Wednesday, September 19, 2012

All Very Idyllic, But...

"A Year in the Village of Eternity:  The Lifestyle of Longevity in Campodimele, Italy" by Tracey Lawson   Bloomsbury   374 pages   $30

Lawson writes that 111 of the 671 people living here are between 75 and 98 years old.  She adds this means that 16.6 per cent of the population is over 75.  The Italian average mortality age is 77.5 years for men; 83.5 for women. 

She reports that they work like beavers in the fresh, mountain air to grow their crops, can and preserve food and eat as little processed food as possible.  The women make pasta/bread daily, can during the summers to provide food for the winter, tend the chickens and work in their fruit and vegetable gardens.  The men keep an eye on the goats, plant crops, tend the olive trees, use horses to gather wood for the home fire.  All of it active work. 

They eat very little meat, mainly the odd chicken that's grown too old to lay; a Fall wild boar, every scrap of which is used to make something.  They make their own sausages and either air dry them or pack them into jars and cover the sausages with olive oil. 

Their main seasoning is this (always this) -- olive oil, white wine vinegar, pinch of salt and another pinch of chilies.  White wine vinegar?  What happened to balsamic?

The book has a double section of 4/c photos of many of these older people (all of the women are fat, not overweight.  Fat)  and the simple dishes they prepare.  Seasonal is stressed above all -- the first asparagus, sour cherries, etc.  But:  they can tons of tomatoes to use in the winter.  Slow fast food?

It amazed me to learn that they seem to depend  primarily on eggs for their protein.  Time after time, a recipe says, "Stir in four beaten eggs;"  for a frittata "beat 10 fresh eggs..." A perfectly acceptable light lunch is two eggs, fried in olive oil, eaten with bread and some fresh fruit for dessert.  (By contrast, Richie and I each eat one egg every Sunday.)

She paints an idyllic picture, but the reality depressed me.  Olive oil, white wine vinegar, salt and chilies to flavor EVERYTHING?  I think of the wonderful varieties we eat all of the time -- Thai or Asian or Barbecue...

They don't even add garlic!  "Flatten it with a knife blade, cook it a little bit and discard it.  You just want the olive oil to absorb the flavor."  One of the great joys of my life is a clove of garlic, grated, in olive oil and chunks of baguette to dip into it and eat!

I wish all of them well, but no civilization could stand to live like that even if the person made it to 100 and beyond.  Only to eat more of the same seasoning?  Feh!

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