“All of life is a coming home. Salesmen, secretaries, coal miners, beekeepers, sword swallowers, all of us.
All the restless hearts of the world, all trying to find a way home.
[Patch Adams – 1998 movie]
The scent of hot coffee when it comes out of the moka and the scent of home-made cookies when they come out of the oven are part of my idea of “home”.
Nevertheless, “home” is not only the place where I happen to live or the place where I feel I belong. It is a mixture of many more things and places.
I think of Venice as the city where I was born and where my family is deeply rooted.
Then there is Tuscany, which is linked to my childhood and to all those careless moments when I felt deeply free and connected with the wildest aspect of nature.
Then there is Milan, where I became independent, and Paris, a refuge for my romantic heart where I wished I could have lived longer.
And then there is the Riviera del Brenta, an area around Venice which takes its name from the river flowing through many country villages, like the one where I grew up.
Years ago I light-heartedly left this place because I thought I hated it, but then at times I cried when I was away because I missed it.
We all have roots somewhere. Although we go around, carried away like seeds by the wind, moulded by whatever life offers us, part of us – sometimes our innermost and most hidden core – remains rooted in those faraway origins.
If I think of what this place represents for me – now that I somehow reluctantly have come back to live here – maybe HOME is the word that describes at best my relationship with it.
The biggest changes in my life have always upset me… and in order to accept them I often had to go through all phases of dejection, because it seemed to be the only way to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Sometimes I did not see light at once, as if I refused to see it and needed to be slapped in the face to wake up.
One day I was bicycling along the river looking at the old willow tree tops hanging over the water, while the sun made the canal look like a brilliant mirror reflecting everything. As an old roll of color film, everything along the river was reflected on the water: the willow trees, the Venetian baroque villas and then the recently sown endless fields. I abruptly stopped the bicycle, as if the thought crossing my mind in that moment was too big to let it run away.
I like life, I thought. That’s all, condensed in these few words. It was the slap I was waiting for, a clear and simple fact I was not yet aware of.
I went to sit under the willow trees, feeling as happy as the time when my Mom painted my fingernails with blue enamel under one of this willows along the river, when I was a child.
Coming back home was good for me and I left my thoughts flow on what I had and still have today living here.
City life taught me much, but pushed me away from my land and my roots.
I didn’t know I cared so much about these places and my family’s lifestyle; it was only going away and coming back that I realized what I had left.
Coming back for me is also rediscovering my true nature, understanding what I am not and do not want to become.
Today I am grateful to this place because it allows me to be what I am, to do what I do and to feel happy for simple things which make me feel in the right place at the right moment.
Part of this is the direct relationship with the earth, the seasons and the food I eat. There is usually such a great distance between people and the food they eat: the strawberry baskets wrapped in plastic that we absent-mindedly throw in the shopping cart, do we know where they come from? Which distance have they covered to arrive here? Whose hands collected or, even better, grew them?
I think about my roots. I am what I am because I have a story, just like everybody else.
This is true not only for people, I believe, but also for objects, animals, trees and plants.
A tree will bend if it is exposed to the wind and a strawberry will be tastier and sweeter if it is grown by someone who respects the earth.
This is the era of unbridled consumerism, when we are more easily satisfied by quantity than by quality, because this society persuades us that we need things that are not necessary at all. What worries me is that it is not easy to escape this trap, because sometimes the alternatives seem to be impossible to find or at least less accessible or simply not at anybody’s reach.
Yet I think that a change is not only possible but also necessary. Many people are already trying to go back to self-production, to follow a more sustainable and simple lifestyle and to make a tangible and revolutionary change in everyday life.
It is not only a matter of abstract principles: each one of us can make a difference through the choices we make everyday.
That is why I want to talk to you about Raixe, a local agricultural organic farm where I was given the strawberries I used to make the recipe you’ll find at the end of this post.
Do you know what “raixe” means in Venetian dialect? It means roots. And, of course, it is not by chance!
The minds – and especially the arms – behind this project are three young friends: Lele, Tommaso and Mattia, who are rooted – just like me – in this land where we grew and which we love. Not only do they grow seasonal vegetables trying to respect the earth, the environment and its biological diversity, but they also offer a different consuming model consisting of buying only local products. Their farm is also a bio-social enterprise because they cooperate with young people of the area. Their way of growing, producing, selling food and relating to people is not at all old-fashioned, it is a new system of development, it is the change we need to give this planet a chance to regenerate and to continue sustaining us healthily in the future. It is a new vision for a more ethical economy.
I went to visit them in their fields overlooking the Brenta river banks, a very charming area facing beautiful Villa Pisani (here’s a post!).
As I watch them collecting the strawberries they have grown, I see a certain pride in their eyes. It is exactly in their eyes that I find the answers which I cannot find at the supermarket.
For all of us who are young travelers, roots do not mean recovering the past but sawing new seeds for the future.
* Thank you Food Bandits for including this recipe (+ interview) in your “Morning Rituals” series on the blog!
- 1 tbsp chia seeds + 50 ml of water
- 150 g rolled oats + 2 tbsp to garnish the cookies
- 100 g wheat bran
- 100 g spelt flour
- 100 g Muscovado sugar
- 200 g strawberries
- ½ tsp baking powder
- 4 tbsp coconut oil (or sunflower oil)
- 1 pinch of salt
- 1 tbsp of honey
- 1 organic un-waxed lemon to peel
- Preheat the oven at 180 C°.
- Place the chia seeds in a glass and cover them with water. Let them soak for at least 10 minutes, until they become jelly-like. Keep them aside.
- Put the rolled oats, wheat bran, spelt flour, sugar, grated lemon peel, a pinch of salt and the baking powder in a food processor and blend them well until they become like a coarse flour. Put the mixture into a glass bowl.
- Add the chia seeds to the mixture, together with the coconut oil and a spoon of honey, and knead well with a spoon until you obtain a soft dough. It shouldn’t be too dense; if it is, add a little of water.
- Wash and dry the strawberries and cut them into little pieces. Add them to the dough, keeping aside a little quantity to garnish the cookies. Stir with a spoon until all ingredients are well mixed.
- Leave the dough out of the fridge for at least 15 minutes, so that it will become more solid, thanks to the thickening action of chia seeds.
- Cover a baking tray with some parchment paper. Using a spoon make some medium-size balls and put them on the baking tray. Press the balls with the back of the spoon to obtain about 1 cm thick cookies.
- Garnish the top of the cookies with the strawberries you have kept aside and with some rolled oats.
- Bake the cookies in a ventilated oven for about 20 minutes at 180 C° until they become golden brown.