Italian Scissorhands

“It takes about a year to grow the topiary in the form of a cone with the scoops of ice cream”

– Federico Elmi

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Hand-made artesian gelato in Italy is such a labour of love.  We’ve met gelato makers who pick wild blackberries and figs in the morning and add them to their gelato that day.  Others grow tiny strawberries in their gardens to make their fragola gelato truly distinct – heck talk about secret recipe!  These wild strawberries taste unreal, like candy.  Like what candy tries to imitate.  Good gelato is about taking the best of nature and distilling it into pure delight.  It’s done with passion and pride.  When we lived in Italy we ate gelato almost everyday.  While visiting Italy, we aim for twice a day.  For old times sake.

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Elmi Gelateria in Figline Val’darno is a place where the lactose and gluten free can enjoy gelato. Most gelaterie offer dairy-free fruit varieties.  However, only a handful use soy instead of milk. I was excited to find gluten-free vegan cones at this gelateria in addition to several varieties made without dairy and a few with soy milk.

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Federico caught my eye when he was outside trimming the topiary.  We had a bit of a chat, while he was focusing on the hairy bush.  Federico is the third generation, proud of his family business.  He originally studied medicine but felt a pull for tantalizing tastebuds with his family.  Let food be your medicine Hippocrates said.  I think Federico chose well.

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The love Italians infuse into their food makes me want to sing and bounce about.  They get so much right.  Recently three ministries of government in Italy have signed a ban on Genetically modified corn.  They cite “loss of biodiversity” as their main concern.  Diversity is the spice of the life.  But it’s more than the spice.  It’s the modus operandi of our planet.   If anything, in these times where human population has zoomed out of control, we should be making every effort possible to enhance biological differences, not reduce them.

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Federico was proud of the vintage bicycle behind one of the three pots of topiary.  When I commented on his bike, he said that it is from 1959, made in the North of Italy near Milano.  He obtained it from a friend, in exchange for 3 cases of champagne.  He has a lock on it but doesn’t lock it up.  Viva Italia!

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