These dishes’ central ingredients, though they come from all across Italy, share one thing in common: they’re all foraged from hills, coasts, forests and flatlands–the wild. Wild foods, medicines, and fibers have sustained the Italian population for generations: when domesticated crops failed–due to bad harvests, unpredictable climate or conflicts–wild species persisted, nourishing the people of that land. These foraging practices have long been part of a larger tradition of relating to the natural world in which other species were not only substance but stories, symbols and even kin. The academic field of ethnobotany emerged to study these historical, cultural relationships between people and the rest of their natural environment with the aim of valorizing folk knowledge and sustaining biodiversity. Understanding these traditions has arguably never been more important than now, in this age of climate change and instability, as wild species offer potential solutions for resilience and reconnection to the natural world.
With the rise of modernization and globalization, however–as supermarket shelves filled with basic necessities and people migrated from the countryside to cities–knowledge.
Francesco, who grew up in the plateaus of Puglia, emanates the spirit of the community and land that he and his brother Vincenzo now bring to life at Mezza Pagnotta.