I have just finished reading the book The Ambassador's lunches, by SE Paolo Foresti, Ambassador of Italy to Albania for the 1993-1997 period.
First and foremost, I could say that since the announcement on the release of this book on his part, a sense of surprise I cannot deny having warned him.
This, at first glance obviously, based on the sensations that simply gives rise to the title and its key words, "lunch" and "ambassador".
Now, my curiosity aroused, was shaped in the focus of the common denominator between "diplomacy" and "gastronomy" - of what correlation could they ever unite? - and in a dispassionate way and without being merely an expert neither one nor neither of the other of these areas, I have deduced that perhaps a glue between them could perhaps have been found, connected for example with the necessary balance to be established between some elements or contexts both in diplomacy and in gastronomy, in understanding, in fusion or in the perfect empathy of ideas, tastes or fragrances, in the categorical prohibition on the other hand of the inclusion of some "ingredients", of weights or suitable measures both in diplomacy, that in gastronomy, etc ...
These are naturally figurative combinations that have arisen spontaneously, but that if one thinks deeply, a common guiding thread in them, one would probably find ...
I would have had to hold the book later, to put aside the hypotheses and fantasies and objectively judge the content of its pages, of these convivial meetings of the author-ambassador.
I discovered with great surprise and satisfaction on my part, an eclectic author, like the ambassador Paolo Foresti, in a completely peculiar guise: In the usual idea of works written and edited by him with a technical, academic, political, economic and diplomatic profile, in this volume I found the author under another - and very pleasant - profile.
The Ambassador's lunches it is a very peculiar creation, since the author, with delicacy and simplicity at the same time, with a register suitable for a wide target of readers, ranges between his experiences in the diplomatic career and the professional one in general, in institutional dinners, formal ones and informal, in his individual passion for cooking and the culture of good food, and all this shows him in the pages of the book, placing it on two parallel levels.
On the one hand, it tells of events and work experiences, travel, travel, places, people, historical-cultural and ethnological elements of different countries and, on the other, treats separately the gastronomic tradition of a country or another, in which he went to different stages of his professional career, with particular attention to the preservation on his part, of the enhancement of Italian gastronomy and culture in a constant and intact way, super partes. Wherever he went outside Italy, he brought a piece of Italy with his charisma.
Everything in the book is accompanied by photos of characters and unpublished settings, even the volume is enriched with menus proposed in its lunches and recipes.
It is a privilege to possess such a multi-faceted work in one's own library, since one becomes aware of and appreciates not only a high-profile public and institutional figure, but thanks to the author's very authentic attitude. and humble - with a notable dose of natural talent in narration - a clear idea of man is created, of the person in the first place, which precedes that of the professional of his thickness, making them walk both profiles at the same pace.
Just to stay "on the subject of lunches" and kitchen accessories, as a precise timer that sounds at the time of the right cooking of foods, "the timer" of the access forwarded by the reader, in facts and in diplomatic events, in which the author Foresti is the protagonist or participant, either directly or transversally, in the pages of the book "suona" promptly.
It is obviously told what the professional ethics and the protocol grant to him and the rest of the events belongs to the diplomatic archive.
But, they are historical-social and political-cultural, very interesting gems, which can only be told by an informed and expert person, who finds himself involved in the facts, as in the case of Ambassador Foresti.
I should certainly also be a good reader and observer - not only to be simply objective, but because I feel the satisfaction of emphasizing it - to report the wide space that the author dedicates to his stay in Albania, during his time as ambassador of Italy in Tirana, for the 1993-1997 time frame, its dedication to work in the Land of the Eagles, in a very delicate and tangled period like the one mentioned above, which coincides with the painful change of political systems.
Ambassador Foresti tells of places visited in Albania, experiences on the ground, formal and informal meetings with Albanians, reports important historical and geopolitical facts, tells of his preferences about Albanian gastronomy at the same time, confirming among other things a saying of Marco Tullio Cicerone:
"The pleasure of banquets must not be measured by the delicacies of the dishes, but by the company of friends and their speeches."
In this way, the binomial "table-human relations", the main axis of his book, acquires once again a precious value, I would dare to say, 'a guarantee', said by a diplomacy expert - and as he has just revealed us, also of gastronomy - Ambassador Foresti.
I had the honor and the pleasure of meeting him personally at some Italian-Albanian cultural event here in Italy.
The esteem I have towards him, in my personal perception and observing his professional work, in particular, the affection and interest with which he remotely follows all development in Albania that has remained in his heart since from the end of his institutional assignment in the Land of the Eagles, they lead me to be proud to call him:
"The Ambassador of the Albanians".
Because, the nomination "ambassador of a country" constitutes in itself a prestige and considerable importance but, the other nomination, "Ambassador of a people", of the Albanians in our case, this is what concerns an honor, of which no diplomat is awarded.
And Ambassador Foresti in this respect has been unique to Albania.
The reading of this book, which I strongly recommend, I believe will be the actual confirmation of my perceptions. No hyperbole!
This is excluded by the author himself in the first place, who always poses himself to the readers with professionalism, pragmatism but without losing, even for a moment, an added value: humility.
In particular, as for the Albanian readers of the volume in question, they absolutely must know about these talks that took place in the early 90 between Albanian political leaders and Ambassador Foresti, in his residence - the former - Lenin and Stalin museum in Tirana - at the "table of the great friend of the Albanians", as he mentions in the book.
Often, you meet those, much more effective perhaps than public and formal meetings, in which the dialogue itself between those people was impossible.
"byrek with onion and tomato ”and“ raki Skrapari ”, I take the license to reveal in advance to those who had not yet read the book, that they are still present in the tastes and preferences of Ambassador Foresti!
Because they represent for him - among several things - a piece of Albania, of that Albania, initially not desired by him as a job and a job, but which soon turned out to be of great interest and affection for him, completely modifying his initial opinion .
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