The Perennial Plate could give you wanderlust really quickly, at least if you're curious about food. The weekly, online documentary series follows two people who travel the world learning -- and filming -- how people really eat in their home countries.
The duo, chef Daniel Klein and camerawoman Mirra Fine, find their way into home kitchens, onto farms and fishing boats. And they have a goal: 12 countries, in-depth, in 18 months. They visited the Pedrini family in Italy, where they grow their own wheat biodynamically to make Azienda Agricola San Cristoforo pasta.
Lynne Rossetto Kasper: You've been in Italy. As you know, I have a certain partiality to that country. What are some of the things you found?
Mirra Fine: We found this story of a pasta maker in Tuscany. Franco Pedrini and his three sons grow wheat and make their own pasta. This actually sounded really great for us because we had already scheduled a story to go hunting for truffles in Marche, Italy. We figured showing up to a pasta maker's home with a bag full of truffles could really work out well for us.
LRK: The door is going to open immediately.
Daniel Klein: We had our truffles -- we had gone out and found the bianchettos, the ones that are in between seasons -- and went to this biodynamic farm. We found out shortly before that our translator had canceled. We don't speak Italian unfortunately, so we show up at these peoples' house and proceed to have a truffle lunch of their pasta with very few language skills. It was really, really good for us because we were able to develop this broken small talk and become friends. Then the next day their son, who speaks English, came and we were able to do the interviews and already be pals.
LRK: They're growing the wheat and they're making the pasta. Is this a family tradition?
MF: The interesting thing about Franco is that up until 20 years ago, he was a physical education teacher up in the mountains. He just decided when his kids were 10, 12 and 8 that he was going to pick the family up and become a farmer. He knew nothing about farming. He didn't know how to make pasta. He just decided to try his hand at it and go back to the land as they say.
DK: He had a passion for organic and for a natural way of life. He was seeing, like so many people these days, that we've been using these bleached flours -- everyone is using the same ones. He really wanted to get back to these old grains that he had seen. He started researching and finding these beautiful heirloom wheats, heirloom semolinas, all these different things, planting them and trying to find a way to make good pasta out of them. Over the course of 20 years, he's been refining his craft.
LRK: What's the name of the brand of pasta?
DK: San Cristoforo.
LRK: Is it available in the U.S.?
DK: It is not available in the U.S. They've actually had quite a number of people in the U.S. reach out to them to try and do it, but they would have to increase their amount so dramatically that it would make it difficult for them to continue in the style that they want to. They have to do it slowly. They do want to get to that point, but it needs to be a process.
LRK: He had to have a hard row to hoe in the beginning I would imagine.
MF: He did because he didn't have a farming background and he had to find land in the Tuscany area. He rents this land, and he's been renting it for 20 years. Now they're at risk of losing the land, which is also a difficult thing.
DK: Twenty years ago Tuscany was a different place than it is today. There are so many tourists. It's so beautiful there with all the trees and the vineyards. It's another example of someone being pushed out.
LRK: The land becomes so valuable in terms of real estate. I understand -- speaking of beautiful farmhouses -- that you went to see the making of my favorite, all-time cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano. But I understand in addition to that, something happened...
MF: We came to Italy with the purpose of filming all these stories to create an overall montage video of 10 things we love about Italy. We filmed balsamic vinegar production in some woman's attic, we filmed a prosciutto producer, all these things. The last thing we filmed was a small, family-owned, Parmesan cheese producer. This guy was showing us how he made the cheese. He was wearing these full, chest-high, rubber overalls. He was very cute.
Then after about maybe an hour, Daniel was like," I think we should go into the cheese cave, and I'll film in the cheese cave." It is this beautiful, tall-ceilinged room with wheels of Parmesan cheese from the floor to the ceiling. It was just really, really beautiful and freezing cold.
Parmesan cheese cave (The Perennial Plate)
Daniel said, "Okay, before we start, I would really like to take a picture of us in here, so I'm going to set up the camera." I thought, "That's such a great idea because this is such a beautiful space."
DK: I have Mirra reach into our camera backpack and pull out a ring. We met at a cheese shop, so I thought it appropriate to get engaged in the place where the king of the cheeses is made. And she said yes.
LRK: So romantic. Congratulations you two!
DK: Thank you so much.
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Lynne Rossetto Kasper has won numerous awards as host of The Splendid Table, including two James Beard Foundation Awards (1998, 2008) for Best National Radio Show on Food, five Clarion Awards (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2014) from Women in Communication, and a Gracie Allen Award in 2000 for Best Syndicated Talk Show.