Tuscany in the Kitchen
On second thoughts Tuscan cuisine is in danger of becoming an illusion, perhaps because it basically resembles the blunt and instantly recognizable way Tuscan people speak, a dialect so flawless it can scarcely be called a dialect. It is a plain-spoken cuisine based on produce from the land and on bread, seasoned with salt and spices, cooked for hours, a cuisine which makes itself heard. Ribbed tomatoes ennoble bread soup, Certaldo onions exalt onion soup, unsalted Tuscan bread covets the first extra virgin olive oil off the press, salami with fennel seeds and red wine and peppery Tuscan beef stew, while tripe craves its broth and Siena spaghetti (pici) its garlic sauce. More than in any other part of Italy here it is simplicity which counts, although, on closer look, it is actually not so simple after all. Forget the “Tuscany” trademark which pretends to elevate it yet which really fails to acknowledge it being unfamiliar with it. Because if Tuscan soup is bread soup, ribollita makes it into something different, which needs to be preserved for posterity without necessarily locking up the soup or, indeed, the whole of Tuscan cuisine in a museum display cabinet. Food and the love of food seems to us, in Tuscany more than anywhere else, a living thing. You make it with the ingredients you have to hand yet you really make it.