Finocchiona and Fontina on Focaccia in Florence, Italy (2008)
I take some things for granted. Like that I didn’t have to harvest wheat to make bread or butcher a pig for curing meat or have the skill it takes to make a good aged cheese. Only occasionally do I think about all the work that goes into these things. If you go to the right places in Italy, it’s certain that multiple people with generations of wisdom paid attention to every ingredient you’re eating, from the moment it first walked or sprouted from the ground to the time it landed on your plate. Taking ingredients this seriously is a common practice here. Things like Florentine-style steak (Bistecca alla Fiorentina) in Tuscany and fresh buffalo milk mozzarella (mozzarella di bufala) in Campania owe so much to the farmers, butchers and cheesemongers that produced them, long before they ever reach the cook. Besides, when ingredients are this good, you really need only slice and serve... which puts this sandwich into perspective. It’s just 3 ingredients, fennel salami (finocchiona), Fontina cheese and olive oil focaccia bread. Simple right? Yeah, not really. It’s humbling to think that, while I certainly could have made this sandwich, there’s no way I could have made the individual ingredients, not even the bread – not this well. The fact that there are people who can make these things and grow the wheat, butcher the pig and make the cheese reminds me how far I have to go to catch up with the knowledge of the past.
Simplicity is one of the most difficult things.