The Salone del Gusto is huge. I mean multiple football fields huge. I remember the first time I came, sixteen years ago, I was overwhelmed. Now it is four times as big.
Even though I make plans in my head how to see as much as I can, and absorb (yes, that means eat) as much as possible, I have come to realize that my subconscious takes over, and leads me in certain directions.
Somehow this year I have a blind spot for olive oil. In past years I’ve toured around the fair with my friend Ari Weinzwieg. Since he imports olive oil for his store, Zingermans, we usually manage to drink and taste and sip our way through any region that is produces olive oil. This year Ari isn’t here, and I can’t begin to care about tasting oil. Don’t ask me why.
All I know is my eyes – and stomach and head – are fixated on legumes. My husband Domenico is arriving today. He knows I’ve been here three days already and wants to know what I’ve bought so far. I’m sort of scared to say that somehow I’ve managed to pick up over 7 kilos of beans of various shapes and sizes. (he’ll be doing the heavy lifting on the way home)
Why beans? I’m not so sure. They certainly are beautiful when uncooked. All shapes and sizes. But also their cultivation takes a certain commitment. Many of the legumes at the Salone are semi wild, like those little wild peas above. Their harvest is back breaking work.
Also, while the cheese and salami guys (they always seem to be guys) are able to just whack off a chunk and give you an immediately seductive taste, things are more challenging for the bean ladies (and they do all seem to be ladies). They stand there by their piles of beans, and when you show some interest they head to the back of the stand where they have a terracotta pot simmering on a hot plate. They spoon out tiny cups of hearty soups that you can imagine feeding their families by the fire back home.
I guess it’s that sense of home and place that is making me load up on beans. I’m off again today, in a few minutes, for more wandering at the Salone. I know I’m sure to buy yet more beans. But that’s ok. Domenico is arriving. With another suitcase.