As I write this, I casually glance at the calendar, just to see the date since, like most of you, I’ve lost all track of time. I saw that, if life was normal (will it ever be?), I would be working with a group of gorgeous travelers on one of my groovy Italian adventures on the Amalfi Coast, in the town of Ravello, staying at Villa San Cosma. It hot me like a brick and then I drifted off my focus on writing and began thinking about the things I love and miss in Italy.
I dreamed I was in Pompeii with our adorable and viciously smart guide, Antonio Mosca whose passion for this ancient city is unrivaled. His stories are so engaging and compelling that you’re sure that if you look down, you would have Roman sandals on your feet as you walk the dusty roads of this once-thriving metropolis.
I came back to reality feeling nostalgic for the people I love in Italy and the blessings of so many wonderful adventures. I know I will be there again; I know my heart will be full again.
I thought of the hot, sharp flavor of my first espresso sipped at the Rome airport upon landing. I thought of the glorious breakfasts and dinners we serve on an outdoor patio with a breathtaking view of the Amalfi Coast as the backdrop; Roberta and Marialuisa working with us and making us feel comfortable and at home from the first moment we arrive. I thought of the cold crisp glasses of Prosecco sipped poolside after a hot day of touring. I thought of the laughter of my kitchen, (well, mine for 2 weeks…) with our wonderful partners in crime, Eric and Madinad, putting together meals, snacks and desserts to delight our intrepid guests. I think it’s the laughter I miss the most.
I dream of the days when we will again wander the streets of ancient cities and towns, sipping espresso and a bit of local wine in Tuscany with my beloved friend and guide, Elisabetta. I dream of the perfect thin-crust pizza put in front of me in Naples and a wild vegan feast served by Antonella at her Secret Terrace, where we eat perfectly cooked dishes and dance the night away by her pool.
In the meantime, I cook.
That’s how I will content myself this summer; this weird (for me) summer without travel and adventure. I will nurture my city garden and enjoy meals alfresco with the people I love the most. I will continue to cook fresh food to keep my family healthy and my heart light. I will delight in every flavor, every sensation, every hug; every joyful emotion as we slowly and carefully emerge from the throes of this pandemic.
I will find solace in the same room where I find joy, my kitchen. My wish for all of you, as summer begins is that you are safe, well and blessed during these warm sunny days. I hope you cook and nurture your loved ones and yourself. I hope you never forget the joys of cooking at home, even as we open up our lives again; venture out again and gather together, eat in restaurants. It’s at home that we create the strength and health that will ultimately get us through this pandemic.
It’s important to remember what foods nourish us and what foods rob us of our wellness. I listen to the experts every day and only one medical expert has hinted at the real inconvenient truth of the pandemic: that because of our food choices, more Americans are sick than well, 88% to be exact. Watching this interview, I was shocked back to harsh reality.
How could this be the case? How was this possible? Even with what I know, what I do for my living, my mission; this fact astounded me. I knew that for the most part, Americans don’t consider the impact of food choices on their health, either for economic or sentimental reasons. But I had no idea things were this…stark?
How could we even begin to cope with a pandemic when our bodies are so over-burdened by our food choices that we have no resources with which to fight off disease? No wonder COVID 19 has taken such a massive toll on us.
What do we do? We look backwards. We look at our ancestors and how they cooked. For most of us, our grandparents ate locally and mostly unprocessed seasonal foods. Even if they ate animal foods. We have come so far from what humans are built to consume that it’s shocking.
I once read a study done by an expert who said that humans evolved from Paleolithic to omnivorous over thousands of years and our bodies adapted to our changing diets. But our modern food has changed so dramatically in the last 50-60 years that our bodies can’t keep up meatbolically; there’s been no time to evolve to be able to digest so much of what we call food.
As a result, our bodies are undernourished, even at a time when obesity has become a worldwide epidemic. The lack of real living food has left us metabolically weak and unable to fight off disease as well as we should be able.
So in my view, one of the myriad of reasons that this pandemic has taken such a toll on us is simply that we are not nourished in a way that allows us to fight off infection. Certainly there are populations that are vulnerable by their very nature, but for most of us, this pandemic has laid bare so many of our frailties: economic inequality; social injustice and for me, how our food choices have left us vulnerable to disease.
I have high hopes for people. I hope this pandemic reveals us to be kinder and more aware of our footprints on the planet. I hope we realize how much we need each other; that life is a collaborative art. Mostly, I hope we begin to see the impact of food on our wellness and pass our healthy habits to our children so future generations are not flattened by another pandemic.