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Tasting history

Italians are renowned for their love and appreciation of good food and wine, with life often evolving around social gatherings where this is not only possible but central. The relishing of scrumptious vittles is both traditional and an important part of Italian culture and family life.

Though not for the vegetarian or faint-hearted, Porchetta is one of the country's earliest specialities dating back to the Roman Empire.

Research suggests the dish most likely began in Ariccia, a city outside of Rome, and Ariccia is the only town to earn the Ministero delle Politiche Agricole, Alimentari e Forestali, designating porchetta as a "prodotto agroalimentare tradizionale," with a place on the list of traditional Italian foods held in cultural reverence.

Preparing and cooking it is certainly a labour of love. A whole pig is skinned, deboned, seasoned (different ways according to the region), carefully layered - stuffing, meat, fat and skin - rolled, and finally cooked on a spit, slowly roasting over a fire. Given the size of the pig and the time and effort involved, the meal was historically reserved for a crowd. On festivals, holidays and Sundays the porchetta was ever-present and often the focal point.The dish was also a favorite of Rome's infamous Nero and often served in Roman army camps, affording a nourishing meal to hungry soldiers and members of the poorer classes, who often ate the quinto quanto (the fifth parts such as organ meats). And while today's porchetta cooks on a spit for six to eight hours, the ancient Roman version was cooked underground.

I like to think that this learned fellow was given the respect and gratitude he deserved for the pleasure and nourishment he afforded.

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