The food, like most everything here, is rustic and simple. Breakfast and dinner are up to us to make on our own or as a group, but lunch comes from the restaurant. We get homemade milk, yogurt, bread, apples, vegetables (maybe the sweetest tomatoes I’ve ever tasted), eggs and honey from the farm along with basics like pasta, olive oil and of course, coffee.
My breakfast is usually toast with honey and/or Cascina’s strawberry jam or cherry preserves, some fruit and if I’m lucky, yogurt. The yogurt is thinner than what you get in America; not mealy like many organic yogurts from health food stores. It’s pure and perfect, especially with a bit of fragole jam or miele mixed in. We eat lunch outside in the restaurant’s veranda; usually salad with pasta with veggies, salad, bread, olive oil and wine, often from the bottles they ran out of labels for. Dinner depends on who’s cooking, but aside from one night of rabbit, is vegetarian. Azdin makes a mean spiced pumpkin in his tagine, and Carlos makes delicious dishes typical of Northern Italy, like tonight’s risotto with fried onion, apple and pumpkin. Sometimes Francesco shares something special made by his mom. He says “Calbria! Mangia!” so I mangia. One night it was a peppery, spreadable salami; another night it was eggplant preserves and peperoncino, a spicy red chili pepper sauce that smells hot and sweet and tastes sweeter when you heat it in a pan and dip bread in it.
During my walk through Milano, I met a charming 50 or 60-something architect Alfonso, who walked me from La Basilica Santa Maria delle Grazie to La basilica di Sant’Ambrogio. His advice to me (everyone I met, no matter how briefly, seemed to have some to share) was “Drink some wine! But only a little wine; not too much.” I’ve been following his advice, drinking a glass or two, occasionally three, with nearly every lunch and dinner. Normally, I find that I can get headaches and hangovers without even being drunk the night before. Here, never. I’m able to get up bright and early without feeling like I need a gallon of water and lots more sleep or I’ll keel over and upchuck. This is the beauty of natural wine. More on biodynamic winemaking to come, but the basic idea is this: no pesticides, no additives, no headaches.
One of the best things about working in a biodynamic farm, in pesticide-free vineyards, is that I can eat everything I see. Haven’t come across any poison berries yet. If I happen to pass a walnut, fig, apple, chestnut or pear tree, or fancy a cluster or ten of grapes, I pick what I want and eat it. When I want a whole bowl of those sweet, sweet pomodori for myself, I sneak into the polytunnel on the farm and pick some. It’s a simple concept – picking clean food and eating it – but to me, an obsessive fruit and veggie washer at home, it’s positively thrilling.