Tony May Brings Us Back to The Basics


My first memories of Mediterranean cuisine experiences came in the late 70s or early 80s with seminars organized by Oldways, Dun Gifford, and the International Olive Oil Council with Fausto Luchetti. The audience, composed mostly of the American press, was captivated by the subjects and by the simplicity of the cuisine and the quality of the products we all experienced.  These were occasions where we all learned that the Mediterranean Diet associated with the Mediterranean basin starts with the basics……olive oil, fruits, vegetables, and quality products.

We also learned that for Italians the Mediterranean Diet is Italian cuisine. At these events the food, the products, the cuisine were absolutely in keeping with the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid created by the Harvard School of Public Health and, the one and only, Dun Gifford. What followed, for me in the years after Bordighera was a learning process, with experiences throughout Italy. Olive oil from Tuscany and Sicily, tomatoes from the farms around the Vesuvius, the cheeses from Piedmont, dalumi from Parma and San Daniele, legumes from Tuscany and Umbria, bottarga from Sicily and Sardinia, anchovies from Cetara and lemons on the Amalfi Coast, Nduja Calabrese and Bergamotto from Calabria, capers from Pantelleria, Mozzarella di Bufala from Campania and the cuisine from the Italian Coastline Mediterranean and Adriatic ,and from the farms of Val Padana to Sila Calabrese.  Finally my most recent memory, the best roasted Sea Bass I have ever had in a small restaurant in Pantelleria with the most knowlegeable person about eating the Italian way, and the olive oil advocate “always with the extra virgin olive oil on the table”, my friend Fausto Luchetti. These are memories that I still live today and will continue to live with, into the future.

Remembering Dun and saluting Sara for moving on with Oldways.

-Tony May

Vignarola Recipe
Serves 4


4 oz peeled fresh fava beans
2 oz English peas
2 oz asparagus cut in diamonds
4 oz chopped onion
1 oz scallions cut  in diamonds
4 baby artichokes cleaned and cut in quarter
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup white wine
black pepper
pecorino romano slivers (optional)

In a pot, bring the oil and white wine to a simmer. Add the onions and artichokes.

When the mixture comes to a boil add the asparagus and the scallions. Let cook for three minutes and add peas and fava beans.

Season and let it cook for 10 more minutes, no longer.

Plate the “vignarola” in a soup bowl and then sprinkle some pecorino romano cheese slivers on top.

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