I can’t help thinking of Carlo Petrini’s basic contention in his latest book, Good, clean and right. “If,” as he writes, “self-nourishment is an agricultural act, then production must be a gastronomic one.” What better way of expressing the osmotic relationship between the beautiful and the well made, which in gastronomy is tantamount to speaking of the relationship between goodness and ethics? There’s another statement by Mathias Dahlgren, chef-supreme at Stockholm, that I find equally tantalising. According to Dahlgren, the future of food is to be natural. The reader please note: not “organic” but “natural”. He then goes on to say: “Till now the challenge has been to produce a litre of milk as cheaply as possible. In the future it’ll probably be to produce the best milk possible.”
Back to Petrini now and his definition of animal husbandry as a gastronomic act. It’s undoubtedly true for the biodynamic farm near Stockholm that weekly turns out several tens of litres of milk that once drunk will never be forgotten. Nourishing and fragrant like no other, it simply embodies and conveys to the consumer all the wellness of the animals from which it was milked.
There’s a study centre called Corfilac at Ragusa on the south east reaches of the Island of Sicily that’s quickly becoming a gastronomic beacon of worldwide renown, like a hotbed for a new, beneficial epidemic. It acts as the agency in charge of certifying the special “caciocavallo” cheese of Ragusa. It studies animal nutrition, runs special cheese-centred events for schools, such as “Be a Cheese-maker for a Day,” and exchanges information and know-how with other study centres and with agriculture colleges. It certainly has all the credentials to deserve endorsement by Petrini, according to whom agriculture and nourishment studies are gastronomic acts.
Once the fad for piling up food to make hybristài dishes has subsided, once the soda-fountain for pumping up unlikely foamy mousses is forgotten somewhere up in the attic, and once the frenzy for molecular de-structuring and/or food fusion cauldrons quietens down, then there’ll finally be room for nature to play lead role on the oeno-gastronomic stage. I’m happy to say it’s already putting in important guest appearances across Europe, from the deep north to deep south, and indeed from vineyards across the globe, in California and in the Yarra Valley, where wine makers are deciding to produce less and to do so for a good and natural cause.
In Australia, good food is often extolled as “beautiful”. It’s a term that surprises me every time, yet, to think about it, it’s so modern. If we were but to stop and heed our senses of sight, smell and taste, there’s no escaping that the beauty of modern-day food and wine is quite physical. What’s more their goodness doesn’t bear separation from their ethical value.