I Don’t Know If Saffron Can Be An NFT Or If It Is Worth More Than Bitcoin
Thinking About Mom’s Risotto
My mom was a wonderful human being on so many levels and there isn’t a day that goes by that I’m not inspired and motivated by her lessons, teaching, intensity and work ethic. I miss her dearly.
On the wall in my office sits a framed quote attributable to her which simply reads,
“The thought is greater than the deed. — MOM”
For her, those simple words just meant that we fret and worry about things and it’s less work to do them than to think about them. Each and every day in our lives there can always be obstacles or challenges that those words always conquer. As I think back, those words always managed to get me through those occasional rough patches that we all face from time to time.
So, in our family life growing up, any challenges were obliterated with a heavy arsenal of love, family, and, of course, food.
And my mom’s approach to preparing food was simple, clean, pure — again, her not making the thought greater than the deed. It was easier to be Zen in the kitchen — cook for 7 or more people, eat and enjoy.
We have complicated the simple things in society. We have also managed to simplify some complicated things. It’s much easier than ever before to get entertainment, music, an overnight delivery, or a ride somewhere, for example.
But, we’ve complicated society with overthinking.
As they say in the culinary circles, keep it more Julia Child and less Martha Stewart. Julia Child built a career on teaching people how to enjoy food by breaking the ingredients and the process of preparation down to the most common denominator; Martha Stewart made a career doing the opposite.
My mom passed when I was in my twenties and the world is a very different place than the one she left. She would be amazed by the technological developments, conveniences and the pace of life.
She would think much of what goes on, borders on ridiculous.
One such thing would be the notion of which things in society have value, either real, perceived, or contrived.
She came to mind recently in a futile effort of mine to attempt to replicate her risotto, of which there were certain essentials. One simple step, as my sister often notes when discussing this treasured family dish, is the need to “toast the rice” — particularly toasting the luscious grains of arborio in the famous aluminum Guardian Ware pan that has survived four generations. (This particular pan looks like it was salvaged from the Titanic, run over by a monster truck, put in the dishwasher a few times (big no-no for aluminum pans) and maybe shot on a skeet field. But it prevails.)
The pan is part of the alchemy of mom’s risotto. The real magic, College Inn chicken broth, finely chopped onions, white wine, maybe some mushrooms, and a mix of ground beef/pork/veal (sorry, vegans, no tofu in the risotto) aside, is the saffron.
Then there’s (time to bow)…Grated Parmigiano Reggiano.
Gotta Have The Saffron
I remember being a child and her lecturing me on the importance of the saffron and it’s costliness per pound. We sold it in our supermarket. You could barely see the little paper packet locked inside the glass jar. I seem to recall the amazement that some orange dusty part of a crocus flower could possibly cost hundreds (now thousands!) of dollars per pound.
So, saving the soliloquy on Saffron, I’ll simply paste in the article from Wikipedia:
Saffron is a spice derived from the flower of Crocus sativus, commonly known as the “saffron crocus”. The vivid crimson stigma and styles, called threads, are collected and dried for use mainly as a seasoning and colouring agent in food. Saffron has long been the world’s costliest spice by weight. Although some doubts remain on its origin, it is believed that saffron originated in Iran. However, Greece and Mesopotamia have also been suggested as the possible region of origin of this plant. Saffron crocus slowly propagated throughout much of Eurasia and was later brought to parts of North Africa, North America, and Oceania.
Saffron’s taste and iodoform-like or hay-like fragrance result from the phytochemicals picrocrocin and safranal. It also contains a carotenoid pigment, crocin, which imparts a rich golden-yellow hue to dishes and textiles. Its recorded history is attested in a 7th-century BC Assyrian botanical treatise, and has been traded and used for thousands of years. In the 21st century, Iran produces some 90% of the world total for saffron with best quality. At US$5,000 per kg or higher, saffron is the world’s most expensive spice.
The point being, value is very subjective. In order to create and enjoy risotto the way my mom made it, the saffron is an essential ingredient. It’s costly only if you need a lot, and fortunately, you don’t need much. (By the way, some gastronomical trivia here, Fernet-Branca and other Fernets and Amaros consume about ¾ of the world’s supply of saffron. Fernet and Amaro are trusted digestifs Italians have relied on for years. They work. Maybe it’s the saffron among the plenitude of other natural ingredients.)
I’d love to share the recipe for mom’s risotto, but you see, I don’t have one, because there wasn’t one. Our house didn’t work that way. Everything was made fresh to order, with pinches and scoops and understood amounts — it was a visual arts experience, rather than exact science, and ironically, amazingly consistent. You learned it by watching and living it, not reading it.
Admittedly, I can get close to replicating my mom’s risotto but it’s not quite the same. It’s still good, though, and it’s like a little bowl or plate of happiness and nostalgia.
I don’t know what Bitcoin or NFT’s are really worth, but I know the value of a luxurious bowl of doctored-up arborio rice, and when it has the flavor nuances and the signature alchemy of my dear late mother, and, remembering to embellish it with the golden hue from saffron, well, to me, that is priceless.
And the yellow tint of that risotto, well, that little detail mattered to her, and it matters to me.
I am content to have the stigma and styles or threads of the crocus flower adorn my prized family dish, and that familiar yellow tint beckons, reminding me of the sunny pale yellow kitchen of the little home warmed by the rays coming through the window and the glow of my mother presenting her welcome rice dish to her family.
Food is life. And another thing hanging on the wall is a little piece of paper that my father carried around with him which reads in both English and Italian, “Life on earth is meant to be lived.”
The value that is ascribed to the things in this world, is, after all, determined by our values, and those values were formed long ago, shaped by the people and the experiences, and the food, that nurtured us, and that is the definition of priceless.
Paul Fioravanti, MBA, MPA, CTP, is the CEO & Managing Partner of QORVAL Partners, LLC, (www.qorval.com) a FL-based advisory firm (founded 1996 by Jim Malone, six-time Fortune 100/500 CEO) Qorval is a US-based turnaround, restructuring, business optimization and interim management firm. Fioravanti is a proven turnaround CEO with experience in more than 35 industries and 70 situational challenges. He earned his MBA and MPA from the University of Rhode Island, and completed advanced post-masters research in finance and marketing at Bryant University. He is a Certified Turnaround Professional and member of the Turnaround Management Association, the Private Directors Association, Association for Corporate Growth (ACG), Association of Merger & Acquisition Advisors (AM&MA), the American Bankruptcy Institute, and IMCUSA.