Articolo disponibile anche in: Italian

Today’s letter has a “carnal” flavour. What were you expecting from Dario Cecchini? But it is me, Miriam, that tells this story.

During the daily newspaper review that I do for Dario, I use post-its to highlight things that I think might interest him. Just yesterday, in a “Letters to the editor” column, I read as follows: “We must stop advertising products with meat, just like we did with cigarettes and liquor”. The woman who wrote this says that meat is harmful and that it must be banned.

This is an astonishing thing to hear for an omnivore.  It’s true that too much can be harmful  (see Renaissance men’s gout), but humanity didn’t realize this for millennia and centuries. Take the old saying: “It’s not quality that’s bad for you, it’s quantity”.

It’s like preaching to the choir with Dario. In his restaurants he serves vegetarian menus in respect of everyone’s freedom of thought, but his philosophy is all about respecting the animals that we kill to nourish ourselves, not wasting anything and using the whole animal, from nose to tail. This basic principle comes from his family’s traditions, eight generations of butchers.

He says: “My grandmother Elina didn’t know anything about today’s popular creative cooking, she was creative in her own way at the stove. For the whole family, for my sister and for myself, she prepared delicious meals with the shop leftovers, everything that clients didn’t want: blood, guts, tripe, stews. I ate my first steak for my eighteenth birthday. Thrilling! But later, thinking back to all the delicacies that my grandmother would set on the table with skill, time and Love, I developed my philosophy, and now I put it in practice, I teach it to young butchers, without searching for excellences lost who-knows-where. It’s the inspiration which makes for a good job”.

These past few weeks more than ever, we’ve had a great bustle of radio and television stations interviewing Dario: Piazza Pulita on La Sette, Quinta Colonna on Rete 4, Matrix on Canale 5, Gusto, also on Canale 5, La Zanzara on Radio 24, Porta a Porta, and an appearance on Striscia la Notizia.   The main topic was always the vegetarian-carnivore/omnivore dispute that’s all the rage right now.

Even in front of very convinced vegetarians like Rita Della Chiesa and other ladies, our butcher’s irrepressible friendliness made a breakthrough. A journalist commented: “Had it been a boxing match Dario would have won on points”.

Instead Dario sadly comments: “With a million Italian children in poverty, with thousands of people dying in the Sicilian strait after leaving in search of a better life, even of better nourishment, without considering everything else, how can there even be a debate between vegans, vegetarians, insectivores, omnivores and carnivores? Have we gone back to discussing the gender of angels?”.

Miriam Serni Casalini and Dario Cecchini