An Italian in Devon
[This is one in a series of blog posts written by Charlotte the Intern. Tune in daily to find out about what she’s been up to, what she has been learning about, and all of the crazy things she does as part of the Manna from Devon team.]
As you all know by now, my boyfriend, Andrea, was here from Italy a couple of weeks ago, and like any good tour guide I made sure that his visit to Devon was largely food based. It was fun to explore with him, both to share the things that have made an impression on me in the last several weeks, and to experience those things through his eyes. Of course, I offer one perspective on food and life in Devon, but he offers a completely different one. As an Italian, he came here with his own set of assumptions, preferences, and expectations, none of which I could really anticipate, since they’re obviously different from my own history!
As such, I thought it would be interesting for all of you to read just a little about what his impressions were of eating, drinking, and spending a little bit of time in Devon. In the spirit of that, I asked him just five quick questions about his favorite moments from his visit (besides seeing me, of course!). These responses are his, with some added commentary from me based on other observations that he had made throughout the weekend. I hope you all enjoy hearing a bit about how Devon looks through an Italian man’s eyes!
Q. What was your favorite thing that you ate while you were here?
A. The bread at David and Holly’s house for dinner, and the Sharpham Cremet cheese.
We had Sharpham’s Cremet on hand here at Manna from Devon after the Taste of the West event here, so I snagged a bit of it to bring to the cottage we stayed at over the course of the week. Andrea absolutely loved it. Most cheeses from the region in Italy where we live are made from cow’s milk, so this was a really interesting blend of cow’s cream and goat’s milk, something that is quite unusual for Northwestern Italy. The explanation for David’s bread really goes without saying. Andrea actually tried several types: tartine-style sourdough, a baguette, Kansas sunflower bread, and an apple oat plait. Even for someone coming from Italy, where good food is seemingly in every corner shop, David’s breads distinguish themselves as something really special and unique.
Q. What was your favorite thing that you drank while here?
A. Beer at Rugglestone Inn in Widecombe on the Moor, and tea at Taylor’s Tea Shop in Ashburton.
Stopping for beer at Rugglestone Inn on Dartmoor after a long day of walking and sightseeing was absolutely perfect. The pub is dark, warm, and cozy, the perfect place to hunker down with a pint. We tried the housemade ale, and it was bitter and bold just the way a good ale should be. Earlier in the day, we had stopped for a cream tea at Taylor’s Tea Shop in Ashburton, and Andrea loved the tradition and ceremony of enjoying such an authentic experience, which is so different from an Italian coffee break.
Q. What is your overall impression of British food?
A. I expected all British food to be much heavier than Italian food, but I was surprised by how light cooking in the Southwest is with the use of so much fresh seafood.
Holly and David prepared an incredible dinner for us on one of the nights that Andrea was here, with a beautiful turbot from the “hole in the wall” in Brixham for the main course. It’s amazing to me, too, how wonderful and fresh the seafood is here, and how little you really need to do in terms of preparation to make a delicious and healthy meal.
Q. Were there any surprises about visiting Britain?
A. Everyone I met was so kind and welcoming, and wanted to share a part of their culture with me.
We went to Alf’s for breakfast one morning, and Andrea commented that it was so different from any restaurant you would find in Italy, where sauces, jams, and other condiments would almost certainly not be on ready display for customers to use. As a restaurant culture, the Italians are not usually quite so trusting. But walking into Alf’s feels just like walking into a friend’s home and asking them to cook you breakfast; it is warm and welcoming, without any hint of fuss or formality. This is really just reflective of a general theme that Andrea noticed, in which everyone he met was so helpful, and so excited to share a little piece of Devon with him.
Q. What was your favorite thing that we did?
A. Walking on Dartmoor.
Italy is an incredibly beautiful country, but there is nothing there that is really like Dartmoor. It’s an amazingly stark, vast, and ancient landscape, which feels a little bit like walking on the moon, if the moon was covered with lush vegetation and grazing animals. It was so fantastic for both of us to be able to explore this wild area in the center of Devon.