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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Make slow. Eat slow. By John von Daler

                In the summer the heat pounds into you and if it were not for the sparkling view of the bay, you might give up and hire a car to drive you up the winding roads. But people can and do climb the steep stairways up the mountain from #Amalfi to #Scala. These stone passages are surrounded and covered with lemon and olive trees through which you can see the blue sky intersect the blue waves beneath the golden sun. This is a place of primary colors and fundamental values. No thought or action here can be anything less than grand. After all, the Magna Carta was written on paper from Amalfi.

                I lived for a month writing my book in an old cloister, so the climb for me was no problem. I could dip into the little town from my perch in the old stone building just as easily as some lazy old kite taking a downward swing at the end of its string. 
                One sunny day I swooped down into the precipitous town to visit the man who made mozzarella. Already a few years before down in the valley the concierge at our hotel had told me about this proud artisan, "Hees ees da best #mozzarella. You canta fin' no baytter. Leetle basil, soam olive oila, glass vino aynd yousa een hayven!"
                I entered a modest little store with two empty refrigerated glass cabinets. The counters were made of rubbed wood, freshly washed, worn down from thousands of hands sliding cheese across their surface. A woman in a white apron came out and after a small discussion allowed me into the back where several cheese machines, shiny and clean, stood beside some troughs with briny water. A dark-haired, dark skinned man with piercing eyes, sat with a ball of cheese in his hands. He was working with the cheese while staring down at the bay.
                We started talking about his cheesemaking. I must confess that I learned very few trade secrets. But there were two main points  that he was able to communicate through our Italian-American language exchange, inproficient as we were in each other's tongues.
                "Taystes beast by hand!" he said and frowned at the machines around him. "Only use machina we busy!"
                Then I communicated that I would like him to vacuum pack some pieces for me to take back to Denmark.
                The piercing eyes wandered down the sides of our mountain, crossed over Amalfi and rested finally on some distant ship in the bay. You could almost hear his inherent distrust of all that travel. It was here in Scala that life went on.
                "Eat here in Scala, or you no eat!" he said and turned his eyes from the bay to me. "No vacuum! No plastic! No mozzarella!"
                He stopped his tirade and calmed himself. "Make slow. Eat slow." he said, closing the subject.
                I bought one small piece. On the way home I cut some basil through an open fence. At the grocery I bought some local wine and a little bottle of oil. That night I sat on my balcony, drank the wine and ate the cheese as I watched Ravello shining across the valley. I was thinking, I want my book to be that way, Make slow. Eat slow.  

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