat and vegetable dishes: roast beef, sausage, eggplant, spinach, baked pastry made with cheese and spinach, involtini, potatoes and carrots.
We leisurely sampled all the dishes until we were fully satisfied.
The tabled was deliberately cleared.
Then fresh strawberries were served.
We sat and talked for about half an hour.
The conversation continued for quite a while longer.
Here's an example of the relaxed atmosphere: As we were talking, the wind blew a plastic cup onto the ground. No one moved. In fact, everyone continued on as if it hadn't happened. I had to resist the urge to reach down and pick up the cup. Finally, several minutes later, I picked it up and put it back on the table, without a pause in the conversation or even a glance from anyone.
Of course, this was a special occasion. Every meal is not this deliberate. But the regular pranzo (lunch) is usually followed by riposo (a nap).
May we all learn to slow down and enjoy all the blessings of God's creation.
"Helping You Become the Person God Created You to Be"