Those who eat Sardinian food live a hundred years
Since the dawn of time, human beings have been longing to live a long and healthy life, and to crack the mysterious recipe capable of boosting our lifespan and staving off death. The good news is that science has finally revealed a few secrets. The so-called Mediterrean diet, combined with genetic factors and lifestyle is the elixir of life so much craved for.
I am sitting on a stool at Pomodoro Sardo, a Sardinian eatery in Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, savouring a special blend of coffee from Sardinia. I cannot help but notice a quote, written in gigantic letters on a wall that optimistically welcomes any client walking in.
“Those who eat Sardinian food live a hundred years.” Stefano Rassu, chef and owner of the restaurant, nods proudly as I point with my index to the wall, stating that Sardinia has won the status as first region in Italy for longevity, with its thousands of centenaries recorded over a century.
Stefano is native of Aritzo, a little town nestled in the heart of the rugged Barbagia mountain area 80 kilometers north of Cagliari and unsurprisingly
even his family was touched by the fortunate Sardinian longevity. As a matter of fact, Michele Pava, Stefano’s grandfather, lived up to 105 years of age and always in perfect shape.
“Veggies and fruits from the garden, quality meat, pecorino cheese and plenty of red wine, these were the ingredients at the base of my nonno’s diet,” Stefano recalls.
The benefits of the Mediterrean diet today are well known, but Michele’s longevity, and that of many other centenaries of the island, is ascribed to good habits, such as living in harmony with nature.
“Nonno knew the names of all plant and trees and was an avid stroller. Every morning he used to walk at least 4 km and that was definitely his gym!”
The ability to build such a good balance led nonno Michele to have a relaxed and quiet temperament, another important ingredient for immortality.
“I’d never seen my him angry, nor stressed despite being very busy with the family business.”
Michele was in fact the founder and manager of a famous hotel in Aritzo, the place where Stefano trained and gained since a young age, the skills to become a chef.
For 10 years now Stefano has been living in Melbourne, spreading the knowledge of the Sardinian cuisine to newcomers and regular patrons.
“As Nonno taught me, simplicity is a virtue and that’s why no space is given to alterations. What I offer are authentic Sardinian dishes characterised by quality and traditional ingredients.”
Nonno Michele also taught his grandson to buy locally and build relationships with the suppliers, trying to avoid large-scale products. As a consequence at Pomodoro Sardo, the best and freshest ingredients come straight from the market, where Stefano goes every morning equipped with a large shopping cart. Others are provided by friends with gardens.
“In Melbourne the Sardinian community is very big and all its members contribute to keep alive the culinary tradition. Some bring me nettle, some other myrtle, there’s always a good reason to gather and celebrate our sardinianness hopefully for the next 100 years!”