It's funny how the most humble of ingredients can sometimes transform a simple meal into a cherished memory. In my case farro is this type of ingredient. Farro is a nutritious whole grain that has a firm chewy texture when it's cooked. It's an ingredient commonly found in Italian kitchens, and when I was living in Florence my friend Alice made farro soup for me.
In Italy, food connects people to family, friends, and community. Relationships are forged on the walk to the daily outdoor markets where you buy food from folks you know who proudly raise and grow what they sell.
Apartments in Florence are small and the kitchens are tiny. Actually, "intimate" not "tiny" more appropriately describes these wonderful spaces. I've had the most satisfying and memorable meals sometimes with one dear friend, other times with a crowd fitting so comfortably that it defied the square footage.
One blustery autumn day, Alice and I walked down the narrow side streets to a small shop that sold dried beans, rice, and grains like farro out of large open barrels. It was akin to a mom-and-pop old general store--choc full of essential household and kitchen items. Things like clothes drying racks, tea kettles, rubber replacement washers for on-the-stovetop espresso coffee pots, emergency candles, matches, pots, aprons, and so on. The space was so crammed with stuff that only the proprietor himself knew where to fetch most things. This agile older gentleman would climb this precarious stair, that I swear was as ancient as the city itself, up to a small loft-like area where, with ease and efficiency, he'd collect the item and bring it down to you.
The next day, while Alice put the finishing touches on the soup, I set a portion of the long narrow farm table with a hand embroidered linen table cloth, wine glasses, and china dishes. Yes, this simple farro soup is a part of a vivid and treasured memory.