Once again we were surprised at the turn-out at our ToscanaIN July 11th event in English. 75 people participated in the evening in which we learned that Scots are tender and well hung, that in China good hosts will choose your food for you even if you don’t like it, and that in Mexico they think anything without chili in it is flavourless.
Deborah Spini (Syracuse University in Florence) with her usual energy, convincingly argued that food is political and brought up some interesting points about the image of Italy around the table being closely related to the lack of women in the workplace, especially in southern Italy. Irene Qi, a member of our sister organization MilanIN who has her own consulting company, Europe-Asia solutions, provided three useful pieces of advice for those attending a formal dinner in China. Marcia Cristina Baroni told personal tales of encounters with food based on her extensive travels – she’s worked for Eli Lilly in Canada, Mexico, Brasil, USA, and now Italy, exposing her to plenty of traditions!
In between talks we enjoyed the tale of making and eating cantucci by photographer and blogger Emiko Davies, and the calm, bright scandinivian-style spaces rendered by Sofie Delauw. Both short films received enthusiastic applause.
Robin Donald of the consulting company This Little Piggy had the crowd laughing from the start, arguing that Rome has contributed nothing at all to our culinary culture except, admittedly, grapes… but that the recipe for haggis was known by the Romans, and of course perfected by the Scots, who do everything better. The concept of the “Italian arse” was introduced, an ability to sit on hard dinner chairs without having a numb rear, and for this we eternally thank Robin. Finally, Rebecca Winke – writer and hotelier at Brigolante – told her tale of acceptance of the Umbrian tradition of the annual pig slaughter despite being an “urban vegetarian,” for in this tradition is a respect of the animal, the earth, and the people of that territory.
Guests enjoyed the ample aperi-cena prepared by Paula from American Salad Co in the beautiful gardens of Syracuse University in Florence.
This event provided an opportunity to bring in speakers and attract guests from out of town, which is unusual for ToscanaIn. Irene, Robin, and Rebecca traveled to Florence especially for this occasion. Guests, many of them expat writers attending a ToscanaIN event for the first time, came in from the Lucca, Pisa, and Senese areas. Surprisingly, over half the public was Italian, proving that there is demand in the city for opportunities like this one that generate cultural confrontation in an approachable manner.