September 23, 2019

La Dolce Villa: Finding Life Purpose in a Tuscan Kitchen

After my second year of college I decided to take time off studies and moved to Italy. In short, I had an epiphany while on a mushroom-induced psychedelic trip.

It was a perfect sunny spring weekend and while most of the other students were wasted on cheap beer, I was blissfully prancing through Brown’s ivy-clad campus and many other of the whimsical corners of the east side of Providence with my roommate.  I think it was in a museum garden when the epiphany took form. It became incredibly clear to me that I needed to write about life and love, which needed to be learned from experience itself, that is, not from academia alone.

Knowing that I was going to live in a foreign country without the financial aid of my parents was understood as part of the schema. I would set out with the few thousand dollars I had saved up from a summer working for my dad’s carpet business and the bat-mitzvah money I had received from family and friends when I was 13. I would find work to further support myself for the year.

I assumed I’d go to Mexico as I had spent several summers as a supervisor of community health projects there. But the day after I told my parents, and hence the day after my mother’s reactionary conniption, my mom had a fateful chance encounter that informed her of a live-work opportunity for an English speaking student- in Rome.

Italy was not even on my radar. That I had been studying Italian language for two years did not even factor into my destination-daydreaming. I thought all Italians dressed in Armani and drove Ferraris- a clear contradiction to my sloppy 20-year-old self.

“>crostini al vin santo is the basis for my definition of good food: It makes you want to roll on the floor shouting MAMMMMMMMMAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!

Maria’s food became the standard by which I still aspire to make all food. I am not there yet. In all fairness, she’s working with ingredients grown in Tuscany and I am doing the best I can with what can be found in the U.S. With some money, you can find better ingredients, but nothing can buy the rich mineral dirt that produces the stuff Italian food is made of. Furthermore, Maria was close to 60 when I met her at Geggianello. So she has a lot of years on me; she has had more time in the kitchen.