By Christine Jackson
SPANNOCCHIA, Siena – If this trip has taught us anything (and it certainly has), it’s to better consider where our food comes from.
We’ve travelled Tuscany tasting products made by people who truly care about food and sustainable living. They do the best they can to grow and produce foods that not only taste good, but are responsible. They use products that are good for people and work in sustainable ways. It’s a more difficult, but the end result is worth it.
Giovanni Fabbri uses ancient grains and old ways of producing pasta. He makes far less in a year than major producers do, but he makes a better product that’s better for you.
Not far away at Pruneti Olive Oil Company, new and constantly evolving machinery produces olive oil without heat. The cold press technique gets less oil from the fruits, but the oil has better flavor and more nutritional value.
Are you sensing a theme here? I am. Quality, not quantity, is what makes things special here.
Now, sitting at a table at Spannocchia, a farm estate in the hills of Siena, we’re closer to our food than ever. Across the yard is a wall, and below that a vegetable garden that supplies fresh produce for the meals here. Up a winding gravel road, the piglets and sows we visited earlier are probably still roaming around and trying to beat the heat in their mud puddles. The bottles of olive oil on the tables are from Sicily, but only because 2014 was rough on the grove of trees you pass on the way to the front door. Bottles of the same wine that fills our glasses at lunch and dinner sit in the storeroom around the corner, waiting to be labeled, while a season of red wine waits a while longer in the huge metal vats.
Nobody here is producing massive amounts of food. But they’re producing everything at a high quality and preserving a culture and way of life far more satisfying than any convenience. Those pigs at the top of the hill were once endangered, but now have a population in the ten thousands. Other estates have been broken up and turned into resorts, but instead Spannocchia remains mostly intact and continues to produce while also educating lucky visitors like ourselves.
This is a life I’ve never found romantic like some people do. I want to live in a big city, and I’m not what you would call outdoorsy. But I’m starting to see the appeal of a place like this. Everything tastes better, and everyone loves what they do. It’s not a bad way to live.
Not everyone can do it, of course. The world has to be fed, and no one has figured out how to produce the highest quality and the highest quantity at the same time. But it may be worth the few extra dollars here and there to invest in these people, their products and the quality of the food you eat. And even if it isn’t for you, know that there is a difference.