“I think, in America, a restaurant is trying to really make great food. What sells the most is 'great' to them. Real lasagna is only this thick", he says, sticking his knife through two steamy inches of lasagna on the plate in front of him. “In the United States they make it twice as thick and they fill it with mozzarella. There is no mozzarella in lasagna!”
Raising a glass to toast, “To bacon and eggs. We all agree that American breakfasts are unbeatable. Omelets, hash browns! But on my last visit to New York, I gained four kilos in three weeks. When I go home I have to think about my bella figura again. Americans never think of their bella figura.”
"In Italy, people see time as a flowing river. In America, time is seen as a commodity... like money. Italians see time as sometimes smooth and sometimes rough and one minute flowing into the next. If something isn’t done this minute, it can be done the next. There are things to be done, but they’ll get done eventually. With Americans everything is 'Now!'"
Ever look at some of your larger tomatoes and wonder if they’d be in the running for the Guinness Book of World Records?
I've personally grown tomatoes just under 3 pounds on occasion. I'm Italian. It's in my DNA. I grow only heirloom tomatoes. An heirloom tomato is one grown from seeds that have been saved again and again, passed on from generation to generation. They are also tomatoes that "hold true" to their parent, unlike hybrid tomatoes. If you were to grow a tomato from a hybrid seed, you can't save seeds from that fruit and expect it to come back next season looking exactly the same. With heirloom tomatoes, it's possible to grow tomatoes that your great-great-grandfather grew, and know they probably look and taste exactly the same.
I've grown red tomatoes, purple tomatoes, yellow tomatoes, pink, green and striped. I even grew a tomato with fuzzy skin like a peach. Now I've got Lucas hooked. Every year for the past 6 or 7 years he's been helping me decide which seeds to grow, how many of each type, and helps me plant the seeds in our cellar and in the garden when they are ready. We alternate to grow fresh seed from one we haven't grown in a few years. I learned to grow tomatoes from my Dad. He always had a garden, even though he never had a big backyard. When I was young there was nothing better than picking a ripe plum tomato off the vine and chomping right into it... the juices dribbling down my chin. Now Lucas does the same thing in summer. This year we're growing 9 varieties.
So, my personal record in terms of size is just under 3 pounds... 2 pounds 11 ounces if I remember correctly. It was an heirloom variety called Giant Belgium. I always tend to save seeds from the largest fruits of the season. In this way genetics go to work in helping grow another huge one.
As for the world's record... if your tomato is under unless they’re over 8 and a half pounds or so, you're not going to win the World's Biggest prize. Lucas weighed less than that when he was born! The record holder used to be Gordon Graham of Edmond, Oklahoma, who held the record for 28 years by growing a 7 pound, 11 ounce tomato. But in 2014, Dan MacCoy of Ely, Minnesota set a new world’s record with a 8.41 lb. tomato. It was an ugly tomato, but then again, a lot of huge ones are. He's also had good luck growing pumpkins well over 1000 pounds! Graham's idea was to grow a big vine for a big tomato... and one was growing until a storm blew over the entire 12-14 foot vine into his cantaloupes. He gave up on the plant, but the tomato just kept growing... and growing... Until the entire vine grew to 53 feet and 6 inches long! He also had a record setting tomato vine!
When he picked the tomato from the vine and weighed it he was shocked to see it tip the scales well over 8 pounds. If you want to try and beat his record, you're free to try. Just feed your plant a lot before it sets fruit, then snip off all the smallest fruits until you narrow it down to the one largest fruit. Nurture and baby it, water it, don't let it get sun scald, watch our for pests, and perhaps you can grow a bigger one. I know I'm going to try....
And now there's another way to try to grow a huge tomato...
A hybrid tomato seed with the claim of growing the "world’s biggest tomato" (obviously just marketing hype) has gone on the market in the United Kingdom. The Gigantomo tomato plants "have the ability of growing into an grow enormous fruits up to 10 inches wide and as heavy as 3lbs – about 12 times the size of an average salad tomato. Each plant is able to grow to 6ft tall and yield as many as 11 tomatoes" claimed the company selling the plants. Since these plants do grow heavy fruits, they need to be supported to stop them buckling under all that weight. The new variety was launched in the United States last year by the Burpee seed company and was being sold under the name as SteakHouse Hybrid. It's not an heirloom, so you can't save seeds from the fruits, but it might be worth growing.
Even if you're not an Italian, there's nothing like biting into a home grown tomato....
Enjoy Home Grown Tomatoes. It was one of my Dad's favorite tunes.
Copyright, Jerry Finzi, Grand Voyage Italy, All rights reserved
" In America, you eat first with your wallet first, your eyes second, and third with your mouth. In Italy we eat with our heart first and last.”
"Italians view wine as an ordinary part of their meals, like salt or bread. But we also see it as a digestive aid, a mealtime component that will help digest our food. Americans think of wine as something for special occasions and not for every day. Perhaps this is what makes Americans dissatisfied and their bowels in distress."
“If you go to an American restaurant and say the food is bad, you get a coupon for a free meal. More bad food. If you say the food is bad in a restaurant in Italy, you get kicked out. To get free food here, it is vice versa — you say, ‘This is the best beefsteak I’ve ever eaten.’ Chef will then say, ‘You must try the dessert.’ You say, ‘Oh no.’ He says, ‘Here. Please. Take it for free.’”
Villa d'Este Cascades and Fountains
The Italians were so enamored by waterfalls that they imitated them. The Villa d'Este is a great example. The Villa d'Este was commissioned by Cardinal Ippolito II d'Este, son of Alfonso I d'Este and Lucrezia Borgia and grandson of Pope Alexander VI. He had been appointed Governor of Tivoli by Pope Julius III, with the gift of the existing palace,which he had entirely reconstructed to plans of Pirro Ligorio carried out under the direction of the Ferrarese architect-engineer Alberto Galvani, court architect of the Este. The chief painter of the ambitious internal decoration was Livio Agresti from Forlì. From 1550 until his death in 1572, when the villa was nearing completion, Cardinal d'Este created a palatial setting surrounded by a spectacular terraced garden in the late-Renaissance mannerist style, which took advantage of the dramatic slope but required innovations in bringing a sufficient water supply, which was employed in cascades, water tanks, troughs and pools, water jets and fountains, giochi d'acqua (water games). The result is one of the series of great 17th century villas with water-play structures in the hills surrounding the Roman Campagna, such as the Villa Lante, the Villa Farnese at Caprarola and the Villas Aldobrandini and Torlonia in Frascati. Their garden planning and their water features were imitated in the next two centuries from Portugal to Poland.
Cascata del Sasso
Cascata del Sasso is located in the Marche region in the province of Pesaro-Urbino . With a length of two hundred feet, Cascata del Sasso, a few steps from Sant'Angelo in Vado, is a wonderful find. From a height of 45 feet, the waters of Metauro are thrown down the stepped limestone, giving rise to a cascade considered among the ten largest in Italy. On the left bank, an old mill--no longer in operation--helps to enhance the charm of the landscape. The lake is surrounded by lush vegetation of willows and poplars. It is also possible to find rare species of birds, such as the kingfisher.
Cascate del Serio
The Serio Waterfalls are located in the town of Valbondione , in the upper valley Seriana , in the Province of Bergamo . It consists of three stepped falls: one at 545' high and two at 250' each, for a total height of over 1000 feet. It ranks it among the highest waterfalls in both Italy and Europe. When the dam opened, the man made reservoir that filled up behind it called Lago di Barbellino was partially drained only four or five days a year, thus determining when the stunning Cascate del Serio would flow.
Tourists can see Italy’s tallest waterfall in all its glory between June and October, on a specific day of each month for a period of only thirty minutes so be sure to book you place to watch it well in advance!
A fascinating legend associated with Cascate del Serio tells the story of a woman who fell in love with a Shepard who was betrothed to another. In her jealousy, the woman captured his fiancé and imprisoned her in a castle situated above the waterfall. The fiancé was so broken hearted at this tragic turn of events that her tears became what is now Cascate del Serio!
In the Italian Alps there is the little known, Stroppia Cascata--perhaps the highest waterfall in Italy. An impressive jump of over 1600 feet, from the valley called Vallonasso, until the central valley Maira. The falls are visible beyond the town of Chiappera (Val Maira), in the province of Cuneo, reached just after the village of Saretto, both hamlets of Acceglio . Hiking up a trail from Icardi you can pass near the falls, and admire them in all their beauty. They are also visible on on excursions or climbing the nearby Rocca Provencal .
Cascate Fraggia are located in the municipality of Piuro and are formed from the stream that comes from altitude of 10,000 feet from Pizzo Lake. The creek about a 3000 feet downstream form the Lago Fraggia. From there originate a sequence of drops of water, of which the lower falls drops 500 feet into a double cascade. The river continues downstream, frequently interrupted by jumps, rapids and pools.
Pianazzo Cascata del Catino
Near the border of Switzerland, these two waterfalls are fed by the waters of the Scalcoggia. Cascata del Cantino with a 330 feet drop and Pianazzo at 590 feet. Cantino is the more interesting because of its stone bridge at the bottom of the cascade, leading to a smaller cascade leading into a basic below. Both are reached easily by short walks.
The walk heads off from Madesimo to Pianazzo along the old road which in the past was used by vehicles, but after the opening of a new tunnel (1974) became a thoroughfare reserved exclusively for pedestrians. It’s a gentle walk, suitable even for walkers with wheel chairs. It is illuminated at night. Pianazzo is the highest waterfall in the Valchiavenna area set in a wonderful alpine village.
Niagra Rio Verde
The Niagara Rio Verde is located in the town of Borrello in the province of Chieti, in the Nature Reserve Niagara Verde. Rio Verde is one of the highest natural waterfalls of the Apennines, formed by a triple jump which together measure 700 feet. The falls are fed by the Rio Verde, with variable water flow during the year, which flows into the river Sangro. The rocks they fall over have a stepped appearance which adds to their effect. The area of the falls also has interesting microclimate with interesting mosses, lichen, ferns and fauna.
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Copyright, Jerry Finzi, Grand Voyage Italy, All rights reserved
We all have to deal with our emotions when we travel--especially in Italy--after all, it is an emotional country and the stresses of traveling can bring out emotions from one extreme to the other... from "I can't believe how beautiful!" to "What?! I've got to pay to use the toilet?" We should be able to let someone know what our emotions are while in Italy. Sure, you can use... er... hand signals, but that can get you into a world of trouble if you're not perfectly fluent in Italian hand gesturing. (I'll tell you the story some other time when I flipped someone the bird driving through insane Pisa traffic...) Letting someone know how you feel by using the correct words to actually tell him helps to humanize the experience of communicating to other people, even if you're not completely fluent in Italian. So when you get the wrong type of car in a rental joint in Italy, you can tell them how you are sorpreso that they don't have an automatic shift for you when you made the booking months in advance. You can say how arrabbiato you are and wait until they say dispaciuto while they get an upgrade automatic ready for you... then you can say how contento you are that they fixed their mistake. And don't forget to look fiero after you got an upgrade to an automatic Mercedes from the automatic Fiat Punto you originally ordered!
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