TALES FROM THE PANTRY

Twenty culinary stories told by the editorial staff of Dispensa and illustrated by Elia Barbieri. Devised exclusively for the world of Taste and its products and producers, classified into product groups, from marmalade and jam to beer, from cured meats to pasta and cakes.

Vinegar
presents

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The balsamic Bongo Man

All food holds within it the story of those who aided its creation. Some of these stories are famous and are part of the baggage of answers to the question “what do you want to do when you grow up?”. Others hide in the heart of taste and only a careful palate can sense them:  these answer the question “what would you have liked to do before you grew up?”. Taste a drop of vinegar and imagine you are a Balsamic Bongo Man.
 
An inveterate musician, the Balsamic Bongo Man has chosen the sound of filled wood for his tunes. Sitting astride his stool, in a fog of vinegar factory fumes, he delicately drums on the barrels. Rather blunt and become acidic over time, he tends to hold a single long dialogue with his instrument: as he drums, the vinegar ages and answers back, and only when this dialogue becomes an argument is it mature enough for bottling.
 

The water
presents

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The water flatterer

All food holds within it the story of those who aided its creation. Some of these stories are famous and are part of the baggage of answers to the question “what do you want to do when you grow up?”. Others hide in the heart of taste and only a careful palate can sense them:  these answer the question “what would you have liked to do before you grew up?”. Drink a tall glass of water and imagine you are a Water Flatterer.
 
Hyperactive and bubbly, the Flatterer is the mental coach for water. He knows which buttons to press to cheer it up when it feels down and how to dose compliments to get the desired effect. A teetotaller, fit and sporty, as a young man he was fairly unlucky in love, his compliments always mistaken for false flattery. He improves with old age, when his hydrated skin and boundless energy crush the competition.

The beer
presents

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The hops pusher

All food holds within it the story of those who aided its creation. Some of these stories are famous and are part of the baggage of answers to the question “what do you want to do when you grow up?”. Others hide in the heart of taste and only a careful palate can sense them:  these answer the question “what would you have liked to do before you grew up?”. Sip a beer and imagine you are a Hops Pusher.
 
The hops is there but you can’t see it. You never see cultivations, nor drying factories or even stores called something like hopsland. This particular market is in fact run by a pretend bad guy, who sees himself rather too much in the role of gangster: he hides warehouses and equipment, weighing and bagging the goods, then staying in the shadows and using third parties for distribution. The Hops Pusher tends to make mountains out of molehills, but is still a sweet dreamer. 
 

Coffee
presents

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The hessian sack tester

 All food holds within it the story of those who aided its creation. Some of these stories are famous and are part of the baggage of answers to the question “what do you want to do when you grow up?”. Others hide in the heart of taste and only a careful palate can sense them:  these answer the question “what would you have liked to do before you grew up?”. Sip a coffee and imagine you are a Hessian Sack Tester. 

 

Full of beans and jumpy, a serial sole consumer, the Sack Tester is hard to get hold of. He tests the weave of the hessian by hopping from dawn to dusk on tracks he has built specifically around the coffee roasters. He is a shy type, never short of breath, never long on words; inconstant, he tends to jump from one topic to another when he does talk. Due to the long time he spends inside sacks, he smells of string and has developed bow legs and arms that make him look like a gorilla.
 

Fresh and deli meats
present

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The beastly beautician

All food holds within it the story of those who aided its creation. Some of these stories are famous and are part of the baggage of answers to the question “what do you want to do when you grow up?”. Others hide in the heart of taste and only a careful palate can sense them:  these answer the question “what would you have liked to do before you grew up?”. Chew some steak and imagine you are a Beastly Beautician.
 
Brave hairdresser, courageous hair remover, the Beastly Beautician is the real butcher’s assistant. She tweezes rabbits, waxes cows and trims pig’s whiskers, all with the utmost nonchalance. A big girl, well-groomed and well-built, she wears a ruffled apron with a central pocket for all her tools. She loves the mountains and woolly sweaters and hates hairless men in costumes who saunter along the seafront.  

Cereals
present

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Antique Grain Dealer

 All food holds within it the story of those who aided its creation. Some of these stories are famous and are part of the baggage of answers to the question “what do you want to do when you grow up?”.  thers hide in the heart of taste and only a careful palate can sense them:  these answer the question “what would you have liked to do before you grew up?”. Smell a grain of spelt and imagine you are an Antique Grain Dealer.

A historian by nature, collector by professional deviation and repairer by vocation, only now is the Antique Grain Dealer gaining any visibility. For centuries intent on painstaking recuperation of unusual cereal varieties, this strange character roams through the fields, probes them and collects relics he then restores, reconstructing ears of grain to sell back to farmers. His sophisticated and haughty ways make him a little standoffish, but his stories have magic about them.  
 

Chocholate
presents

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The cocoa bean picker

All food holds within it the story of those who aided its creation. Some of these stories are famous and are part of the baggage of answers to the question “what do you want to do when you grow up?”. Others are hidden in the heart of taste and only a careful palate can sense them: these answer the question “what would you have liked to do before you grew up?”. Let a square of chocolate melt in your mouth and imagine you are a Cocoa bean picker.
 
He wears knee-length boots and has a machete tucked in his belt. The Cocoa bean picker is an introvert type, not very tall and with a mood as damp as the forest. His hands are agile and strong, his fingertips streaked from long years in contact with the acidic pulp of the cocoa bean. His silent, dry gestures become gentler when he glimpses sight of the first beans under the rind: the complexity of chocolate is in part the product of its changing character. 
 

Sweets
present

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The sugar cane squeezer

All food holds within it the story of those who aided its creation. Some of these stories are famous and are part of the baggage of answers to the question “what do you want to do when you grow up?”. Others hide in the heart of taste and only a careful palate can sense them:  these answer the question “what would you have liked to do before you grew up?”. Crunch a cat’s tongue biscuit and imagine you are a Sugar Cane Squeezer.

On a permanent sugar high, the Squeezer tends to laugh a lot. He spends his days in the laboratory behind cake shops, dancing around the machine like someone possessed, whirling in time to the wheel and chucking the waste produce into the bin with a flick of his hips. Despite this apparently clown-like behaviour, the Squeezer goes straight to the core of the matter, a willing ear and a friendly shoulder in times of trouble.

 

Mushrooms and Truffles
present

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The sporadic maid

 All food holds within it the story of those who aided its creation. Some of these stories are famous and are part of the baggage of answers to the question “what do you want to do when you grow up?”. Others hide in the heart of taste and only a careful palate can sense them:  these answer the question “what would you have liked to do before you grew up?”. Chew on a mushroom and imagine you are a Sporadic Maid.

Like a Little Green Riding Hood, the Sporadic Maid strolls through the woods along imaginary paths and scatters the spores she carries in her basket. Unstable to the point of being bipolar, at times she abandons her important task to tend to her homebred whales. Extraordinarily in tune with nature, in her moments of lucidity, she anticipates climatic change and prepares the soil for new mushrooms.

Liqueurs and spirits
present

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Spirited chemist

All food holds within it the story of those who aided its creation. Some of these stories are famous and are part of the baggage of answers to the question “what do you want to do when you grow up?”. Others hide in the heart of taste and only a careful palate can sense them:  these answer the question “what would you have liked to do before you grew up?”. Drink grappa with your meal and imagine you are a Spirited Chemist.
 
As soon as the Spirited Chemist puts on her white coat, her face changes, her eyes balloon like those of goldfish and she starts to tell one hilarious joke after another. This wakes up the stills and they start their work of distilling products that become drinks full of spirit, imbued with this cheerful attitude. The laughter that this causes in the drinker is just a pale shadow of the fun character of this little woman. 

Jams and preserves
present

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The jar steriliser

All food holds within it the story of those who aided its creation. Some of these stories are famous and are part of the baggage of answers to the question “what do you want to do when you grow up?”. Others hide in the heart of taste and only a careful palate can sense them: these answer the question “what would you have liked to do before you grew up?”. Bite into a dried tomato and imagine you are a Jar Steriliser.
 
Be they home-made or industrially produced, preserves must be stored in uncontaminated containers. The professional figure responsible for this operation is the Jar Steriliser: he arranges the jars in large pans with the painstaking gestures of a specialist engineer and starts the sterilisation process. His hands, forged by the heat of the glass, are warm and large, unlike his soul, which is rather icy. He is of delicate constitution and hates socialising and underground parties.    
 

Honey and derivates
present

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The beekeeping suit designer

All food holds within it the story of those who aided its creation. Some of these stories are famous and are part of the baggage of answers to the question “what do you want to do when you grow up?”. Others hide in the heart of taste and only a careful palate can sense them:  these answer the question “what would you have liked to do before you grew up?”. Taste a spoonful of honey and imagine you are a Beekeeping suit designer.
 
A maniac for matching with a passion for plastic, he is a classic example of today’s tendency towards micro-specialisation. He spends days on end buzzing under his breath, observing hives in order to reproduce their characteristics in the lines of overalls, gloves and headgear – all strictly yellow. A sickeningly sweet lover of weddings, he has recently decided to expand his business with a line of bridal dresses complete with beekeeper’s veil, for more bucolic ceremonies.

Oil
present

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The olive oiler

All food holds within it the story of those who aided its creation. Some of these stories are famous and are part of the baggage of answers to the question “what do you want to do when you grow up?”. Others hide in the heart of taste and only a careful palate can sense them:  these answer the question “what would you have liked to do before you grew up?”. Sniff the oil and imagine you are an Olive Oiler.

The Oiler today is a real professional, who works backstage in the olive and oil business. Not many people know that olives are not actually oily: with his flowing speech, the Oiler whispers secret formulas to the roots, which plump out the fruits. A slippery character, he moves sinuously through the fields and in his private life. A lover of winter and ice, he is an excellent skater and glides over the surface with unexpected grace. 

Pasta
presents

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Born al Dente

All food holds within it the story of those who aided its creation. Some of these stories are famous and are part of the baggage of answers to the question “what do you want to do when you grow up?”. Others hide in the heart of taste and only a careful palate can sense them:  these answer the question “what would you have liked to do before you grew up?”. Drain the pasta and imagine you were Born al Dente.
 
There are those born with a silver spoon and those “al dente”. Natural talent, refined sensibility, this gift starts to show during weaning when the infant refuses soggy pasta. Immediately hounded by pasta makers, Born al Dente finds employment in laboratories, where he tests cooking textures to determine the perfect timing. Snatched prematurely from his home, he remains suspended in an eternal limbo between immature bitterness and senile droopiness.
 

Diary products
present

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The milker

All food holds within it the story of those who aided its creation. Some of these stories are famous and are part of the baggage of answers to the question “what do you want to do when you grow up?”. Others are hidden in the heart of taste and only a careful palate can sense them: these answer the question “what would you have liked to do before you grew up?”. Taste the cheese and imagine you are a Milker. 
 
Behind every cheese there is always an udder. In the same way that the hilt on Excalibur, all those centuries ago, recognised the hand of Arthur, at milking time the animal will only cooperate with the chosen one. The Milker is an eternal mummy’s boy, empathetic and hard-working. With his milk-white complexion, his skin, like that of puppies, smells of freshly-mown grass. Given the scheduled nature of his job, even in his personal life the Milker is an extremely punctual type.  
 
 

Fish
presents

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The tamer of tides

 All food holds within it the story of those who aided its creation. Some of these stories are famous and are part of the baggage of answers to the question “what do you want to do when you grow up?”. Others hide in the heart of taste and only a careful palate can sense them:  these answer the question “what would you have liked to do before you grew up?”. Taste a sardine and imagine you are a Tamer of Tides.

Heir to the Persian Xerxes, famous for having lashed the waters of the Hellespont, guilty of having sunk his ships, the Tamer of Tides is today a quieter type. Embracing the motto “prevention is better than cure”, he has used his ingenuity and is inspired more by siren song than by the deeds of the king of the Orient. His dulcet tones calm the waters and draw the fish to the surface. Standing proud in the bows like a modern-day figurehead, the Tamer suffers from arthritis. 
 

Fruit and veg
present

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The snail catcher

All food holds within it the story of those who aided its creation. Some of these stories are famous and are part of the baggage of answers to the question “what do you want to do when you grow up?”. Others hide in the heart of taste and only a careful palate can sense them:  these answer the question “what would you have liked to do before you grew up?”. Bite into an apple and imagine you are a Snail Catcher. 
 
Everyone knows that snails have always been a vegetable farmer’s nightmare. Only a few years ago did companies find a solution involving an exchange with the army, the services of discharged soldiers for fruit and veg. The Snail Catcher is in fact used to low crawling, to long stakeouts and (not so) unexpected attacks. The most enterprising have reached collateral agreements with restaurants and sell on their booty. 
 

Bread products
present

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The great Grand-Dough

 All food holds within it the story of those who aided its creation. Some of these stories are famous and are part of the baggage of answers to the question “what do you want to do when you grow up?”. Others hide in the heart of taste and only a careful palate can sense them:  these answer the question “what would you have liked to do before you grew up?”. Bite into a slice of bread and imagine you are Great Grand-dough.

Everyone knows about sourdough starter, but only a few are familiar with Great Grand-dough . This portly giantess sits in the bakers’ workshops, on a tartan armchair built to hold her. Here she spends her nights, caring for the dough and imbuing it with the warmth it needs to prove. Inclined to hot flushes and sudden naps, all she needs for her job is a transistor radio, a pair of comfy slippers and a woollen blanket to knit. 

 

Salt, pepper, spices
present

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The salt climber

All food holds within it the story of those who aided its creation. Some of these stories are famous and are part of the baggage of answers to the question “what do you want to do when you grow up?”. Others hide in the heart of taste and only a careful palate can sense them:  these answer the question “what would you have liked to do before you grew up?”. Taste a grain of salt and imagine you are a Salt Climber.
 
Of lean body and few words, the Salt Climber dedicates his life to pickaxing and conquering the piles of salt, out of mere vainglory. Ruined by his exorbitant habit of surrounding himself with dazzling crystals, he is always about to plunge. Nevertheless, on the rare occasions that he does make a public appearance, he is witty and keen. Greedy for breath-taking sunsets, his eyes flame red and inflame the hearts of many young ladies. 
 

Tools
presents

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The must-have

All objects hold within them the story of those who aided their creation. Some of these stories are famous and are part of the baggage of answers to the question “what do you want to do when you grow up?”. Others hide deeper down and answer the question “what would you have liked to do before you grew up?”. Fold a table mat and imagine you are the Must-Have.
 
Unimpeachable consultant, furnisher of shelves, he is the assistant that every home cook dreams of. The Must-Have anticipates the most unthinkable of urgencies and knows about all the different kinds of accessories that turn the kitchen into a Kingdom. A proficient salesman, he knows how to turn even a lacy apron into a necessity. He is a trendy extrovert, who fills the homes of others while emptying his own: zen is the style he has chosen for himself. 
 

Wine
presents

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The cellar mould-maker

All food holds within it the story of those who aided its creation. Some of these stories are famous and are part of the baggage of answers to the question “what do you want to do when you grow up?”. Others hide in the heart of taste and only a careful palate can sense them:  these answer the question “what would you have liked to do before you grew up?”. Sip some wine and imagine you are a Cellar Mould-Maker
 
A musty centenary, even as a youngster he smelt old. The Cellar Mould-Maker has a never-ending beard and hair, rags for clothes and drags a bag overflowing with no longer edible delights. One day Fate smiled at him, turning his lifestyle into a job: since then the Mould-Maker has travelled, visiting winemakers all over the world and leaving behind him cellars for wine fermentation. Rubicund, he has become a less unpleasant companion.