I started La Cucina Povera because I could feel the movement away from industrial crap food toward a more local approach to getting fed. The political end of the market is pretty full right now; people yammer endlessly how folks aught to take personal responsibility to feed themselves right or to eat local or die—but is there a place where people can learn about the good, wholesome foods that come from low off the hog and how to cook them?
Let’s talk about that hog for a minute. The “lesser” cuts of meats require a certain knowledge to prepare. You don’t just slap a veal shank on the grill and expect to rip into the charred results with those wimpy canines evolution gave you. In the past, mothers worked very hard to not only make these cuts palatable, but to preserve some of them through the long winters and hot summers.
Like rugby players, cuts from “low off the hog” draw advantage from their toughness; these meats are far more flavorful than tenderloin. They are muscles that have been used to do work. They need work to be palatable.
Along the way these foods seemed to have formed themselves into a cuisine that defied boundaries. Different seasonings added a local color, but the techniques were born from necessity everywhere.
La Cucina Povera celebrates these techniques, which seem to have gotten lost in America. When I’m in Italy, the difference in what I can buy in a small market is astounding. Is it because the cuts from low off the hog end up in American hot dogs, pet food and animal feed —seldom seeing the glaring florescent lights of our cavernous supermarkets? Have we lost the will to put out effort to cook our own food?
Let’s try to answer those questions, ok? That’s what La Cucina Povera hopes to do, too.