Doing it By Hand

I have a wonderful food processor. So why did I purchase a mezzaluna in the Pontremoli market this summer? A mezzaluna is a cooking tool, the name of which literally signifies "half-moon" in Italian. Pontremoli is a rural village in Italy; I lived nearby through the courtesy of friends.

Simply because I used this tool when I lived in Italy and did not have a food processor (or central air, dryer, blender, beaters, or dishwasher.) And I loved how real everything seemed. So I bought this mezzaluna, came back to America, never used it.

I pulled it out the other night to make a dish my neighbor taught me in Italy, simply because it seemed fitting. Is it magic? You are frazzled, busy, multi-tasking, getting it all done (or maybe not)--then you pull out a tool you have to use with your own hands and arms, with your own energy--and work takes on a calming kind of thoughtfulness. I think more about what I'm doing. I believe this in principle, of course: see below the introduction to Belloc's Sailor. But it always amazes me when I experience how great it really is to engage reality. So go and do something by hand, and see what kind of thoughts you have. Try it.

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