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Appetito's Editor-in-Chief, Andrew Cotto, on the correlation between eating well and being well

Note: A previous version of this story ran on the Good Man Project website. It has been edited for Appetito and reprinted with permission from the publisher.

In the “Eat to Live” vs. “Live to Eat” categories, I’m all about the latter. I even have a title for a never-to-be-written memoir: Killing Time Between Meals. I once had a girlfriend in college who claimed that I preferred food to sex. I dunno about all that…

Anyway, until recently, my feeling about those who didn’t dig eating was of the “they don’t know what they’re missing” mindset, thinking only about the visceral pleasure of consuming good food; but it occurred to me, probably during the pandemic, that eating well doesn’t just bring pleasure in the moment but an overall sense of contentment in life.

Food therapy? Could be, as there’s clearly a correlation, in my non-expert mind, between eating well and being well.

And this contentment, or wellness, to which I refer is most profound when Italian gastronomy is involved. I’ve lived in Italy on two occasions and visited many times on vacation and/or assignment (four times alone since travel restrictions were lifted in 2021). Every time I’ve visited, but especially of late, the sense of wellness I feel is overwhelming. Yes, of course, there is the natural and man-made beauty that abounds, but through what we eat and drink there, we can absorb said beauty at both great pleasure and benefit.

The real beauty, though, is that this experience is not related to the Italian peninsula and islands. We can now procure the products from Italy, or those made here or elsewhere with similar care and of similar quality, in America. We can make the conscious decision to live and benefit in ways as if we were Italians.

When I think of Italians, Dario Cecchini comes to mind. He is considered the “World’s Most Famous Butcher” and is, to me, the face of Italy. And what a face: handsome and bulging with enthusiasm and kindness. He’s a massive man of blood and bone and flesh infused with passion to the square inch. I met Dario over 20 years ago, and I have never known a happier person, and his life is dedicated to food, of raising animals with genuine care and respecting their sacrifice to our sustenance through loving preparation of every usable part and the pure enjoyment of consumption. Dario is legendary among the food world’s elite and his story is most thoroughly told in season 6, episode two of A Chef’s Table.

And Dario is not alone. Food people are happy people. Ya ever met a melancholy food lover? They are among those who covet experience over possessions, and the experience of eating – especially among the company of friends & family – can be enjoyed multiple times a day. Every day. That joy extends beyond the table and into the more prosaic moments in life. And the epitome of this is when what we consume is informed by the Italian diet. I’ll take a good Italian meal (washed down with copious amounts of Italian wine) with people I care about over just about anything in the world.

Maybe that college girlfriend of mine was right…

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