#FoodFiction: In a Month’s Time

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Questo racconto è il risultato della collaborazione tra SapereFood e Umbra Institute. Dopo aver visitato alcune importanti aziende della regione, gli studenti hanno scritto delle storie di fantasia sperimentando il “product placement”, ovvero l’inserimento di un marchio all’interno della narrazione.

by Bella Vagnoni Inspired by a visit to San Biagio Brewery

The familiar sound of the small, grey pebbles crunching beneath the tires of our car fills my heart with excitement. As we pull into Monastero San Biagio, I am inundated with serenity as my eyes follow the tall, evergreen trees that line the driveway all the way up to the villa. The smell of the mountains consumes me. I cannot help but smile as I gaze out towards the hills, recalling the very beginning of our love story. Luca’s warm fingers interlacing mine interrupts my wandering mind. He smiles at me, those bright green eyes glistening against the pink sky behind him. Fourteen years later, he still makes my heart leap.

***

The first time I ever saw Luca was a Thursday. January 2nd, 2003. I was fifteen years old. Luca was seventeen, and he had just started working at the brewery. I noticed him immediately because he seemed younger than the other boys who streamed in and out of the basement cellar, wheeling carts stacked tall with long brown bottles. It was common for boys to come to work over the summer. They returned from university and wanted to do something productive with their time for a few months. That is why Luca caught my eye. It was January, and he was young.

Growing up on a brewery was not always easy. The boys in the brewery always looked at me funny. They gawked at me as I, with arms the size of pretzel rods, lugged massive loads to and from the basement cellar. To escape such intrusive eyes, I allotted myself thirty minutes for lunch every day. I prepared a fresh sandwich each morning – a rotation of prosciutto, tomato and mozzarella, porchetta, and arugula and cheese. Sometimes I even snuck a tiny plastic cup of Verbum to drink, too. It was, and still is, my favorite craft brew. It’s light and smooth, and it never gave my teenage stomach too much trouble. I only broke the rules like this for very special occasions. It had to be worth sneaking around behind my dad’s back. Lunch was always the best part of my day. It was the only time I had to myself, the only time I felt like no one was glaring at me. I cherished the uninterrupted seclusion.

I always ate on the roof of the dining room. The view was the best up there – I could see everything. I could see past the brewery into the neighboring villas. My eyes traced the lines of produce carved into the countryside. I took my hair out, and let the wind dance through it. Every other moment of the day, I tried my absolute best to appear just like one of the boys. But on the roof, I was my truest self.

I first noticed Luca from the roof. His dark, curly hair fell in messy swirls on the top of his head. He had the brightest, green eyes I had ever seen. They were piercing, commanding everyone’s attention. And I got lost in them. He was slender and tall. His clothes were loose, as if he was wearing his older brothers’ outgrown shirts and pants. He stood out among the other boys. Luca was young. I could see it in his eyes.

My dad was a firm believer in quality. Each craft brew went through a 30-day process, half the time brewing in the vessel, half the time fermenting in the bottle. He decided to start this brewery despite being in the wine-country of the world. He had a dream, and he believed enough in it to make it happen. He took great pride in his work, and always sought new ideas to expand the company. Occasionally, some of the more veteran boys would approach my dad and suggest a flavor, and he welcomed that. I was shocked, though, to see Luca speaking to my dad after only working for two weeks. I leaned in and listened intently to their conversation. Luca mentioned something about creating a lighter beer. One that is more versatile, that could be paired with almost any food. He suggested hints of honey to bring out the sweetness of the food. I could not believe the courage Luca displayed in engaging in such a conversation so early with my dad.

While Luca clearly possessed great courage, I certainly did not. During those first two weeks, I never spoke to him. I simply did not have the nerve to introduce myself. Nonetheless, we met as a result of my clumsiness. As I was heaving an empty brown bottle onto my shoulders, it slipped through my hands right before my eyes. As it was careening towards the ground, Luca appeared out of nowhere and caught it gracefully, just milliseconds before it would have shattered into thousands of messy shards. His hair had fallen onto his face, but when he looked up at me, it fell back into place, revealing those striking green eyes. I could not help but smile at him. I nervously thanked him and then stammered, “I’m Francesca.” Calmly, he said, “I know. My name is Luca. It’s nice to finally meet you.” My heart skipped a beat.

The very next day, as I took my break for lunch, Luca followed me. It was January 20th, the first day we ate lunch together. I had pasta with tomatoes and pesto. He brought chicken with rice and grilled vegetables. He sat next to me on the roof that afternoon, about two inches closer than he needed to be. I did not complain. We did not speak, we just existed there beside each other. I caught him sneaking glances at me a few times, though I pretended not to notice.

After lunch, we began the process of transferring the brews from their vessels to the large bottles for the fermentation period. At the end of the day, I was exhausted. I decided to visit the springs. The spa was my favorite part of the brewery. When we first found this land, my dad was very excited about the quality of the water. This town has some of the purest water in Umbria. “Good water makes good beer,” I remember him saying. My mother was the one who suggested that we use the water for something more than just beer. Before an earthquake destroyed it in 1997, there used to be a monastery here. The monks utilized the resources of the land, and believed greatly in the healing powers of the water. Legend has it that when the monks brought the water to St. Benedict on his death bed, his poor health improved right after drinking it. So, my mother believed that building a spa with springs and pools filled with this purifying water would be an excellent idea. I loved the spa. I spent countless hours in the springs, floating around on my back. I certainly believe that the water is purifying – I always felt full of life every time I left the pools.

The spa was the only other place, besides the roof, that I had to myself. Everyone else wanted to shower and go home at the end of the day. I, on the other hand, always changed into my bathing suit and took a dip before heading to my room. I descended the pale stone steps all the way down to the room with my favorite spring. I was startled to find Luca there, floating on his back, just like I always did. I was frozen in time; I could not move or speak. Without looking at me, he said, “I knew you’d show up eventually.” I did not know what to say back. Instead, I gingerly placed my towel on the side of the pool and eased into the water. It was the perfect temperature, just the right amount of warmth. I loved how the water flowed around me, circling every inch of my body and gentling melting away the pains and aches of the work day. Suddenly, Luca stopped floating. He swam towards me and simply looked at me. He said, “You are really beautiful, Francesca.” Then, he left.

Slowly, Luca began to infiltrate my day. He regularly invited himself to my rooftop lunches. I welcomed his company. I used to look forward to lunch because it meant time to myself. Now, I looked forward to it because it meant time with him. I fell in love with Luca at lunch. I did not realize it was happening at first, but once I did, I knew I was in trouble. I was completely enamored with him. My favorite thing about Luca was that I could see life in him. I could see it in the way he moved, the way he spoke. I fell in love with his restlessness. He loved to wander. I had spent my entire life on that villa, and I assumed that I had explored every inch of it until I met him. Luca showed me places that I had seen before, thousands of times, but in a new light. They were hiding in plain sight. When we ate lunch on the roof, time stood still. For thirty minutes, it felt like we two were the only people in the world.

Finally, it had been a month, and the fermenting process was complete. I had repeated this process so many times in my life. I always reflected on what I had done in the last month as we prepped for the beginning of the next brew. I kept track of my life like this – my accomplishments, my failures, and everything in between. That month, though, I did not accomplish anything. That month, I fell in love. It took me just thirty days to fall headfirst, hopelessly in love. Luca helped me grow in a place where I thought I had reached my peak. In a month’s time, I often learned a lot of things. But to this day, the best lesson I ever learned was how to love Luca. Lucky for me, I have spent every day since then loving him.

Umbra Institute

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