I have to share a secret with you . . . shhh, don't tell anyone, it's actually quite embarrassing . . . but when I first arrived in Italy, I had no idea that vegetables had a season. I know, pretty pitiful. And, I was an adult when I moved here. Like 28. Not a clueless little child or an irresponsible teen, but a grownup who had been cooking for herself for years.
So, what was wrong with me? Obviously, a large part of it was that I wasn't paying any attention whatsoever to the natural rhythms of the earth . . . and all that. I have always been a city girl. The kind who thinks milk creates itself spontaneously in a cartoon and that eggs come from the egg factory.
Well, not really that bad, but almost.
The fact of the matter is that having grown up in the US, I was accustomed to going to the supermarket and buying just about whatever fruits or vegetables my heart desired at whatever time of the year that urge hit me. If it wasn't in season in my area, it was surely in season somewhere else in the world and had been shipped in for my convenience.
When I first arrived in this small provincial city in southern Italy some 20 years ago, there were no large supermarkets. At all. None. Oh, they had places they called "supermarkets," but there was very little "super" about them. They were tiny little claustrophobic spaces with three, maybe four, overcrowded lanes you could barely push your child's toy of a cart through . . . and a very limited selection of produce.
The place to buy your veggies here is at the fruttivendola, your greengrocer. These can range from a smallish hole in the wall to a chair outside someone's front door on which they have set the offerings from their plot of land out in the countryside.
|No genetically modified food here!
When you see a set-up like this, you know that food is fresh! Fresh, yes, but it's a rather limited selection. If your heart's desire is asparagus, but asparagus season has passed, you're just out of luck, aren't you?
That's why I have learned to cook with what's in season. It makes more sense to eat what's locally available, freshly picked from the fields, anyway. Better for you, too, I'm sure.
So, what's in season here in Puglia right now? Green beans! I've got a fast and easy pasta recipe for you over on Charming Italy. All you need to do is throw some green beans, cherry tomatoes and seasoned ricotta onto your spaghetti and you'll have yourself a fresh, light and delicious Italian meal.
Try it and let me know what you think, ok?