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Thursday, 21 March 2013

Door To Door In Tuscany

It is no secret that the world economy is in a rather bad shape. Every day brings new headlines of companies or countries in deep financial trouble and talks of the time frame needed to recover are enough to concern the most optimistic amongst us. In such a depressing environment you have the choice to either wait for the storm to pass or to try and take your fate into your own hands. The second option is exactly what some young Italian citizens have elected to do.

Take the agricultural sector in Tuscany as an example. Not easy to make a living out of tending your own fields nowadays but it does offer a number of opportunities asking to be explored. If you are prepared to work hard and to be inventive it could very well pay off in the end. This reasoning has now started an interesting trend: If the customers do not or cannot come to you then go to the customers. Packing their vans to the hilt with top quality goods, these visionary men and women travel the Tuscan roads up and down the picturesque hills, bringing their products to their expanding clientele. Who do they visit? Mostly families too busy to complement their weekly shopping with fresh produce in between or inhabitants of remote villages, many of them older and without the necessary car that would take them to the nearest town. The majority of village shops have disappeared over the years, enabling this new breed of entrepreneurs to find their niche in the market.

Another idea is to bring a specific product to an area where it would not be easy to find it. Fish is the perfect illustration of that concept. If you live by the sea you will of course be spoiled for choice in the form of local fishermen or fish markets. But when you have made your home inland the sight of a refrigerated truck pulling up on the main square on market days will be very welcome.

Nicely ripe, sun-kissed fruit and extra fresh vegetables that have just been pulled out of the soil are also proving a hit. One entrepreneur selling baskets of home grown produce saw his customer base triple simply through word of mouth. Regional specialties are popular too: olive oil, sausages, pasta, biscuits or jams, to name but a few.

These initiatives have turned struggling and often unemployed women and men into business people. They may not have come up with anything new; they have however re-invented themselves, finding pleasure and enthusiasm in their working days again.

Article Source: Articlesbase/Business/Entrepreneurship 
Author: K J S

Friday, 15 March 2013

Italian Body Language

Article first published as Italian Body Language on Technorati.  

Every European nation has been attributed its own clichés: The French complain a lot but are romantic, the Germans have no sense of humor but work very hard, The Spanish are loud but welcoming, etc. You will agree I think that an entire nation cannot be cataloged into such narrow boxes. I happen to live in Germany and most people I have encountered do have a sense of humor. They are also in the vast majority very helpful, warm and welcoming towards my family and myself.

One cliché I do find to be true, though, is how important body language is to Italians. Perhaps I especially notice it as it has been pointed out to me that I am prone to "speaking with my hands". No doubt this is the Italian blood in me coming to the surface!

During a visit to the lesser known perhaps but absolutely gorgeous region of the Marches, we encountered many local people and enjoyed watching them interacting. Our house was close to the lovely walled city of Urbino, to which we cycled on a magnificent sunny day. Comfortably sitting down at a café terrace and having ordered much needed refreshments, I began to discreetly look at our neighbors. Now my Italian is rather basic, and I did not try, nor did I want, to pry. I just observed people instead.

Two women in their mid-thirties, I would say, we engrossed in a passionate and obviously very amusing discussion. They both kept throwing their heads back, laughing heartily, hands alternatively flying to their mouths and to their hearts. Their eyes were twinkling, and they were having trouble keeping the loudness of their voices under control. Behind them I spotted a woman with two young boys. The look of love in her eyes, her head half tilted, the way she kept patting their heads and pinching their round cheeks, all this told me that she was their mother. She had a game of blowing them kisses, pulling a funny face at the same time, which kept the little ones highly entertained. On the other side, a middle age couple look as though they were going through a stormy patch in their relationship. Hands were pointing accusingly at each other, and it seemed that reproaches were being uttered through clenched teeth. After a while, they both sat back and fell silent, looking away from each other, arms firmly crossed on their chests. Finally, I rested my gaze on a group of teenagers, the girls pretending not to be flirting while the boys clearly were competing for their attention. They kept getting up, throwing their arms on the side, and looking deeply into the eyes of the girl they were desperate to impress. In return the said girl usually gave a small smile and intense look, only to quickly resume her demure position.
As they walked away, I noticed hands being held and heads resting on shoulders. I could not help but smile: the courting had clearly been successful!

body language

Friday, 8 March 2013

Fresh Mozzarella

In the midst of the current food scandals, it is getting more and more difficult to trust what is on our plates. Horsemeat used instead of the advertised beef? Fish incorrectly labelled? Eggs produced by battery hens but sold as organic? We have all read these scary articles in the newspapers, with a sinking feeling in our stomachs and our hearts.

It is however still possible to find people for whom food is a real passion. Tasty, wholesome, fresh food. Take Samuele Frascarelli for example. Samuele lives and works in a refuge in the Sibillini Mountains, close to Ascoli Piceno in the heart of the Marches. A gorgeous region located in the middle of Italy, Le Marche has been nicknamed the new Tuscany and is known for its many succulent dishes. The cook not only prepares his share of delicious recipes in the welcoming Capanna di Bolognola, he also makes his own cheese, bread and cured meat. On request Samuele will produce mozzarella or ricotta in front of guests, a riveting experience. Let's concentrate on the process of producing mozzarella. 

Both pasteurized and non-pasteurized buffalo or cow's milk can be used to prepare this soft, versatile cheese. When made out of unpasteurized milk the mozzarella has to be eaten on the same day, whereas the pasteurized version will keep for a few days. A good three hours of fermentation turns the milk into the unrefined version of the cheese. This paste is then chopped into small chunks that are then plunged into boiling water. The temperature shock turns the paste into a stringy lump that needs to be worked on, the water being removed little by little, until the mass acquires the right texture. The mozzarella can then be shaped into whatever form, although it is normally sold as a big ball or a bag of little ones. To watch Samuele shape the cheese he has created from scratch is quite fascinating. The last step is a short immersion into salted water, which will give the mozzarella its taste. Try a bite before and after and you will easily spot the difference this last part of the process makes.


It is then time to savour the fresh cheese. The traditional way to do so would be of course in the company of ripe, dark red tomatoes, a bunch of fresh basil leaves, good quality olive oil and aceto di Balsamico and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. But a slice of mozzarella arranged on top of crusty bread and dipped into olive oil works just as well.

Article Source: Articlesbase/Travel/Destinations 
Author: K J S