Friday, January 15, 2016

Post-peak Italian Food



Post-peak Italian food: a lunch with organ meats, bread, and a glass of red wine. The beauty of life is in its small pleasures. 


If you are not a Florentine, you may be under the impression that the food of Florence is mostly a sophisticated combination of such things as "Carpaccio" and pasta with truffle. But, as it is often the case, reality is in the eye of the beholder. Depending on who you are and what you are doing in Florence, your culinary experience may considerably vary.

In particular, given the economic situations, for most local people there is no money left for fancy food. So, the past few years have seen a considerable renaissance of a traditional Florentine food: organ meats sold at roadside stalls.  You can see an example of this kind of food in the snapshot above, taken today.

This is is a kind of lunch not directed to the average tourist (who is not prevented from trying it, either!). It is popular both with blue collar workers and office workers, both categories having been badly hit by the crisis. In comparison to the classic hamburger from a fast food outlet, it is tastier and you see what you are eating. Also, I am reasonably sure that the meat doesn't come from very far away. Whether it is also a healthy lunch, it is, of course, debatable, but I can personally attest of never having suffered ill effects to my digestive system from this kind of food. But, in the end, its fundamental characteristics is of being very inexpensive: it is what makes it "post peak food."

Of course, it remains to be seen how organ meat stalls will survive such things as a possible global collapse of the kind I call "Seneca Collapse." But, for the time being, it is one of those small things in life that you can still enjoy.

Below, a picture of yours truly, Ugo Bardi, drinking his wine with his lunch, today. Sorry for looking like a jailbird or something, it was in the open and it was cold. Also, behind me, you can see a glimpse of the architecture of the place; obviously nothing like the majestic Renaissance architecture of downtown Florence!


























Note 1. See also some musings of mine on ancient Florentine cuisine from the "Chimeras" blog.

Note 2: Several commenters noted the plastic containers. Yes, they are unsustainable and let me tell you more: after finishing your lunch, you are supposed to throw everything, plastics and food scraps (and glass or aluminum if you ordered a beer) into a single container. Not even a feeble attempt at separating the waste in its different components. I asked the sellers why they don't separate the waste, and they looked at me as if I were a nerd (which I am, after all) and then answered me by asking why should they bother. Which I think is significant. We'll use plastic and throw it away as long as we can have it, and then move to something else, as long as we can have it. But recycling plastics? Well, it is for nerds. 

21 comments:

  1. I've got to ask. What is "organ meat"?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. AKA "offal" in English

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Offal

      Delete
    2. More in detail, the dish you see in the picture contains (not sure how to translate), "leg", "abomasum" ("lampredotto") and something else that I am not sure I can identify.

      Delete
    3. A snooty grandfather of mine observed that sausage is the Wurst kind of food because what it is made from is just offal. Bismark remarked on the similarities of sausage making and law making. I still believe in the rule of law and sausage but I envy your ability to handle wine with lunch — due to a cruel twist of genetics I must avoid alcohol until late afternoon.

      My not-so-snooty grandmother observed that eating Sunday dinner every day of the week ruins more than your purse. Healthy wisdom for After-The-Fall.

      Delete
    4. Ah, ok. I'd just never heard it called that before. But then there's offal and offal. ;) Liver and kidneys are ok but most of the rest of it, I can't face unless it's disguised as Haggis.

      Delete
    5. Well, I am not so sure about the concept of "offal", and not even about haggis! Organ meat seems clearer to me, at least in its local version

      Delete
    6. Well, I am not so sure about the concept of "offal", and not even about haggis! Organ meat seems clearer to me, at least in its local version

      Delete
    7. Also, let me say that it is considered legit in Italy to have a little alcohol for lunch, provided that you don't exaggerate, of course. In my case, I note that one glass of red wine doesn't hamper in any way my performance after lunch. It might even enhance it. It must be something in my Italian genetic code, because with beer it doesn't work at all!

      Delete
    8. Pretty much what my father and family remember eating back in the Dopoguerra period (Rome and points south), although I think overall it was heavier on the bread and less so on the meat and wine part. Salute

      Delete
  2. I wouldn’t say we eat a lot of organ meat. But on our farm we eat a fair amount of tongue, kidney, liver, pig trotters and the like. It seems like the thing to do if you are going to eat meat, eat everything but the “squeal”. And I’m sure on the downward slope we are travelling many will begin to eat those parts in dishes again.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Oh, but wine from a plastic cup: that IS the End of the World!

    Your reports from real Italy much appreciated.

    ReplyDelete
  4. So much plastic! I suppose post peak there will be less of these disposables since the production chain used to make and distribute them would have failed. I'm afraid you'd have to wash your own dishes after eating.

    Also, I am Chinese (race not nationality) so eating organs is pretty common practice :) Good one too, not to waste perfectly edible food!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Replies
    1. The lowest life-forms eaten in Italy are snails, "chiocciole", the equivalent of the French "Escargots," although they are less popular here. Not insects, but not hot blooded creatures, either.

      Delete
  6. Yeah, yeah, everyone is noticing the plastic containers. I know, it is not something sustainable. But I think it tells us something, too. I added a small note to the text on this subject

    ReplyDelete
  7. I am not an authority on recycling, but I believe plastic 'contaminated' with food is not meant to be put into recycle bins? But, yeah as long as there are no incentives or benefits to do it, most won't.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think food contamination is not so critical for plastic recycling as it is for paper. But the more I think about this subject, the more I think that plastic has been a curse on humankind. It should be abolished the way we abolished lead in gasoline and asbestos on roofs. (the latter not everywhere, though)

      Delete
    2. Yes, I am wondering more and more if modern industrialisation should be considered another of the 'progressive' (sic) diseases, chronic and bound to get worse?

      best
      Phil

      Delete
  8. Americans are generally too pure to serve organ meat. I have only seen beef tongue (Spanish: lengua) at a Mexican restaurant.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Shawn,
      It may be regional. But in the South we still eat plenty of organ meat.
      Brian

      Delete
  9. To stay in the field of "alternative" meat eating, if any of you happen to pass trough the city of Trieste here in Italy, I ***strongly*** suggest that you try a "panino di lingua con senape e kren" ("panino" with pork tongue, mustard and horseradish) & some "capuzi garbi" ("sour sauerkraut", more or less... :-) at the local eatery known as "Pepi Sciavo" (really "Buffet da Pepi") near Piazza della Borsa.

    Apologies for the ad, but a "panino di lingua con senape e kren" is a MUST HAVE eating experience for anyone!!! ;-D

    ReplyDelete

Who

Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome and the author of "Extracted: how the quest for mineral resources is plundering the Planet" (Chelsea Green 2014)