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Honey: history of a golden food

Culture / -

il miele nella storia imm

As a natural, live food, honey has been a concentrated sweetness for thousands of years. Not only a food, it has many medical properties and throughout history has been part of rituals and been ascribed cultural values in almost all areas of the world. Ancient, highly prized and special, honey is one of the foods that best represents the relationship between Man and Nature over time.

Honey is one of the oldest foods known to Mankind: archaeological research has confirmed that prehistoric people survived on this sweet food: a representation in rock art discovered in the early 20th Century near Valencia, Spain, depicts a person suspended on a liana with a knapsack surrounded by buzzing bees while collecting honeycombs from a rock crevice. Later, when the Man left the caves and built huts and dwellings, he also began building artificial niches for bees.
 
4000 Years ago the Egyptians practiced the art of beekeeping, especially along the Nile delta and with their hives, kept track of the flowering of plants. During excavations of tombs, cups and pots of sealed honey were found that would have accompanied the dead on their journey to the afterlife. In them honey was discovered, preserved over thousands of years with all its qualities and its characteristics. The hieroglyphs confirm that honey was used npt only as a food but also as a medical remedy for the relief of digestive disorders and as a base for ointments to heal sores and wounds.
 
The Greeks used honey in a variety of ways: considered the food of the gods, it was often used in the preparation of cakes, which were a part of religious ceremonies and sacrifices in honor of the gods. According to myth, Melissa (the etymology of which is linked to the name "bee" and "honey"), daughter of the king of Crete, nourished Zeus with the honey of the bee Panacride. Aristophanes wrote that the honey cakes were a prize for athletes who won races and Pythagoras suggested his followers eat bread and honey because would guarantee a long and healthy life.
 
For the Romans, honey was the ideal sweetener and it was imported from Crete, Cyprus, Malta and Spain. It was used raw and cooked in preparing desserts, beer, preserves and mead, a beverage produced by the fermentation of honey diluted with water, the drink of the gods and heroes of the past. At the time of the Emperor Augustus,  beekeeping had reached its golden age.
 
Beekeeping was practiced in the traditional way throughout antiquity, but it made a quantum jump in the Middle Ages: in 759 Charlemagne publicized regulated collections, Capitulare de Villis, to exploit resources generated by agricultural and pastoral activities. Here we read that anyone who had a farm also had to keep bees and make honey and mead: "We must be very careful to ensure that food prepared or packaged by hand is made or prepared with utter cleanliness: lard, dried or bagged or salt beef, wine, vinegar, blackberry wine, mulled wine, fish sauce, mustard, butter, malt, beer, mead, honey, wax and flour." Again, Charlemagne, who had a large number of hives on farms and in his palace, regulated beekeeping: severe punishments were inflicted on those who were caught stealing honey, while it was agreed that those who found a honeycomb could become its owner. In the Middle Ages beekeeping techniques developed in particular in convents and abbeys.
 
But it was in the Renaissance that honey achieved its greatest triumph: used at the sumptuous banquets of the aristocracy in meat stuffings, accompanying soups and casseroles. For the masters of the culinary arts, engaged in sweetening (a true fashion of the times), it was an ingredient that endowed prestige upon the tables of great families.
 
Abandoned for a long time in favor of sugar cane, honey has today been rediscovered for its nutritional and therapeutic and continues to offer an invaluable glue among history, nature and nutrition.
 
A visit to Expo Milano 2015 also means discovering gastronomic traditions and allows a taste of typical products of different Countries and the discovery of new flavors. In particular at the Pavilion Zero the history of Man on Earth will be recounted through his relationship with Nature and food. 

April 22, Earth Day. An American event that's gone global

Sustainability / -

Gaylord Nelson
© Bettmann/Corbis

Why are we celebrating the Earth today? Why are concerts, conferences and events being held around the world to celebrate the importance of respecting the ecological balance? It all started during the era of Kennedy, the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix. This date marking an event organized in 1970 by Gaylord Nelson is now an occasion for reflection.

He accompanied President John F. Kennedy in 1962, during a trip to eleven US states to see for themselves the state of the environment and nature. With President Lyndon B. Johnson, he supported the civil rights laws and the War on Poverty. This is the story of Wisconsin Senator, Gaylord Nelson, the founder of Earth Day.
 
The tumult over Vietnam and the oil spill in California
Senator Nelson, starting in the sixties, began to travel around the United States, taking into account how environmental degradation was spreading and yet was not always realized by local administrators. In the summer of 1969 two major factors contributed to the birth of an idea. There was a wave of dissension taking place in a number of universities, due to the war in Vietnam. And then there was a big oil spill in beautiful Santa Barbara, California. To create awareness in the political classes, Gaylord Nelson announced in September that in the spring there would be a great environmental teach-in to be held on April 22, 1970, one that would take place nationwide.
 
The response was amazing: from coast to coast the word spread quickly, thousands of letters, telegrams and phone calls criss-crossed the country, involving ever-increasing numbers of people who finally had a clear starting point.
 
April 22, 1970 – the first Earth Day in America
It was thanks to the masses that the first Earth Day was a success, with 20 million Americans in different cities, who gathered in streets, parks and auditoriums, together with thousands of schools and local communities. According to some, it was this unexpected success that led to the emergence of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passing of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act.
 
In 1990 a group of environmental organizations joined together with environmental activist and coordinator of the first Earth Day, Denis Hayes, to plan, for the first time, an event on an international scale. So it became a global day, with 200 million people in 140 countries. Today, Earth Day involves 175 countries around the world and has also been embraced by the UN.
 
"Environment is all of America and its problems. It is rats in the ghetto. It is a hungry child in a land of affluence. It is housing that is not worthy of the name; neighborhoods not fit to inhabit."
 
The extraordinary modernity of Gaylord Nelson’s words still stands today, half a century later.
 

Don Gino Rigoldi. A universal right like food should not hinge on economic interests

Culture / -

don gino rigoldi immagine rife

These are the words of Don Gino Rigoldi, President of Comunità Nuova, Chaplain of the Beccaria youth detention center and Ambassador of Expo Milano 2015, whose life is dedicated to training, caring for others and many social reintegration projects. Some of these are also in the food industry, where girls and boys learn to prepare food in the kitchen that not only tastes good but also respects the planet. The special D'O & Friends Lunch to be held on Sunday December, 14, is emblematic of his work and is organized by his friend Davide Oldani as a fund-raiser in support of Comunità Nuova in Brianza.

Sins On December 4, when you were awarded your honorary degree in 'Communication and social enterprise', you said that there is a sort of standard list of light sins, usually confessed among the faithful (for example, not going to Mass on Sundays), but added that no one, or almost no one, admitted to not paying taxes. What are the real immoral actions of every day and which, in your opinion, are the ones that go unnoticed?
For a Christian, the most critical sins are the ones that usually no one confesses, related to Jesus’ call to care for others. Others are not just strangers, foreigners, the sick, the poor, to whom we should always offer our help, but also our "nearest and dearest": our wife, our husband, children, our girlfriend, or boyfriend, our friends, our neighbors. Certainly it is commendable to tackle marginalization somewhere else, but we must also be able to get along with the people we live next door to. We must look at sins not just as actions, but also as a way of following Jesus’ words. He asks us to pursue justice, not to amass wealth but to distribute it as far as possible, and to take care of the weak: if you don’t do these things, then you're entering into sin, and a serious one. It goes without saying that even those who have no faith, have principles that guide their lives, values that they claim to respect and seek to achieve. And living in the name of good means to act for the best, and to do your best; but it is not enough to admire it. Abstaining from evil is not the same thing as committing to good.

Ignorance in love On that same occasion, you said that the worst ignorance of our time is our ''ignorance in love" and that to feel good we must find a way to "liberate" our ability to talk about what we feel inside. What do you think are the best practices that lead to well-being with ourselves and with others?
I start from the belief that learning to get along with others, to have good relationships, is not as a gift or a "fact" that happens or not, even in love. Falling in love exists, but it is only the beginning: we then have to continue on our way, together. We can all learn to improve and maintain healthy lives and loving relationships, but because a relationship is a constantly moving process, we must take care of it and commit to it daily.
Our daily practices are always linked to an honest and warm relationship with others: to love someone – in the broadest sense, because this also happens with friends and those closest to us – means that we have to know who it is that we love and what we are like. It asks of us to always act for the good each other, in reciprocity. In a relationship, there are always two sides. An excellent practice is to see the best in others around us, to see their good qualities. It's always easy to pick holes, but less so if we look and make a list of at least three good qualities of those around us. We must practice and learn to look at the good side of the people we live with. And even our good side. This is what I call well-being.

Gentle rehabilitation At Villa Paradiso (your therapeutic community for people with addiction problems), you have created a pastry and catering laboratory where participants learn a profession that will allow them to find a job and economic independence. What is the relationship between the care that is put into the preparation of a food and the rehabilitation of a person?
The answer is in the question: when we prepare food, we need to take care, in our lives, of ourselves and of others. To prepare a dish we have to plan, to think about the effects of our actions, to achieve a result, one step at a time, offering the fruit of our labor to others, for their feedback, agreeing to put ourselves to the test. Rehabilitation is very much linked to experience, making us feel good, helping us discover our qualities and deciding to bet on them; ready to accept also the difficult moments along the way when doubts can leaving us shaken. Preparing ourselves in the kitchen is a good analogy: there are difficulties, but we learn that we are not alone, that there is a group where we can share our thoughts and ideas.

Food quality Cakes and pastries made at Villa Paradiso are created using only natural ingredients of the highest quality such as butter, eggs, flour, fruit and milk at km zero. How important is the ethical aspect for those who create and promote these products?
Shortcuts in life – which, in this case, do not refer to the mileage between ourselves and our sources of raw materials – usually lead us to a dead end: to live in an ethical way and in the name of honesty and quality, applies to every aspect of our lives. Commitment is therefore to do things well, and is not limited just to that: a laboratory, despite being small, in part of a neighborhood and it is good to build our relationships with those who live around us.

D’O and Friends On Sunday, December 14, for the sixth year, you organized a special lunch with Ambassador Davide Oldani to support the residential community of the Comunità Nuova charity. Proceeds will go towards funding activities in Villa Paradiso. How did the partnership with Oldani come about? Why did he choose to raise money through culinary events?
I knew Davide Oldani and then became friends with him a long time ago. He was the first to show us at Comunità Nuova his thoughtfulness and care for others. He was the one who offered to prepare Christmas dinner at Villa Paradiso which we used to organize under our own steam. But the most wonderful thing is the spirit with which, for six years now, he brings together his friends: he really involves the girls and boys staying at the community, explaining and talking things through. It is an experience that involves us all. The idea of organizing culinary occasions is closely linked to the spirit with which our association was born: being together is important. Even more so is enjoying being together. Conviviality, helped along by good food, is key to deciding that "together is better."

Expo Milano 2015 You are an Ambassador of Expo Milano 2015. What is the most important message that the next Universal Exposition should bring to the world?
That food is an integral part of our right to life. Like air, like water, like home and being able to maintain our dignity and our family through work. If food is a source of life, it is necessary to preserve its quality. Not only its intrinsic quality, but also the quality of the work required to produce it. But there's more: if we want to recognize food as the right of every human being, we must reconsider the actions of international bodies that govern food commodities. I am thinking, for example, of the Chicago Stock Exchange, where people decide and often speculate on grain prices, with disastrous effects sometimes on entire populations. A universal right should not hinge on economic and financial interests.
 

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