Shopping like humans

Sometimes, looking around you can be an interesting experience...

Huw Williams | 21:47, Thursday 11 October 2012 | Turin, Italy

There's a pizzeria just around the corner that I love to visit. It's usually take-aways these days of course, but that's fine. As you wait for your order you can watch the pizza chef at work, and it's quite a show, especially if you catch them at a busy time. The last time I was there, I timed him. Eight balls of dough slammed on the floured surface, bang, bang, bang, bang... They are stretched out into circles, and tomato source is ladled and spread onto each. A quick check of the order list and then the various ingredients are produced from everywhere, containers above, fridges below, and scattered liberally across the dough circles. Then they're onto the long stick with a baking tray on the end (I should find out what it is called) and into the wood oven which is so hot you feel it when you come through the door. Eight pizzas. It took less than a minute. In under another ten minutes, I'm on my way home with a couple of warm, flat cardboard boxes and a watering mouth. In his own way, he's an artist. I've been making my own pizzas for years now, but somehow it seems to take me two hours to make two, and they taste nowhere near as good as this.

I've also been trying to make a decent cup of coffee for years, too. I like to think I can make an okay cappuccino, but I can go to the bar (coffee shop) downstairs and be served a deliciously humbling cup of the real stuff for around a Euro.

It seems to me as though Italy is still very much a culture of the specialist. You buy your bread at the panetteria, your meat at the macelleria, your pasta from the "helpful pasta man" (that's our term) in the market. The Tesco culture of everything under one big, generic, monolithic roof hasn't taken hold here, although I fear it may be approaching. If it does come, it will be a sad day, there is something wonderfully refreshing, indeed very human somehow, about the everyday celebration of the pastry chef, the barista, the artisan.

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