Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Vegan Wine and Organic Food

The original title of this entry was "Vegan Wine and Organic Food: Unicorns of Southern Italy" because these concepts are truly foreign to these people. Early in the trip, Gretchen mentioned how the vegans see met on the first vegan tour and their lifestyle opened her eyes to new ideas. For example, she never knew
vegan wines existed or what it was that earned them that distinction before starting that particular tour. You soon find out that few Italians worth their weight in olive oil don't either.

Everyone tends to make their own wine or drink that of neighbors and friends. There are no animal products used. There are no harmful pesticides sprayed on their grapes, meticulously tended to on their properties. There are no preservatives added. For that reason, wine is wine is wine. Kept pure, kept simple. It is for this reason alone, a red-wine non-drinker like myself was able to indulge with no nasty headaches or hangovers from hell.

As far as organic is concerned, the local population is comprised of people who live off the land. As there are no massive factory farms to be found, their produce is not laced with toxic runoff poisons nor do they try to genetically manipulate their food.

Several mornings at the villa I had fresh mint tea flavored with the just picked rind of an orange from the garden. Simple, and fragrant. It reinforces the concept that tea drinking should stir your sense of smell as well as your taste buds.

Early on in the trip, we spent one day foraging for greens. The concept of people stopping by the side of the street to pick their greens for a salad seemed a bit strange, but I witnessed it enough times to know it was fact. While sampling wild fennel (that makes the BEST after dinner drink!) we kept our eyes peeled for the elusive wild asparagus. Unfortunately, southern Italian people love this little sprout, and all the "hot spots" for picking that Pasquale and Gretchen knew of were already picked bare. Wild asparagus picking is a serious event, and if you aren't fast it goes quickly.

We were a little dismayed, but were consoled on two fronts: 1) we got to see some picked by a gentleman who was on his way home to cook up his healthy score, and 2) our last night, we finally got to sample some at a local pizzeria/taverna, and it was delicious.

The simplicity and the ease in which one can be healthy for far less than it cost in the US is no wonder that so many ex pats embrace La Dolce Vita.

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