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OUT TO LUNCH IN ITALY

Posted by Jim Carfrae on July 23, 2012

I just read the editor’s letter in the latest bon appétit magazine, the only thing I can do is post it word for word, no comment required.

OUT TO LUNCH IN ITALY ONE OF THE MANY THINGS that Europeans do well is the month of August. Schedule permitting, they just go ahead and take the whole think off. And during those lazy, lollygagging 31 days, there is nothing they do better than lunch.
On the coasts of France and Italy, a midday meal isn’t some grab-and-go affair. It’s the centerpiece of your day – every day. If you’re lucky enough to be at the beach, you reserve a table at one of the simple restaurants that dot the shore. Bottles of rosé (or a good, cheap local white variety) are uncorked and plunged into a brimming ice bucket. Platters of crisp, golden fritto misto arrive; a whole roasted branzino is ordered, or maybe some linguine with fragrant pesto Genovese. More bottles find their way into the bucket. Slices of intensely ripe cantaloupe appear. An espresso or two. And then, of course, a nap on your beach chair, followed by a swim in the sea.
What’s so satisfying about this ritual, besides the obvious – you’re on, say, the Amalfi Coast, enjoying an hours-long lunch in the middle of what should be the work week-is the rhythm of it. No one has to get back to the office or rush home to relieve the sitter. No one has to worry about who’s driving.
Last summer, I finagled a trip to Tuscany with my wife and son to report this month’s story on Ruth Rogers, the chef and owner of London’s acclaimed River Cafe. The farmhouse that Rogers and her family rent each August isn’t anywhere near the coast, but it does have an incredibly inviting pool that my four-year old basically moved into as soon as we arrived. And Rogers, the consummate host, put out a wonderful lunch every day on the long wooden table set beneath a tree laden with figs. The food was never fancy or too filling, but it did give the gang of us staying at the house a delicious opportunity to gather at the table, drink some wine, chat, and stop for a moment to realize how good we had it.
There aren’t any trips abroad on my calendar this month, but I’ll still make lunch a highlight of my day-at least on weekends, or at the beach. I’ll buy some heirloom tomatoes at the farmers’ market, a few balls of fresh mozzarella, whatever looks good at the fishmonger, a bunch of salad greens, and, yeah, lots of rosé.
I don’t want to tell you what to eat, but I will say thin: Give lunch-a real lunch-a shot this summer. You’ve got the rest of the year to eat it at your desk.
(Editor’s letter bon appétit, August 2012, Adam Rapoport)

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