Of all the flatbreads around the world, there is one that in a certain region of Italy is synonym with holidays: piadina romagnola. Flatbreads are a great example of what I like to call “food universals”: they are a common element to many culinary cultures and help us understand how even the most local, typical, identitarian foods are in fact clear expressions of what humans have in common.
Why accept a piece of (matcha) cake, when you can have (both the cake and) the recipe? When I started giving away my sourdough starter, last winter, I didn’t expect it to become such a surprising way to connect with people of all paths of life. In weeks, I saw my Elvira being kneaded into beautiful breads of all shapes and types by the hands of many friendly strangers. One of those pairs of hands was Yuki’s.
For centuries, Amsterdam has also been referred to as Mokum, from the Yiddish word mokem, meaning refuge, safe haven. The city earned the nickname during times of religious persecutions in Europe, when Jews and other religious refugees would seek asylum here. It wasn’t the best of times for Dutch Catholics, who – in turn – were discriminated and persecuted on this very land, especially during the Protestant Reformation. The Yiddish nickname, together with the celebrated ‘Dutch tolerance’, stuck with the city of Amsterdam, while refugees from all over Europe contributed their skills and resources to shape the Dutch economy, society and even the city landscape to this day.
In the spring of 2005 I was dealing with my first real job in a communication agency. My office was in a business incubator located in a repurposed industrial site out of town; quite a charming setting, although hard to reach by public transport. As I stood waiting for my bus to the city after the working day, I would watch rows of cars leave the premises; nearly all of them left in my same direction and had no passengers. That patent waste of fuel, space, money and time (this latter being on me) kept nagging at me for a few days. As an optimistic 24 years old at the peak of her naivety, I soon worked out what seemed a common-sense solution: I wrote a friendly note introducing myself and my proposal and pinned it to the message-board in the hall of the building, positive that some of the many young and progressive people working there would respond enthusiastically to share car rides and expenses with me.
One of my absolute favourite books is Italo Calvino’s “If on a winter’s night a traveller” – first published by the renown Italian publishing house Einaudi in 1979. The novel is a hauntingly entertaining chain of inceptions based on the ultimate need of any reader, or simply of anyone who is listening to a story: the urge to answer the classic question “what happens next?” The very ordinary heroes of Calvino’s book – a man and a woman who meet in a bookshop while trying to find the missing part of a novel they both began to read – are after a story that never comes to a conclusion, but instead keeps drawing the readers to more and more unfinished stories, and eventually to one another.