From the archives: August 28, 2016, In Honor of Italy

Sara Leikin Sara Leikin

1000 Words

A photograph is worth (at least) a thousand words. Here are my thousand words to describe photographs, techniques, and the moments that make the image.

From the archives: August 28, 2016, In Honor of Italy
From the archives: August 28, 2016, In Honor of Italy

In September 2015, I spent a beautiful week in Cortona, Italy at the Cortona Center of Photography. A hill town in Tuscany, it might be famous for its role in Frances Mayes' Under The Tuscan Sun, but for me it will always be the place that confirmed my love of photography and appreciation for the ever-elusive terroir. 

Terroir is an interesting phrase. From the French, it literally means "land", and is often used to define the natural environment that produces a particular wine. But to me, it goes beyond wine to describe the often undefinable qualities of good produce or a good meal eaten and enjoyed on its home turf. If you garden, and you have ever eaten a vegetable straight off the plant and still warm from the sun- that you planted and nurtured- you know terroir. To this day, I refuse to eat corn on the cob unless it's grown in Ohio. If you have never had Ohio sweet corn, you cannot be expected to understand the complete joy and nostalgia that is warm ears of Ohio sweet corn bought at a farm stand and reminding you of cicadas buzzing, fireflies on a hot summer evening and dim flashes of heat lightening in the distance. Of course, you likely have your own food memories, related to a time and place that are as much about the moment as it is about the actual taste. Terroir is this idea, of that ethereal quality that makes something taste better, makes it linger in your mind, and is rooted to a singular place. 

Nowhere have I ever experienced this feeling as much as when I was in Tuscany. Every meal, every glass of Tuscan wine was distinctly local. Every cut of meat, every piece of produce at the weekly market had a story that was undeniably linked to this gorgeous land. The steak at Trattoria Tacconi could only have been prepared by Angelo and Graziella. The anchovies packed tight in salt at the market. Spinach and ricotta gnocchi in truffle sauce at Trattoria La Grotta. And mascarpone and fig gelato at Gelato ti amo was a revelation.... and a flavor that I have yet to find anywhere else.  

As pictures and video surface this week of the devastating earthquake in central Italy, my heart breaks for the proud people of this region. The devastation of historic towns and the loss of life are hard to fathom for me, and obviously more so (and more painfully) for them. But I also know that they are of that land, that they are as much a part of the terroir as the crops they grow and the wine they make. They will return, rebuild, regrow.

Chi mangia sulo s'affoga.

And they will never eat alone.


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