When beauty calls

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A few days ago, the fair “We Love Bio” ended in Pistoia. The same one was recently held in Florence and in Empoli. I knew that I could not visit either Pistoia or Florence, so I carved out a couple of hours to travel to Empoli. I did not want to go alone, so I decided to invite a friend to accompany me.  And so, late on the morning of 15 March 2015, we left for Empoli. In addition to the clearly marked parking lot, the town also has a vast zone of “grey” parking that allows the more confident (or more courageous) to tempt fate; we old wolves preferred to lose a bit of time by parking in the official paid parking lot and thereby visit We Love Bio in peace and with a clean conscience.

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The fair was cozy and the people, with very few exceptions (even we sometimes start off on the wrong foot), were very nice.  We decided to follow the suggested route and, to tell the truth, only wanted to look around without any intention to buy anything. There is an economic crisis and everywhere one senses that superfluous things are put into second place.

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No sooner had I walked five meters when I heard my name being called by the same person who invited me to the fair. The Italian lady, who represents an Austrian firm, was promoting a natural liquid toothpaste made from cinnamon and two other ingredients that I do not recall, while emphasizing that traditional toothpastes are filled with chemicals. Our good intentions vanished instantly and we were already prepared to buy some (who wants to ingest chemical additives three times a day?), but good sense suggested to finish the tour and then, eventually, to return to the stands with particularly interesting products.

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Two or three stands further ahead we found a 100% natural makeup remover, based on the principle of micro-fibre cloths that are used in the kitchen without cleaning products.  One uses two small gloves:  one moistened with tepid water to wipe the face and eyes, the other containing silver fibres which stimulate the face’s blood circulation and disinfect the skin.  All Made in Italy. This product also seemed original and promising. After a few small steps, we found ourselves in front of three irresistible products. The first was a natural epilator; namely, a glove which removes hairs from the legs and arms simply using circular motions, with a tiny version for delicate removal under the nose. We were a bit skeptical but still open to solutions for overcoming this ancient scourge.

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The second product was a face cream made from donkey’s milk. Very, very seductive, considering that the ancient Egyptians and Romans used to entrust their beauty to this valuable raw material.

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More difficult to appreciate, at least for me, was a facial cream made from snails. At first I thought it was only an unusual name to attract people’s attention, but the salesperson explained that in fact the cream uses the “slime” of the snail.  Now, there are beneficial effects including anti-wrinkle, healing, soothing, nourishing, regenerating, and anti-stretch marks; but, the thought of smearing my face with snail slime – although mixed with other ingredients – made me decide to keep my wrinkles; indeed, I started to look at them with a certain affection.

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We Love Bio, naturally, featured not only cosmetic products but also foods, fresh vegetables, breads, sweets, tissues, costume jewelry, and clothes, all strictly Bio. A reassuring future for our children.

After having made our way between oil of Argan, natural soaps, support soles for heel pumps size seventy and up, and relaxation eyeglasses designed for people who spend long hours working in front of computers, we arrived at the end of our rounds.

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Despite our good intentions, we returned home with natural toothpaste (actually named teeth oil), the natural makeup and hair remover, a black soap famous for being one of the ten most moisturizing soaps in the world…

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Farfalla di Toscana is a young “azienda agricola” created recently with a long life in front of it.  Who knows, if in its future there will not be one of the products that we saw, tested, and purchased at We Love Bio?

Anneliese Rabl (translation John McAuliffe) x

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A warm greeting to Spring

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We are at the start of April and we should be past the worst.  Spring is at the door and nothing, simply nothing, can get between us and the most promising of the four seasons.  In summary:  it is like a new year with new resolutions, new hopes, and new life.

In Tuscany, thank goodness, it is never particularly cold and also since the local flora adapts first to the autumn and then to the winter, at least some flowers and plants can be found throughout the entire year.

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Those who live in the outdoors know that daises, both leaves and flowers, go well in salads and that buds, even if small and well closed, when prepared with vinegar and salt, make an excellent substitute for capers. Young dandelion fronds, when just sprouted, give potato salad (preferably warmed) an unusual and exquisite taste.

However, as already said, we are in Tuscany where winter and the start of spring present us with typically Mediterranean jewels that Northerners only see packaged in 1- 2- or 5-kilo bags rather than growing normally on bushes and trees.  Cedar, lemon, tangerine, kumquat and grapefruit, in fact, can all be used to make jams, jellies, and liquors characterized by fresh taste and varying bitterness.

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The citrus fruit which most lends itself to a special meeting between winter and spring is the orange. Not the bitter orange with a strong, almost overwhelming, taste, but a sweet variety. The flower, meanwhile, is the violet. Not just any violet but a dark violet, almost a red bordeaux colour, which hides in the grass well protected from too much wind and sun. Its scent is unique, delicate and intense at the same time. Its fragrance is so elusive that, to date, nobody has managed to extract its essence.  In fact, there exists nowhere a market for a true oil of essence of violet.

These two ingredients, with a little luck and weather permitting, can be available every year for a very special recipe:

Orange marmelade with violets

How can one capture such a meeting of color, scent, and taste with a precise amount of fruit, sugar, and flowers? However, taste is not to be discussed; each recipe should have the right to be interpreted according to personal preference.

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For our version, we shall need fresh oranges, recently harvested, washed, and dried. Then, half of the oranges’ weight in sugar, preferably white sugar because the flavour of brown sugar tends to overwhelm the scent of the flowers. Then a handful of violets, washed and with the stems removed. And then two glasses of apple juice.

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We slice the orange into pieces as thinly as possible and mix them together with the apple juice in a suitable cooking pot. Let them cook until the skins are tender. Now add the sugar (and extra apple juice if needed) and boil until the jam has reached the right consistence.  Add the violets and let sit for five minutes. Then fill the jars, invert them for ten minutes, and then we store them in a dry, dark place. E voilà!

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What is the best way to eat our jam? Here too there are no rules. We suggest (as for all jams) to try a teaspoon of pure jam, just as it is, to understand better its character, taste, scent, and flavor. And then it is up to you to match it with other foods as you prefer.

 

Welcome to springtime!

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Anneliese Rabl (translation John McAuliffe) x

Farfalla di Toscana

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