Thursday, March 22, 2012

Garantito IGP: "I Hate you Gastronome" Lots of Stories with a Capital S

This time Carlo Macchi takes the stand:

All those who undertake, or think about undertaking our profession, with is that of knowledge (and, and especially, criticism) of the world of food and wine, should meet Giuseppe (Beppe) Lo Russo.

Why? Because he would make many understand (including me, as I have been in the front row for more than 20 years) that this isn't a job one invents, or that one turns to because one is bored with one's day job, or because one has lots of money and can therefore afford to go to many, often expensive restaurants.

Doing this job right requires preparation, study, and culture that support and direct the choices the job sometimes requires.

In these days of tremendous amateurism (and again I put my self at the front of the crowd, lest I offend someone) Giuseppe is a rarity, someone who started out with great Culture (note the quite Capital C) and dedicated himself to understanding and explaining the phenomena, cultural and non, that have affected the world of food over the past 30-35 years.

I feel as if I'm listening to my high school history teacher: "To trace a history and understand it one need have a firm understanding of the two points that are its foundation: the present and the past." Giuseppe's historic grounding in gastronomy leads to lines of reasoning most of us are incapable of even dreaming of, and show us that the past is not what happened in our great grandparents' kitchens, to give an example, but what happened in the IV century BC, when hens, which are original to India and Persia, arrived in Greece and began to be known in the what was destined to become the western world.

Personally, every time I talk to Beppe I am seized by the desire to change jobs, because I come face to face with the Socratic "I know I do not know," and this, despite my seven years of varies and desperate studies, makes me understand how much I will never be able to know.

To begin to understand, in a light fun way, we can however all read his latest book, "T'Odio Gastronomo" (I hate you Gastronome), a collection of articles from 1999 to 2007 published by La Madia Travelfood, and now collected in a nice book that will delight you with Beppe's baroquely off-the-wall prose.

You'll go from vitriol-laced semi-mortal epee thrusts directed at more-or-less pompous, affirmed gastronomes to strong opinions on the history (history with a capital H) of gastronomy not just in Italy, and then reach a low-key, but sharp and precise look at wines and its trends during that period. You may find yourself trying to recognize this or that wine critic, thanks to episodes that are simply not to be missed.

There are also comments on films, TV shows, food books in which he inevitably focuses on ignorance, approximation, and amateurism, presenting us with many Emperors "Sans Clothes" we will never forget. But in this game, which was our life from 1999 to 2007, Giuseppe doesn't hang back, but rather presents himself as what he sometimes is, but almost always enjoys being: a gruff curmudgeon with a heart of gold.

What I don't want to forget to say is the bolt from on high I experienced while "on the way to Lo Russo," as I read the book. At one point I thought, "Culture can be nothing if not precise and enjoyable". Indeed, every passage of the book explains, clarifies, precise and on point, in fun, and wisely pleased prose.

A decade of our gastronomic life captured by he who always tried to stay out of the crowd. Reading it lightly cannot but teach us something.

Giuseppe Lo Russo
T'odio gastronomo
Coppini Tipografi editore
16 euro

Published Simultaneously by IGP, I Giovani Promettenti.

We Are:
Carlo Macchi
Kyle Phillips
Luciano Pignataro
Roberto Giuliani
Stefano Tesi