#FoodFiction: “In Vino Veritas”


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 Isabella Turchetta

Inspired by a visit to Le Cimate Winery

1.Black Coffee – Grande, Starbucks, Liza incorrectly spelled, 3 per day every day for as long as I can remember.

It had been four months since I graduated from Stanford. With honors. I had started work at Goldman Sachs two months before. I was studying for the LSAT. I was also studying for the GMAT. I had the dream boyfriend, James – he was handsome beyond belief and working at the Italian Embassy in New York. We were pretty great. Together, we looked perfect, and on paper, even better. We had it all going for us. I felt like I was on top of the world.

I had studied for this my whole life – not, of course, these tests specifically, but every late night was for this. I wanted to go to Harvard’s combined law and business school program – it had been my dream for as long as I could remember. The interminable nights from elementary school through college would all be worth it the day I got into that program. Yes, I said elementary school. I was practically born working myself to a pulp. I remember distinctly my fourth grade report card. My teacher wrote that I had to be careful. She warned my mom that I was going to snap at some point. But I didn’t.

Through high school and college, I made it, with my head down or in a book somewhere. Everyone told me I was going to break if I kept pushing myself so hard. Yes, I got cold sores almost every other week from the stress of it all and I couldn’t remember the last time I had slept more than five hours, but I was fine, I told them. I was 22 and I wanted to get my life where I wanted it before I stopped. I felt like I needed to do it all before I had kids, and in some ways, and to some degree, maybe that was true considering how obsessive I was.

To be fair, I did feel the stress. I remember distinctly the first time I had a panic attack. It was the night before the LSAT, and my boss expected me to complete a full fledged model for a multi-billion-dollar company by the end of the day, on the day of the LSAT. I made it, but I’d say that night aged me about ten years. I got my first white hair.

I was in steady state. My life was pure intensity. Stop wasn’t a word in my vocabulary. And in all honesty, that was my happy state at the time – sitting around made me uneasy. What some would call too much I found to be right on track. I didn’t realize it at the time, but a person cannot live on four to five hours of sleep for forever. My fourth grade teacher had been right.

2. Double Espresso – the newest addition to my 3 cups per day, taken straight.

I continued on my path until December, six months after graduation. My applications were due December 30th, the day that I would receive my bonus from Goldman, and during the period I knew my bosses would make me work the hardest while they enjoyed their Christmas holidays. Things took a turn for the unexpected (or the exactly as expected according to my fourth grade teacher) on December 30th.

I still remember the day James and I started dating. Senior year of high school, it was the day before New Years Eve, and James practically begged me to go out to dinner with him. I hadn’t ever dated anyone before. I had a goal, and despite the fact that I desperately wanted a family at some point, boys were not supposed to be part of the picture at that point. Harvard Business and Law were supposed to be. He had been asking me out for years, and I had never thought of him as anything more than my best friend.

On December 29th, James took me out for dinner and asked me to marry him. As I said before, James was the best, however these things are never as easy as they seem. James was a traditional guy. He got down on one knee, said exactly what I would want him to say, and proposed. Things were complex. I said I needed to think about it, that we had never dated anyone else, and that most importantly, this was not part of my plan.

I went home to think. Not just about the proposal, I had applications due within the next two days. I fell asleep and set an alarm for five hours later. I woke up, went to the gym, went to work, and just tried to get through my seemingly endless financial model. I received a call that my sister went into labor. I received an email that my boss wanted me to complete some extra work by the end of the year. I received texts from James. I thought about my applications. Though I don’t remember it, that was it.

I did what everyone always expected of me.

I cracked.

3.Water – 6 cups a day, my newest demand, this time from a doctor rather than a Managing Partner.

White. Not the kind of white in a beautifully decorated home, but the neon white, the one that pierces your soul. That was the color I woke up to. I could see my parents – I hadn’t seen them since graduation. I wasn’t sure why they were there and not with my sister. I could see my boyfriend. It all came rushing back to me.

I didn’t finish my applications. I didn’t finish my model. I didn’t go to my sister when she was in labor. And most importantly, I didn’t answer his proposal.

I was in a lot of trouble. I immediately wanted to go back to work. Why was I even in that hospital? I had no idea what had happened the day before, though I later realized it had been the always expected mental breakdown. After countless report cards and parent teacher conferences saying it was going to happen, how could it not? Everyone expected it, so it happened.

Regardless, I immediately wanted to go back to work. I had a model to finish. I had law school and business school applications to complete. My dream was in such close reach. I had to get back.

Apparently I had passed out at work. While out in the hospital, the doctor had run some tests. I had a stomach ulcer. At the age of 23, I had a stress-induced ulcer. Not only had what everyone expected finally happened, but I had gone above and beyond, like I did with everything else. I had a severe stress-induced ulcer. The doctor wasn’t joking. I had to change my whole life.

4.Milk – Like what my parents made me drink when I was little, so I wouldn’t have the arthritis that I could already feel building in my bones.

I had no say in the decision. James and my parents decided for me. I would take time off. For the first time in my life, they insisted I do nothing. They decided for me that I would not apply for law school nor grad school that year, I would not return to Goldman, right now at least, and I would not keep pushing myself.

I had never let anyone make a decision for me. But in that moment, some deep part of me knew I needed a change. 23-year olds don’t get ulcers. And yet, I had one. I had no real responsibility yet, other than myself, and I had passed out from stress. For one time only, I let them take the reigns on my life. In all honesty, it was kind of liberating.

5. Bai Bubbles – natural, as recommended by my doctor, but all the caffeine of a coffee that I absolutely could not survive without.

James didn’t ask me about the proposal. I loved him. I thought about telling him my thoughts and my hesitations all the time, but how do you explain to the person you love that you’re just not sure about a proposal?

In my time away from work, I thought about my life a lot. How could someone with such an incomplete life accept a proposal, accept an opportunity to become a part of someone else’s life without first establishing her own?

I didn’t know. I needed to make it on my own before that. That I knew.

James, in his work for the embassy, had to take a month leave to Italy. I had dreaded the time we would spend apart. And now, it had been decided for me I would spend that month with him in Italy. It was fine. I was focused. I would use the opportunity to better myself. I would learn to cook. I would learn a fifth language. I would embrace the lifestyle, and add my new accomplishments to my resume.

They told Goldman I had to take a leave for health reasons. No one was allowed to ask me any questions after that. With doctors involved, no one from work wanted to interfere and risk a lawsuit.

6. Black Tea – still caffeinated, but that much more natural (or so I’m told).

People can change. My month in Italy showed me more than anything that people are malleable and adaptable – even the most structured of people can go with the flow and learn a new way of living. James and I went to countless dinners. We ate until we were so stuffed that we could do nothing more than go home, roll into bed and pass out. We laughed like I never had before. I forgot about my goals, my strict timelines, and my aging. I learned that 23 really could not be any younger.

We toured more vineyards than I can count on two hands. We fell in love with the wine. At Le Cimate Winery, a vineyard with an owner so handsome he reminded us of a young George Clooney and a wine so impeccable, Sagrantino, that we felt ourselves, our hopes and our dreams, in each glass, I discovered I wanted this life. As we looked out over the rolling hills covered with vines, I thought about how much more there was to this place and this life than the one I had left behind at home. These people were doing well for themselves, and yet, in doing so, they were simultaneously doing something they so obviously loved. They were at peace, and being there that day, I discovered I wanted that peace. We bought enough so that we would be able to drink ourselves silly, and sent home innumerable other bottles for friends and families at home.

That was the funny thing, the problems of back home no longer mattered.

7. Montefalco Sagrantino – tastes like licorice, black tea; stronger, and better if left in the bottle for 10+ years, in other words if I exemplified the patience I’d never had before.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that I needed balance. Balance, like that I studied in countless Italian Renaissance art classes, and I never got quite right in ballet. There is a beauty to loving multiple parts of life. Success is not everything, and cannot be obtained without a support system. And a support system only exists if you make time to be the support system for those who support you. But I still love to work, and I think that is okay too.

I fell in love with Italian food.

I fell in love with Sagrantino wine.

I fell in love with James.

And I decided I was okay with the reality of not going to Harvard Law and Harvard Business School, for now at least.

Umbra Institute


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