Saturday, July 02, 2005

Slow food in Chianti

I walked into a tiny butcher shop in San Casciano, said my obligatory bon giorno to establish rapport and also exercise 30% of my total Italian vocabulary, and asked the butcher for spiedini, which is the Italian word for shish kabob. The tiny shop displayed a side of beef, a slab of pork, and a few gruesome chickens, so I expected my request to be immediately rejected.

Instead, I got a lesson in what a real butcher can do. He hand assembled 10 spiedini with big chunks of chicken and pork, interspersed with incredibly flavorful pancetta and fresh sprigs of sage. At one point he ran out of sage so he hailed a local passerby and sent her to a nearby market to get more sage. It took him 45 minutes to make me 10 spiedini, but they were the best shishkabobs we ever ate.

While he was working, we conversed in a combination of pantomime and pig-latin, which worked surprisingly well. The shop was his father’s, opened in 1950. He had been to San Francisco 20 years earlier on an Hawaii, LA and NY whirlwind tour. Most importantly, he loved making great food for someone he thought would enjoy it.