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Pasti Imperiali—The Culinary Legacy of Ancient Rome

Mar. 27, 2018

Pasti Imperiali—The Culinary Legacy of Ancient Rome

Pasta Imperiali is written by Manuel Cirulli and An American in Rome blogger Natalie Aldern with photography by Cristina di Paolo Antonio. To order a copy of Pasti Imperiali in English or Italian, visit their Kickstarter campaign page here.

Too often, we consider what we eat and drink as a mere product, forgetting the link between food, history, and territory. I decided to undertake a journey to discover the most authentic agricultural and culinary traditions of my region in order to highlight the people who protect them from extinction. In collaboration with Slow Food (and specifically Gabriella Cinelli, the Slow Food representative for this project), I explored Lazio to document the culinary heritage of Ancient Rome. With the help of local producers, winemakers, and associations, we gave a face and voice to their work. The best stories became the book Pasti Imperiali (Imperial Meals).

If I had been born in different place, I would have probably continued with my initial plan which was to write about food. However, I was born in Rome and it is very hard to divide food from history in this place: aqueducts, mosaics, villas—wherever I went, I saw elements of the glorious past of my city placed in harmony with agriculture and cuisine, a perfect mix of tradition, innovation, and history.

So, I told myself: if agriculture and history coexist, why separate them? Why don’t we tell the stories of those farmers and winemakers who preserve the culinary heritage of Ancient Rome?

pasta imperiali slow food sergio mottura
Pasti Imperiali is not a history book, but a collection of stories that contains over 170 pages of behind-the-scenes photographs and interviews. It recounts the experiences of twelve farmers and winemakers who looked at the past to imagine the future. You will meet a group of amazingly diverse people, but all of them have something in common: they all made the history and traditions of their land their greatest strength; they all worked tenaciously to prove that innovation and tradition are compatible; and their stories are full of passion, commitment, and determination.

pasta imperiali slow food barrel

Pasti Imperiali is a celebration of the rural and agricultural traditions of our beautiful country. This project does not look nostalgically at the past, but at the future as we want to imagine it. We celebrate the passion of a group of people who chose to unite their destiny to that of their own land, preserving its integrity and interpreting its history with respect.

In this era of Instagram and foodies, even the most valorous supporters of Italian cuisine struggle to keep in mind that the roots of our culinary traditions lie in the earth, not in the Master Chef television studios. Food is the expression of a territory, its history, and the result of generations of producers that allowed its evolution and transmission to the present day.

Now it is your turn—help us to spread these stories.

By Manuel Cirulli, Pasti Imperiali co-author

For the full version of this synopsis and to learn more about supporting the Pasti Imperiali project, click here.

Photo Credits: Cristina di Paolo Antonio

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