Dalla cucina/ Una tribù di cuochi (From the kitchen/ A tribe of cooks) -By: Ed Rinaldi

Written by on February 6, 2022

How does one begin to write about how we come to transform matter and time when we cook? What legerdemain explains to us, how our hands and minds work in concert to produce, some say, the most primal music? Food on a plate, canvas and sate, I am not sure there is a proper way to relate all that goes on between hand to mouth. As eating is more than pastime and necessity, we can pour over time tested recipe books. We can love and admire every method explaining what carries hunger/desire to any feasted moment, ritual or emotional escape.

There are proper ways to carefully facet beets into deep rubies of similar size…but I like to think there isn’t a proper way to tell you what magic happens when passion and skill meet unseen when we take a seat at a restaurant table. What happens behind the scenes, where does the transcendence come from…it is more than myth even if the thought of it is fleeting.
They remind me of Virgil, a friend said, can you write about them for us?

Of course, there is no saying no to certain friends and payment comes in many forms, for this poet who cooks for a living. I know all too well never look a gift meal in the mouth.
 I sat down to a conversation with a local chef, bitten with this idea of interviewing someone playing rustic food presented with sublime grace. Fed a description from a mutual friend that this chef was an incanted Virgil. A chef who seemed as much a guide through the hell our modern “food-scapes” have become. I too carried a lantern and hunger in hand, intrigued.
I suppose to many, Virgil was allegorical, “reason” thrown against the range of appetites humankind displayed as Dante observed. What better way to have a tactile feel of our appetites than by listening to someone talk about eating and drinking in concert with craft and desire.  I listened for an hour or so at McAddy’s on Broadway in Troy
a few Mondays ago and came away quite sure,
our mutual friend was onto something.

The chef led the conversation with a compassion for humanity, their own firstly, letting energy feed each house they plied and subsequently improved their trade in.
Rather than get into each dissection and avenue of inspiration and discovery, as there were many, I let the conversation unfurl. Like a napkin taken from its fine fold and place setting, letting it billow over lap and clothes, I waded listening.

I heard tales of cutting teeth and learning ways up through the ranks to running the whole kitchen. I kept thinking, the mistakes we make along the way must be part of the process of wearing wisdom without having to try to.  I found myself listening more than asking questions, finding why the shepherd metaphor works in every back of the house.
I was left knowing why Dante chose Virgil as a guide through Hell. It takes a soul born before God took charge to give us this perspective. An innocent soul can be born too early to be saved by a church and needs a faith placed in all of humanity to find solace and sate. Sometimes the best we ever find of this these days, this purity of joy, is in tiny bites from hot or cold plates.

I left the conversation hungry and wanting to feel how an interview would view itself being viewed as a poem or some other kind of prose. Would there be just enough form and information to tell a story or two. What was it I wanted to write, describing to you how a chef does this or does that? How does one write about how a chef leads their people, that a tribal identity often braves the newbie to food. A spiritual experience often ensues, a chance to become more than a sum of their parts. This was not lost
on me, fancying myself a poet carrying around a thousand recipes and pens
yet still wanting to know more, to eat more. I suppose I am writing about what we
know and we come to feel eating not just as perfunctory but a feeling as to how
we seem to feel ourselves in the shoes, aprons and bloodstreams of others. A part of a community, a tribe we become, especially when heading out for dinner.

Anne Rice died last night, and I thought about her vampires and the dulcet charm of a roasted garlic globe on this warm plate with olive oil, peppercorns and a toasted quarter of a Tuscan style sourdough bread in front of me… Albany NY, nascent Saturday night, in what was to be a short drive from Troy to Madison then Dove turned into circling the blocks trying to find a parking spot.

Dinner companion and I laughed, making our way down Dove towards Rosanna’s
Italian Kitchen having parked more than a few blocks away. We passed blocked
off streets then bisected through a moving mass of hundreds of Christmas-garbed,
boisterous 5Kers seemingly delighted to be outside while it was so balmy.

They were running and walking under a street lit late afternoon, a dark skied,
early December, still so oddly warm. And all I remember right then upon seeing
them, is being Christmas party hungry, aware of how much I love food as a way
of identifying my soul. To say the food was sublime would be a disservice to the
experience. I recommend the bread course right away. Share a few appetizers
while having a quaff then dig into the menu. The plays on polenta are worth the
trip alone. The bar is cozy, the dining room warm and every moving piece a
restaurant is, is attuned to why we enjoy going out to them. Why we enjoy
being members of this tribe.

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