Notes of a Gastronome: Carnal Knowledge (New Yorker)

…I’d been in Italy six months, and the idea of buying a pig at the Greenmarket occurred to me when I was there. Most of the people I’d met knew what to do with a pig—or else had a grandmother who knew, or an uncle. It seemed like the next natural step that I should have this kind of knowledge as well.

The commonplace about Italian cooking is that it’s very simple; in practice, the simplicity needs to be learned, and the best way to learn it is to go to Italy and see it firsthand. I ended up at a butcher shop. I would have been happy anywhere, but the butcher was the first person to say yes.

The butcher was Dario Cecchini. I’d heard about him from Armandino Batali, the proprietor of Salumi, in Seattle, and the father of Mario, the celebrity chef. The story was that Mario had gone to Italy to learn the simplicity of Italian food, and the experience had changed his life; his father then did the same. Dario’s had been one of Armandino’s first stops.

I phoned. “Signor Cecchini,” I said, “I am a friend of Mario Batali.”

Accidenti!” he declared (which seemed to mean something like “Well, I’ll be God-damned!” but what did I know?).

“Mario is the son of Armandino,” I said, reading from a script. (My Italian was no better than Chapter 18 of “In Italiano,” the textbook used at the Scuola Italiana del Greenwich Village.)


“And I would like to be a Tuscan butcher.”

Accidenti! Vieni! Pronto! Ora!”—Come! Quickly! Now!