Tradition in a Bowl

What do slow travel and soup have in common? The word that comes immediately to mind is terroir, that aroma and flavour in a wine that connects it unmistakably to the soil and climate in which it originated.

I love taking my guests to the Disfida della Zuppa, the soup tournament, organised every year by Slow Food Lucca Compitese. We’re the only foreigners at the dinner. The soup is a special soup that originated in the olive presses of Lucca back in the mists of time. It’s a peasant soup loaded with beans, winter vegetables, stale country bread and, crucially, drizzled with the new season’s olive oil.

A zuppa for us to judge

A zuppa for us to judge

Every family has its own version passed down through the generations. Each cook presents his or her family’s recipe and we the eaters are the judges.

We score on intensity, complexity and defects

We score on intensity, complexity and defects

You’d be surprised how much variety a tradition can encompass, sometimes with embellishments by the current interpreter. One person still gathers wild greens, another emphasises celery and another adds fennel.

My guests eagerly await the results. Did our judgement agree with the locals?

My guests eagerly await the results. Did our judgement agree with the locals?

Alba Barsi (right) declared the winner

Alba Barsi (right) declared the winner

If you travel slowly and stay in one place for a number of days, you have time to put down roots, breathe the air, meet the local people and savour the culture.

Erica Jarman invites you on inspiring culinary tours of life behind the scenes that you won't find in any guidebook — get to know the food artisans and craftspeople of Tuscany, Emilia-Romagna, Piedmont and Liguria. Come join me and my Italian friends and dip into a lifestyle where lunch is more important than business. Find out more at Sapori e Saperi Adventures and follow Erica’s own adventures on her blog.

Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.

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