Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Madeleine Moment with Radicchio Tardivo

Where does it come from, this feeling of complete happiness, complete contentment? 

Another bite and another wave of contentment. The taste, what is it? Now a vision of something, a beach, yes, it’s the beach in summer, South Beach, and gulls, and now a bike, its your bike, there up against the dune, the tire spinning madly. The whole of the summer of 1976 springs to life.

You are transported from your drab existence to your aunt's home on Martha’s Vineyard. Another bite and now you are running through burning sand but your feet are cooled by a wave. You are on your day off from waitressing. You are 19 year of age. Petty grievances have all but vanished. There is no sadness; there are no regrets just the pure sunlight of summer and possibility of what is to come. How did it happen, this transport to another time? What does it signify? It seems to be the frittata you are eating for lunch. You take another bite. What is in this frittata? It is the crimson and ivory radicchio tardivo that you tucked inside it. There's no mistaking it. The flavor is of lobster. But where did it come from this radicchio tardivo? You put down the frittata and search your mind.

You’re there at the farm just before Thanksgiving shopping for local vegetables. You see baskets of leeks, beets, romanesco, bunches of herbs tied up and brussels sprouts on their stalks. In the corner, next to a cooler, is something that beckons to you. It is what you are there for, this basket hiding in the shadows. Three, not one but three bunches of the famous radicchio tardivo are there resting comfortably, like so many heads of state.

The vertiginous crimson and ivory vegetable, too beautiful to be food, is grown with love and erudition by a farmer from Sunderland. Tim Wilcox went to Hampshire and did his Div 3 on radicchio tardivo in the town of its origin. You thank the farmer, his wife and their farm. You thank Pioneer Valley where a person can major in radicchio in college and plant the stuff here in our loamy American soil.