My childhood memories are the first real “artisan” life lesson of my life. After years of traveling around the world I can say that any form of “family” culture like mine, imbued with traditions, memories and affections, generates a particular sensitivity in our soul and it affects our senses, it imprints the first image in our gaze, it gives the first harmony to our hearing, it composes the first impression to our touch.
We are the art of our family. A creative outcome. We are the clay that becomes a vase in the hands of those who love us and those who loved us.
What is a tradition if not a set of simple gestures of daily life, repeated with ardor and feeling over time to those you love?
“Do not be a slave of your habits” say many.
Instead, I prefer the phrase: “question your habits day after day”, since no one is truly free as long as he is unable to weave his balance according to the present and not the fear he has of the future.
In writing these words, I think of my origin, of my personal and intimate awareness. I smile because it has been amalgamated in my mind and heart since childhood, when I spent whole days at the feet of my grandparents, in a small country town in Northern Italy.
Family bonds, intricately woven, as they are open to welcoming customers with the most varied and curious life stories. It is there that I learned to observe the “present”, in its most extraordinary variety and diversity.
I observed the present through the rituality of some simple gestures made by expert hands, smoothed by experience and time but, at the same time, softened by that typical hope of those who want to learn something new every day.
The large rounds of ladle that sink into the yellow “polenta” of Sunday, the scent of ripe honey picked from the hives of the uncles farm, the chilli cheese that the great-grandfather experimented in his dairy laboratory.
Thus I witnessed, with the eyes of a child, the dance of an art. In my case, the art of cooking. I am not talking about any cuisine that is an end in itself, as most of us can happily remember within our home walls, a kitchen at the service of others, of their taste, of their expectations. Hunger of the pallette as well as the satiation of something deeper within.
During the journey of “Là Fuori”, we meet dozens of families every month active in local crafts. It is while crossing the entrance of their “domestic nest”, which is located in the dunes of desert areas or among the mountains or in the depth of sleepy rice fields. We absorb their art through their simple hospitable gestures, the one that the home-owner offers to the foreigner.
The journey is not alone about the fabric or the craft. It is entwined with the offerings, the human acknowledgement that comes with it. The “masala chai” is just one of these: a black tea flavored with spices and Indian herbs combined with milk. Many of you will certainly know it, thanks to a few trips to Asia where it is a fairly widespread tradition having many recipe variations. Well, this “welcome” drink knows no lineage: from the humblest shop to the most modern company, chai is in common use.
With it you not only savor the hospitality of that given family, but you are made properly worthy to enter the intimacy of their place and directly experience its history, its secrets and thus an insight into its beauty and knowledge. I cannot forget the time when the chai of the day was offered to me in a finely modeled and painted porcelain glass by a woman who also opened the doors of her NGO of embroidery craftswomen on the border with Pakistan. The curved handle of glass, perfect in its imperfection, anticipated the creative freedom that blew in that community of women, hard-working bees covered by veils that shone in the sun like colored wings ready to fly.
Faced with that wonder, I was breathless: for about an hour, the woman, helped by her daughters, proudly unrolled rivers and rivers of embroidered fabric in her home in front of me, full of exotic designs that recalled the distant worlds in which the mind had traveled.
I was welcomed into this kingdom, where creation is a true daily miracle. A human miracle, made up of sacrifices and education in sacrifice. Art was scattered everywhere in that house. I have never felt such happiness again. Being Witness to a tradition that becomes art.
Art, craft, tradition woven into intricate design passed down through generations. It is not the material that makes a child. The day to day experiences of love, life, culture, tradition and heritage together. A child in whom we place the expectation of tomorrow and the pride of the wisdom of the past.
The son who welcomes the pilgrims of the present, who, like me, knock on the door.