5 Minute Read | By Gino De Blasio
Stage 8 of Giro Food and we find ourselves in Tuscany. The land where everyone outside of Italy thinks, rolling hills, wine served every evening, beauty, glamour, the quiet, peaceful life. Actually, that’s not just Tuscany but if you had to be envious of a region, there are worse places to start. Today we tackle minimalism and minestrone. The weird, intrinsic logic continues.
Stage 8 is also the first and only time the Giro goes over dirt roads. Dirt, yes. Expect a crash or a skid, let’s hope not though.
We are suffering from a condition which leaves us “joyless, anxious and even worse, depressed.” It’s called Materialism. That was the thesis to the book by James Wallman, Stuffocation released in 2015.
Apparently the movement towards minimalism is a start, for Wallman you need to move more towards experientialism (so experiencing the products that are available to you) to feel joyful, not anxious and whatever the opposite to depressed is… happy?
But Wallman isn’t the first to speak of minimalism.
Search through Amazon and you will find over 1500 titles. Take the first book that appears; “Minimalism: Live a meaningful life.” The description of the book is wordy enough to make you think that these 30 somethings had just endured a life where people handed them useless crap day after day after day.
Though they had achieved the American Dream, they worked ridiculous hours, wastefully spent money, and lived paycheck to paycheck.
“Minimalism is the thing that gets us past the things so we can make room for life’s most important things—which actually aren’t things at all. At age 30, best friends Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus walked away from their six-figure corporate careers, jettisoned most of their material possessions, and started focusing on what’s truly important. In their debut book, Joshua & Ryan, authors of the popular website THE MINIMALISTS, explore their troubled pasts and descent into depression. Though they had achieved the American Dream, they worked ridiculous hours, wastefully spent money, and lived paycheck to paycheck. Instead of discovering their passions, they pacified themselves with ephemeral indulgences—which only led to more debt, depression, and discontent. After a pair of life-changing events, Joshua & Ryan discovered minimalism, allowing them to eliminate their excess material things so they could focus on life’s most important “things”: health, relationships, passion, growth, and contribution.”
Ask any man 50 or over of what they think that this description means, and as my own father put it “they need to get out more.”
It looks on the surface that minimalism has become a generational thing, where generation X and Y are embracing it thanks to the proliferation of social media where people are constantly comparing what one has and does not have; leading to a sense of “false worth.”
In order to reclaim a piece of themselves, discover what they love and embrace life, minimalism is being touted as a sure fire way to succeeding. (Arguably, this is the most amount of thought that has ever gone into a Giro Food piece; I already know what you’re thinking…)
So what makes a minimalist then?
As their (Josh’s and Ryan’s) own website points out, ‘Minimalism is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom from worry. Freedom from overwhelm. Freedom from guilt. Freedom from depression. Freedom from the trappings of the consumer culture we’ve built our lives around. Real freedom.’
It’s not, according to the website on having a finite amount of possessions, or therein lack of. It’s more a tactic to allowing you to focus on your dreams and aspirations. If you want to own a house, car, be married, have children etc, then “that’s fine”; just don’t buy trivial sh*t in the meantime.
Minimalism is about objectively being happy with very little. A humble minestrone is then the food of choice for the minimalist in all of us.
For many Italians, there is nothing that sends more shudders down the spine at the thought of having to eat a minestrone (hear me out). Comparable only to camomile tea made by Suor Annunziata, it’s healing properties have been trivialised to the point of “growing back limbs.”
No, seriously, Italians don’t get the thought of having to put up with a soup containing only vegetables. If you’re lucky, a well travelled relative may have introduced croutons, however, it is a sure sign that you will go to bed hungry. Minestrone is the meal of choice for the “sick, the elderly and when you’re being punished.” (Thoughts supplied by relatives and friends across the Italian peninsula!)
Stemming back as far as the early ancient Roman empire, the Romans would prepare a basic rudimentary form of the soup using onions, lentils, cabbage, garlic, broad beans, mushrooms, carrots, asparagus, and turnips; it was a way to utilise any vegetable that was grown and not put it to waste.
Originally cooked with pulte (a oaty thickening agent like flour), it wasn’t until 2nd Century BC that the Romans, who at this point conquered Italy and parts of Europe started introducing trade routes seeing the introduction of other ingredients to add flavour to the dish.
Let’s be honest, did it really take the borders to open up before anyone realised that it tasted awful?
As Francesca Di Mattia points out in her book, Magna Roma “the ancient Romans recognized the health benefits of a simple or “frugal” diet (from the Latin fruges, the common name given to cereals, vegetables and legumes) and thick vegetable soups and vegetables remained a staple.”
Stemming from the branch of Italian cooking known as “cucina povera” (peasants food) it is conditionally associated across many regions of Italy but the region of Tuscany has made minestrone its own, in more recent times. Whilst Italy may have minestrone, Tuscany has, ribollita!
Best described as minestrone on steroids the ‘re-boiled’ soup takes what may have been good from minestrone and then adds to it; crusty bread, shavings of cheese etc. To the author, Wallman, this is taking the minimalist minestrone and making it an experience.
For a grasp on how to make a “perfect” minestrone, Felicity Cloake gives her top tips and wisdom on the subject in this entry on the Guardian website. If you’re in the midst of enjoying greens, late spring/early summer and you want to get more from your minestrone, then this Nigel Slater recipe may just be for you. And finally, if you want the experiential minestrone known as ribollita, found traditionally in the hills of tuscany, then this recipe by Betty Rossbottom will do the trick.
Final thoughts for the wannabe minimalists inside us all taken from the Minimalist website itself; “Minimalists search for happiness not through things, but through life itself; thus, it’s up to you to determine what is necessary and what is superfluous in your life.”
Do you like what you’ve read? If so, please comment and share, all comments will be answered, all shares greatly received.