Food lovers hardly need to be reminded that Italy, along with France, is one of the prime countries to visit if your idea of a perfect vacation consists mainly of finding good places to eat. I ready admit to being guilty of this, even when I was a teenager. At sixteen, when I went to France, I was interested in two things—cute boys and food, and not necessarily in that order.
In the New York Times, Matt Gross recently has written an article with the headline “Mangia, Mangia!” that sure makes you wish you were in Italy. He writes about joining an organization called Home Food, “an Italian organization dedicated to, as its promotional literature states, ‘the protection and increase of the value of typical Italian gastronomic and culinary legacy.’” Membership then allows you to go into actual Italian homes where families cook for you. Gross writes vividly about both the food and the families, and by the time I was done reading the article, I was ready for dinner, even though it was only 9:30 A.M. Ready for “hand-cut triangles of pasta with juicy zucchini, a dollop of sweet roasted pumpkin and a rosemary sauce bound with sheep’s-milk ricotta” and pasta “in a sauce of puréed and whole chickpeas (which the family had farmed itself).” And there was more. Much more.
Anyway, for a vicarious food experience, here is a link to Matt Gross’s piece.
Gross’s article started me thinking about what a Maine version of Home Food would be. Don’t laugh. Yankee food can be good food, and there are other ethnic groups in Maine, including Franco-Americans, my own group. We make pretty tasty tourtière pies, and our pea soup isn’t bad, either. But it seems to me that a Maine version of Home Food would be best as a summer event. When you live this far north, the local pickings are mighty slim in the winter. Of course, there is always seafood, which is good any time of year, and blueberries survive the freezing process amazingly well, which means tender blueberry cake can be on the menu even when there is snow on the ground. But my mind turns to fresh strawberries, corn, and new potatoes. Peas and string beans with a fresh, crisp snap.
One year, my husband, Clif, invited Jack, an out-of-state colleague, to stay with us. Jack had come to Maine from Utah to help my husband run a seminar. He came in July, and we plied him with Maine’s summer bounty—scallops, lobster, strawberry shortcake, and every other good thing we could think of. At night, Jack’s conversations to his wife revolved around what he had just had for dinner.
None of the food was fancy, but I think it’s fair to say that Jack left Maine with a good taste in his mouth. And what better way is there to leave a place?