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Of intelligent appliances, awesome architecture and hungry wolves |

Food and Leisure

Of intelligent appliances, awesome architecture and hungry wolves

A TASTE OF LIFE - Heny Sison - The Philippine Star

I have an ongoing affair with Italy, and every time I return, the relationship just becomes stronger. I remember what sparked it was when I studied Italian cooking in Tuscany way back in 2001. I fell in love with the people, so warm and hospitable; their generosity and appetite for food and life are very much Pinoy!

My most recent visit this time gave me a totally different perspective on Italy, and was literally an eye-opener.  I was the odd man out with a group of talented architects, guests of the world-famous Ariston-Indesit, manufacturer of kitchen appliances. We were treated to a one-day to visit to Indesit Company, an Italian multinational company based in Fabriano, Ancona province, Italy. Indesit is a leading appliance manufacturer in Europe that makes Ariston, Scholtès and Hotpoint appliances. As much as we had a gastronomic spree, I had a chance to fully appreciate the historic sights from an architect’s point of view. It was a refreshing experience indeed!

We were checked in at the Park Hotel Ai Cappucini, a   beautifully restored 17th-century monastery, perched on a hill and within walking distance of the historic center  of Gubbio. We were pampered like royalty — ironic, since long ago it  was a place that  shunned ostentatious living, whose residents vowed a lifestyle of simplicity, existing on the bare necessities and fruits of the earth.

We were treated by the Ariston-Indesit company to dinner at the famed, award-winning Taverno del Lupo, or “Tavern of the Wolves.” This is in reference to the story of St. Francis of Assisi and the notorious black wolf of Gubbio, whom the kindly patron saint of animals invited to eat like a lamb. Funny to think about it, but I had to practice every bit of restraint to prevent unleashing the hungry wolf within me as I scanned through the menu of gustatory pleasures. I was afraid my tummy would betray me at any moment and growl!

The Indesit Company headquarters located in Fabriano, Italy.

If there is anything I know about Italian cuisine, it would be that, one, they prepare their dishes with the freshest ingredients that are locally available, and two, Italian cuisine always comes up with the most flavorful dishes you can imagine. This is the perfect place for locals who know the taste of authentic traditional cuisine and for tourists in search of the best of the region’s specialties. 

A pretty collection of ceramics and antique furniture added charm to this culinary hotspot, which is now included in my list of favorites.

Our factory visit introduced us to the many different aspects of kitchen appliances, mainly kitchen stoves and ovens. Here I realized that developments in technology are aiding better cooking than I have ever imagined. During our tour we were given a presentation on the gas burner. Right now, typical gas stoves emit a flame coming from a few big holes, but their studies revealed that smaller holes (their burners have at least 400 per burner) with multiple flames allowed for an evenly distributed flame. I was also amazed at their Flexizone ovens, which allow you to cook with two different temperatures in a single oven, as well as an oven design that gives you the freedom to use pots and pans in any shape or size.

To say that Ariston is dedicated to their craft would be an understatement. I believe that the appliances they bring to market involve thorough research and advances cooking technology to a different level. Their high-end models, for example, are customized for people who are really serious about their cooking, as well as their appliances. I was amused to see a sound stage in an appliance factory where one could expect to see a workshop, or a welding room of some sort. But they had a sound room on-site and when I asked them what it was for, I was told that it was to gauge and to study the noises produced by various home appliances that they develop from washing machines, dryers to dishwashers.

I was amazed with this Flexizone oven that allows you to cook with two different temperatures in a single oven

In fact, they’ve also developed a technology that allows you to activate your appliances through your mobile, iPad and laptop. Now, if that’s not modern technology, I don’t know what is. Their dedication to practical science and its applications towards a more convenient kitchen experience really impressed me. It made me think that if we really thought things through, like combining thorough research with strict adherence to quality, perhaps the Philippines can achieve the same success in this field.

Our Europe trip was not all work and no play. In fact, we were given two days off, which we used to visit Rome.  I have been to Rome before, but this time, with a group of architects in tow, it’s safe to say that I came away with a deeper appreciation of all those colossal structures we visit as tourists but know very little of in terms of structure and materials design.

I listened to a very passionate architect talk about how the Pantheon may very well prove to be the pinnacle of architectural success due to the fact that it was designed and built in an era where modern architectural tools such as AutoCAD were not readily available. They believe that in terms of infrastructure the Greeks started it, but it was the Romans that perfected it. Just think about it, the Pantheon’s dome is still the world’s largest un-reinforced concrete dome, built with pillars hewn from one stone, with features such as the pillars having more volume in the middle. This is what is called “entasis,” a slight convex curve in the shaft of a column that compensates for the illusion of concavity that viewers experience. The sides are perfectly straight when they looked at the column. My architect tour mates said that is also bigger in the middle to make the structure stronger. These are the structural elements that escaped my tourist eyes the first time I came across these wonderful structures. I was also told that in the cobblestone road called Sampitrini  (which translates to “little stones of St. Peter”), the stones are irregularly shaped, with the pointed side on the bottom, leaving the flat surface for us to see, according to architect Adrian Chua.  No wonder back then it was quite easy to install cobblestones in the absence of concrete or a bonding agent. It is simply hammered onto a sand bed. But I couldn’t help but think how it was a nightmare for ladies to walk wearing high heels on the roads of Rome. Lucky me, I made sure that I was wearing my most comfortable flats on this trip.

I was also amazed at the presence of travertine, a form of limestone deposited by mineral springs, especially hot springs. The Romans mined deposits of travertine for building temples, aqueducts, monuments, bath complexes, and amphitheaters such as the Colosseum, the largest building in the world constructed mostly of travertine. I think I have come across this material in the Philippines at the Ramon Magsaysay building along Roxas Boulevard.

Wow! I am just awestruck at the artistry and technical skill of the Roman builders centuries ago, where painstaking precision was harder to achieve sans electricity, equipment, and machinery. Iconic treasures were built purely on blood, sweat and tears. I was swept up by the same humility and respect accorded to these historic treasures by my newfound architect friends.

I take away so many memories and insights from my recent European tour, with the  realization  that  the mark of genius is constant, whether past or present. Success transcends time and space, whatever obstacles are laid in one’s way.

From ancient architectural wonders of the past like the majestic Pantheon, to the amazing, intelligent appliances of the present like Ariston’s stoves and ovens, it always starts with an idea but only comes to full realization after painstaking hard work, passion-driven purpose and steadfast commitment , despite all odds. 

This reminds me of a poem I read once: 

A man who works with his hands is a laborer

A man who works with his hands and head is a craftsman

A man who works with his hands, head and heart is an artist

A man who works with his hands, head, heart and soul is a genius.

Let’s all strive to work with hands, head, heart and soul and make a difference in the world.

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