If not now, when?

One American woman. Twenty acres and a 1650 farmhouse in Tuscany. Random introspection and hilarity, depending on the day.

17 January 2007

The Vortex of Love

I met a man this month who sucked me into (his words!), "the vortex of love."

He is almost 70 years old, if my calculations are correct. And he is the most brilliant artisan, hand-hammering copper pans in his workshop in Montepulciano, a stunning hilltop town about 45 minutes south of here.

It was a blustery, foggy January day. The visiting Rosmarino and I drove up to the tip-top of Montepulciano and had a lunch of pici all'aglione and mindbendingly delectable linguine with white truffles, accompanied by a lightly beautiful Vernaccia. Should you find yourself in Montepulciano, you must visit the Mamma in the pearls and white apron at Osteria del Conte, at the top of the Piazza Grande.

Tongues dancing, we headed back out into the rain on our errand-of-the-day: to find Signor Mazzetti. Everyone knows that if you want to buy a copper pan, you go to Mazzetti. You spend more than you'd planned, but you buy a history, a piece of art, and the most beautifully hand-crafted copper you can possibly imagine. I have, I admit, coveted his work for years, and I had decided the time had come to invest.

As luck would have it, he was in his workshop. I poked my head in the door, telling him cheerfully (in Italian) that I was surprised he was in - it being January and much of the town ghostly deserted, in vacations. He waved me in: "it's a work day," he shrugged his shoulders as if to say, 'of course I'm here.'

I explained that I was so happy ... that I had wanted for years to buy a pot from him, and I was ecstatic to find him in the workshop, because I wanted my friend to see it. I know the actual store is 2 streets down, but I love the workshop -- the 'patina of age' of it all. The craftsmanship.

That was all the invitation that he needed. He launched immediately into the story of his family's business, operating since 1857 - gesturing overhead to the copper pots his grandmother had cooked in. He showed us the hammers and the large anvils, and multiple large-scale design sketches he had worked with. Displayed proudly in his shop doorway is a photo of him presenting one of his works of art to the Pope, who commented, "you are such an artist". Mazzetti corrected him, "I am an artisan, not an artist. An artisan has a history behind him."

The next hour tripped by on copper-colored wings, with him showing off details of his work and telling us his family's story, while he hammered for us little personalized 'pensieri' - souvenir copper discs to take with us. He looked at Rosmarino's platinum hair and dark, flashing eyes and called her a panther, a tigress. He looked at me and told me that my face was shiny and smiling and that, with a face like that, it was clear that I must be in love. I blushed, actually.

After more than an hour of stories and photos and eager translation of questions and answers, the lament of an artisan in a dying craft ('the young people don't want to do this,' listening to the hammering and stamping of copper, we parted cheerfully and eagerly, off to the actual store, to see his wife about my coveted pan purchase.

It's a deep, double-handled copper pan, larger and deeper than an average skillet. It can fry sausage, bake a dutch baby, handle risottos, stews, oven-baked chicken, perfect pork chops, or pastas. It is beautiful, a pan I will own for the rest of my life and eventually hand down to the next generation, my neices or nephews. A century from now, I would hope that someone still remembers the story of how it was found. When Blogger loves me again, I will post pictures for you.

The first meal I made in my pan-of-a-lifetime was my grandmother's stew recipe. I think that would have made Cesare Mazzetti very happy, I know it felt like absolute culinary perfection to me.

Tonight, I am cooking a spicy sausage and golden raisin risotto. Signor Mazzetti's 'vortex of love' (how he described it when he met his wife) will live on, through relationships that matter, and simple food prepared lovingly in his pan.

You have 10 months. If you love cooking, put something from Mazzetti on your Christmas list; you won't be sorry.

PS: the risotto turned out less-than-spectacular. But I don't blame the pan: overly broth flavored. But we recovered and had sex-in-a-bowl olive oil popcorn for a second course - all's well that ends well.


Blogger I'm Just a Girl said...

She's alive!!!! So glad to "see" you back on the blog. I've missed you. Can't wait to see the pan.

7:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Loved the story of the pan...what a lovely experience. I just read it to Miss Emma and G. We miss you and wanted to catch up on your life....it's been far too long. :-)
Know that you are in our thoughts.

3:43 PM  

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