Oct 292010
 

This morning’s Corriere dell’Umbria (the main newspaper in the Italian region of Umbria) has a story about a festival called “Orvieto OFF”. This vaguely unfortunate acronym stands for “Orvieto Food Festival”, and promises to combine local enogastronomic specialities with “universal food themes.” One of these themes is the idea of a filiera corta, or a short supply chain; in other words, sourcing ingredients from sources as close as possible to the final food product. This article, as well as several others that I found with Google, all mention “zero kilometer apertifs”.

This example, left thoroughly unexplained, let my imagination run. What bitter local ingredients would flavor these locovore cocktails? Where would their garish colors (Italian apertif cocktails must, seemingly by law, have some never-before-seen-in-nature chromatic identity) come from? Could a cardoon give a purple color? A Jerusalem artichoke a nice yellow? I smugly thought of my own yesternight’s nightcap, a smallish tumbler of home-made absinthe.

Despite the inevitable jokes about going blind or going mad, I’ve been telling all my friends about the absinthe. I grew both the hyssop and the wormwood in my garden, which stands about thirty yards as the crow flies from my kitchen table where we brewed up the witch’s mix. But these weren’t the only ingredients: I used star anise, angelica root, and fennel seeds, as well as a bottle of grain alcohol. None of these were labeled for provenance but I suspect none were from within a kilometer.

It’s the same question I’d ask of the kilometer zero apertif-making bartenders in Orvieto: did all your ingredients come from this chunk of tufa rock? I suppose it’s the attempt at shortening the supply chain that’s important, not obsessive local sourcing, but as these phrases are thrown around more and more frequently (“local”, “natural”, “all-organic”) we’d do well to ask some of these questions.  ZN

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