We are in Tuscany, in Terre di Siena, quite a distance from the big towns and cities that often generate that gastronomic “pollution” that extravagantly combines the old traditions with excessively modern experiments. In Montepulciano, food has succeeded in maintaining those foundations that form the basis of a healthy diet, using local produce as much as possible, along with the calibrated experience of tradition.
We are on that hinge that links the areas of the Val di Chiana of Siena and Val d’Orcia, representing the point of contact between this part of Tuscany and the neighbouring region of Umbria; but also with Lazio, which is very close. Despite this territorial proximity, the cultural identity of these places has remained more or less unspoilt and has continued to develop while maintaining its particular features intact. And one of the most civilised expressions of a population’s cultural heritage is undoubtedly represented by food and wine. Much of Montepulciano’s fortune stems from the conformation of the land, which favours every type of prized crop. Considerable care goes into cultivating vines and olive trees; the end results are products of outstanding prestige – wine and extra-virgin olive oil.
A separate mention should go to Chianina beef, which gives us huge “Florentine” (T-bone) steaks. Especially at times like this, in which the utmost attention is paid, quite rightly, to the quality and genuineness of foodstuffs, this excellent meat represents an unequalled point of reference. Another important role is played by sheep’s milk cheeses and cured meats made with Cinta Senese pork. Local cuisine represents one of the most authentic expressions of that tenacious attachment to tradition, which is the proverbial characteristic of the people of Tuscany; and like the oldest traditions, the typical dishes are simple and substantial. The ingredients are those classically acknowledged as making up healthy Mediterranean cuisine: grilled meat, lake fish, home-made pasta (“pici”) dressed with sauces made with game. These are “poor” dishes, which have nothing whatsoever in common with nouvelle cuisine, with decisive flavours that focus on “substance” as they once had to nourish the farmers during their daily fatigue.