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Fragrances and flavours of Mediterranean cuisine

Fragrances and flavours of Mediterranean cuisine

The food and wine of Apulia develop dynamic emotional effects in each person who eats it, generating the same difference as between a photograph and a film. Through tasting, food sends signals to the 'command centre', evokes memories, stimulates sensations that taste of life. Little gratuitous joys that for those who live in Apulia, and for its visitors, are taken for granted, and then instantly regretted once they have left.


In an era characterised by the 'consumer culture' that prefers ready-made products, quick solutions, immediate satisfaction, results without too much effort, infallible recipes, as Bauman reminds us, the need to discover and recover the origins of individual food products is becoming ever stronger on the part of consumers. In recent years, in the 'Apulian shops', it is possible to travel through food in search of the surprising authenticity of places dictated by the approximately 800 km of coastline distributed between the Ionian and Adriatic seas, offering the traveller a multicoloured spectacle.


The colours of the table in full symbiosis with the marvels of a natural landscape that alternates the spontaneity of the Mediterranean maquis with the silver of the olive groves, the iridescent colours of the vineyards and vegetable gardens, and the intense red of the earth. In this atmosphere impregnated with emotions, the aim of the convivial practice is to involve the customer-consumer in a grand spectacle in which odours, flavours, scents, sounds, visions, with the unfailing seasoning of the mastery of the gastronomic art and tradition, take the stage.


Hands that produce. Fishermen's hands that taste of sea and salt. Hands that work in the countryside. Tireless hands. Puglia tastes of all this. A simple life that smells of the sea, of food that satiates you more than you expect, of rays of sunshine, of fresh rain that radiates saltiness in the air, of moments of solitude and others of sharing. A simplicity that seems unobtainable elsewhere, where modernity runs rampant and leaves no respite for thoughts.


You don't necessarily have to be an expert to benefit from these sensations: knowledge and curiosity are wonderful things, but they are born from a desire to experience the territory and the pleasure of letting oneself be led by emotions. Food and wine in tourism therefore play a primary role in an area such as Apulia, traditionally vocated to the culinary art.


A mix of conviviality experiences that taste of typicality and uniqueness prove to be formidable drivers in leading a travelling tourist to discover a people and a territory. Lévi-Strauss (1966) describes the cuisine of a society as a language that reveals relational vigour in Apulia. Nourishment is a cultural fact and therefore, it is a system of communication, a body of images, a product of customs, situations and behaviour.

Food and wine are, therefore, anthropic 'signs' of a landscape: Made in Puglia, which well represents food culture throughout the world, precisely because of its richness and diversity. To consider gastronomy simply as a calorie-carrier would be extremely reductive.


In fact, food is associated with the concept of cultural identity, but also of interculturality because it is part of the processes of familiarisation and knowledge of cultures in a more direct way, being the most 'memorable', 'impressive' and 'to be witnessed' experience that tourists can take with them after visiting sites and communities far from the traditional circuits of a tourism of rapid and 'voracious' consumption in order to appreciate their culture and traditions.


In this sense, the 'flavour routes', the rediscovery of original 'food and wine deposits', 'taste markets' together with countless interdisciplinary cultural initiatives have generated positive development circuits in Apulia, based on quality tourism. Almost half of the tourists who visit Apulia consider agri-food products and good food to be one of the main reasons for travelling. On the other hand, the numbers on food and wine experiential tourism in Apulia are positive and clear, as it is an expanding market with further great opportunities for growth.


Attention to typical products, particularly food and wine products, has also been driven and sustained by travellers' growing attention to the quality of food products, as well as the desire to enhance and hand down local traditions and a more general adherence to a simpler and more natural lifestyle.


With regard to the enhancement of the territory in a touristic sense, it is worth emphasising how food and wine in recent years has also assumed a central role in the expectations and motivations of travellers, to the point of imagining a process of 'heritisation' of local foods and culinary specialities, to be considered true tourist attractions capable of moving a target of travellers that international literature defines as 'foodies' (Fox, 2007).


Three different ways of eating coexist in the region, probably dating back to the order given to Apulia by Frederick II who, in 1222, distinguished the land of Bari from Capitanata and the land of Otranto. These are the beginnings of what will be the current provinces of Foggia, Bari and Lecce. The three cuisines present the same dishes but each tends to differentiate according to its own tradition. In a landscape dotted as far as the eye can see by olive trees, lapped by 784 kilometres of coastline and dominated by the limestone reliefs of the Murge, Apulia is the place where the traditions of rural civilisation merge and mingle with the charm of the sea, in an osmosis of ideas, customs and traditions.

Oil, olives, vegetables, flour are the cornerstones of the local cuisine, which, accompanied by savoury aromas and spices such as basil, capers and oregano, is particularly genuine and tasty. Profound needs to know and to know oneself in which the holiday becomes a journey in search of the satisfaction of ancestral needs based on regenerative contact with nature and the uncontaminated environments that Puglia has to offer.


Apulian gastronomy has the formative character of an authentic experience given by the products that compose it and the processes that govern it. Apulian gastronomy is a language that constitutes an extraordinary vehicle of self-representation and communication that moves the performative and value imaginary. Cooking is thus 'the most accessible threshold of a culture'. It is the lowest threshold of a boundary.


Eating the cuisine of others means crossing this threshold to get to know it better An Apulia where food is an experience to be lived and shared. An Apulia where food is nourishment for the palate and for the mind. An Apulia where the typical product is the outcome of a set of emotional and symbolic values that combine to compose the perceived taste. This is why quality cannot be considered only as a set of 'objectively recognisable' attributes, but rather, as a set of factors that include symbolic meanings and experiences derived from the 'cultural product'.


Food is culture, tradition, innovation. Food is the poetry with which the earth responds to the act of love of those who cultivate it. And with food, it is possible to tell stories of products and producers, stories made of flour and fire that give life to bread; of vegetables caressed by the breeze that blows from the sea up the mountains of the Gargano National Park; of the intense red of the tomatoes of the Alto Tavoliere; of grapes, ripened in the sun of the Alta Murgia Park and transformed into wine.


Zero-kilometre stories, narratives of products that through the palate manage to generate new thoughts. Eating Apulia means transmitting to visitors the traditions and values, the fragrances, of a land that is beautiful to look at and live in, from which one is influenced, shocked and seduced by the mastery of the culinary experience.


When people love a place and the work they do, there is a different light in their eyes. That when it lights up generates opportunities.


Giacomo Giancaspro

Food expert