Carrie Balkcom Remembers Camaraderie and Culture


Because of a canceled trip to South America, I found myself on a last minute journey to Italy with Oldways at the beginning of the 2000’s.

The trip started with convening in Nice, and bussing to San Remo, Italy, and then with the guidance of Fred Plotkin and the other amazing historians on that trip, the journey began with Fred telling us how he had carefully unknotted the string around the grocery lists that were archived to find out the eating habits of earlier inhabitants of the region.

We found ourselves traipsing along small cobblestone streets that hold the footprints of generations of a people who care for the land and history of their place that was unmatched in my daily life in America. It did send me back to the memories of my family with their sense of place in the south. As we meandered through hill towns, and tasted the indigenous foods I was struck at the similarities to the tastes and textures of foods from my early childhood in the rural south. Dried pea fritters, greens, wild boar, rustic cooking techniques that spoke to the simplicity of the method, and the complexity of the flavors. Simple sweets so delicate and so so intense that small bites were all one needed to be full.

We ended our journey through the hill towns, Cinque Terre and seaside towns, to Geneva, where we dined at the villa of Andrea Doria. Again, a simple meal prepared with the local-ist of ingredients with such warm friends created over food and history.

I had one more opportunity to take an Oldways trip, this time to the Greek Isles, and this time again with the camaraderie of like-minded food folk, I witnessed and tasted the foods of a people who are passionate about saving their culture and foods. Again, I was struck by the simplicity of the preparation, the complexity of the flavors, and depth of the passion that surrounds them both.

-Carrie Balkcom

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