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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Slow Food..Slow Living & a Sunflower Field

Guest Author: Daniel Dorr
copyright 2010, art of living,PrimaMedia,Inc

Imagine sitting down to dinner in the warm Mediterranean air around a table with your extended family for hours, as the sun is setting on a filed of  sunflowers  A waiter comes to fill your already stained red wine glasses, while an accordion player is sounding their last heart throbbing note. This picturesque moment may seem dream-like, but it doesn’t have to be if you know where to go while travelling the Italian Peninsula.

The international Slow Food Movement was started in Italy to preserve this type of dining experience. Since then its recognition has spanned around the globe, and their establishments have even started to arrive in metropolitan areas of the US. Mediterranean life is described as being a much more laid back style of living compared to most Western societies. The organization’s intent was to protect Italy’s dining habits from expanding Western companies, such as McDonalds. To embody their message protestors armed with penne pasta pelted the first Roman fast-food establishment showing their disapproval. Now if you’re not feeling as radical as these food lovers, you can align yourself with their cause by enjoying a meal at a Slow Food restaurant.

The Slow Food manifesto was written to preserve the traditional values of Italian dining – urging people to literally slow down their lifestyles. Who wouldn’t love for your boss to say, ‘take two hours for lunch and relax about that up-coming deadline’? Founder Carlo Petrirni suggests in the official statement, “suitable doses of guaranteed sensual pleasure and slow, long-lasting enjoyment preserve us from the contagion of the multitude who mistake frenzy for efficiency.” It is a proven anthropological fact that the best time of the day to create meaningful conversation is during a shared meal. Slow Food advocates are intending to prove this.

As well as creating a stimulating, relaxing environment for people to dine they are also very concerned with the type of foods they serve. Slow Food advocates are highly concerned that while food species have begun to be homogenized by agribusinesses that their local strains of vegetables and produce will be left extinct. In order to combat this, slow food restaurateurs have established relationships with environmentally conscious farmers (who use neither pesticides nor growth hormones), also trying to maintain their foot holes in the local produce market.

It’s all too easy while travelling in a new country, or any new place for that matter to fall back into your normal eating habits. You can “grab a quick bite” anywhere in the world, but to really experience a foreign land you must eat like an Egyptian – or however that old saying goes. No matter how many tourist attractions you see you can never really get a feel for a new culture without indulging in local cuisine and restaurants. One of the most prominent restaurateurs in Italy for Slow Food is Fabrio Picchi. His restaurants are world renowned and located in Florence, which I will characterize in my next article in this series, A Slow Stroll from Milano to Palermo.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Five Tenors of Italian Cooking....

copyright 2919 art of living, PrimaMedia, Inc.
By: Emily Brauchle

The five major herbs used in Italian cooking have made just as much history as in the kitchen but sjust as much history outside the kitchen.. These herbs, basil, fennel, oregano, rosemary, and sage, have spiced up the history books from Greek and Roman empires to Italian cookbooks present day. The difference, however, is the uses. Herbs were prominently used for medicines, superstitions, and perfumes in the first years of human existence. Now, it would be seen as odd for someone to rub a leaf of a fragrant herb on themselves to smell better.

Basil represents a complete spectrum of things, from love and courting to hatred and scorpions, throughout different cultures. Basil originated in India, and its leaves were used to swear oaths upon in court rulings. As it was introduced to Italy however, it gained a softer respect, as basil was used for courting and represented love. Basil leaves have many medicinal uses you can use. Basil is most commonly used for digestive problems, from clearing gas to stomach cramps, to constipation. Basil can be ingested as basil tea, as well as herbal capsules, where the leaves are ground and dried.

Fennel originated in India, Egypt and China. It symbolizes flattery and heroism in Roman societies, while in medieval times it was kept in rafters and keyholes to keep out ghosts and spirits. In 812, Charlemagne declared it essential in all gardens due to its healing powers, which popularized fennel in Europe for fighting diseases. Fennel also has a reputation for weight loss, as it means marathon in Greek, which means ‘to grow thin’. It is known to promote digestion and jumpstart your appetite.

Oregano, probably the most commonly thought of Italian herb, actually originated in the Mediterranean. The goddess Aphrodite was said to have created oregano, giving it its fragrance and flavor for men to enjoy. In medieval times, oregano was chewed to cure rheumatism, toothaches, indigestion, and coughs. Oregano contains acid, which has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and anti-viral properties, making oregano the most potent plant-derived antiseptic, according to studies at Delaware State University. Who would’ve known? You can be curing toothaches while flavoring you favorite dish or olive oil.

Rosemary just reeks of superstition along the ages. A rosemary twig under your pillows keeps away the nightmares, but a rosemary necklace attracts elves. Rosemary is the emblem of fidelity for lovers. Sicilians believed that youthful faeries hid along rosemary branches. Burning rosemary will keep away everything and anything, from evil ghost and spirits to illnesses. Nowadays, rosemary can be used to treat symptoms of nervousness and improve memory by burning it as incense.

Sage was known as the herb of the mind, as it improved mental acuteness, wisdom, and psychic powers. Sage was said to have come from satyrs, half-man, half-goat creatures who loved parties, wine, and sex, so who knows what affects this magical herb can have on someone? Sage tea is beneficial for sore throats.

Who would have known that the same spices sprinkled on your food, were created by gods, fought evil spirits, and cured sicknesses? The next time you pop a forkful of pasta into your mouth and wonder how someone could achieve such perfection, remember the magic of the herbs, because apparently, there’s a lot of mojo mixed up in them all.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Herbs: Economical, Extravagant & Efficient

copyright 2010, art of living,PrimaMedia,Inc

Guest Author: Emily Brauchle

It’s been a long day at work, and a luxurious Italian dish sounds welcoming. You pull out the needed ingredients of your favorite red sauce recipe from the pantry and spice cabinet. Wait. The spice cabinet? Could that sound any more predictable? I think not.

Instead, picture yourself walking to an aromatic balcony blooming with fresh herbs from decorative planting pots, and plucking a perfect basil or oregano stem from its place. These fragrant herbs are free from pesticides and chemicals, and they’re costing you about a fourth of the money you would have normally spent to buy fresh herbs at any farmers’ market. These herbs could make your favorite red sauce all the more special.

As the season metamorphosis into spring, the perfect opportunity for planting waggles it’s eyebrows at you as you read this. Yes, planting a garden can be hard work. No, you really don’t have time for all that sweat and weeding, nor do you have space on your lawn to flip into a construction site. It’s just too bad, because you would really love all of those fresh herbs, right?

Well, here’s a secret. Anyone and everyone can easily manage an herb garden. You don’t even need a lawn. Herbs can be effortlessly grown and managed in planting pots (the same planting pots you glanced at in your favorite store few weeks ago to notice the cute color schemes). Seeds cost no more than a few cents, and all you have to do is plant, water, and repeat. If you were to plant some of the basic Italian herbs (such as sage, oregano, basil, fennel, and rosemary for example), the whole garden would cost you about $50-$60 to create.

Mind you, there are a few precautions when dealing with herb gardens. For instance, herbs need soil that is well managed. Don’t freak out. All you would need is a planting pot that has drainage holes in the bottom to let excess water leak. Make sure the herbs get plenty of sun, as most herbs reach a fuller plumage with sunlight. Most herbs are also sensitive to cold weather, so if you’re expecting a frost, just place the pots in your kitchen or foyer for the night.

Come on. You know you want to. Herb gardens are beneficial and economical, as well as a great way to make your food taste better. Go for it and better yourself, as well as your favorite dish.

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Get recipes for your herbs in the Award winning book The Basic Art of Italian Cooking: Holidays & Special Occasions
 **Special Appearance: May 25th, 11 AM, Book Expo America, Javits Convention Center, NY, NY, The Basic Art of Italian Cooking: Holidays & Special Occasions pre-release of second edition with Maria Liberati. First 100 visitors receive a free mini  version of the book