food / travel

My Emotional Menu: Emilia Romagna May Just Be Italy's Richest Cuisine

From Parma to Piacenza, Bologna to Ferrara, the northeastern region of Emilia Romagna offers some to the tastiest classic flavors of Italian cuisine, from cappelletti pasta to Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, balsamic vinegar and Gutturni wine.

A cut of Bologna salame at the Tamburini delicatessen (mmchicago)
A cut of Bologna salame at the Tamburini delicatessen (mmchicago)
Paolo Massobrio

PIACENZA - Stuffed pasta, focaccia, Lambrusco and Sangiovese red wine, cold cuts and cheeses are the jewels of the Italian region of Emilia Romagna, a food valley where gastronomy is gleefully celebrated. Here, food is all about emotions.


Here's an initial geographic itinerary across this gastronomically rich region in northeast Italy:


In and around Piacenza, look immediately for coppa, which I consider the best cold cut ever. In the mountain village of Groppallo, the Salini brothers own a typical osteria and produce unbeatable coppa. Within the city limits of Piacenza, don't miss the dishes by the chef Filippo Dattilo Chiappini at the Osteria del Teatro. His tortelli con la coda (tortelli with tails) and pisarei e faso (bread dumplings with beans) are to die for.


In the village of Ziano Piacentino, the tortelli served at the Agriturismo Racemus owned by the Civardi family are excellent too. A few days ago, at the Agriturismo Casa Nuova in Rivergaro, I tasted the best pisarei of my entire life. Everything should be served with the sparkling red Gutturni wine, or the white Malvasia. I rank the Vin Santo degli Eredi Conte Otto Barattieri di San Pietro di Vigolzone in my personal top 10 best wine list.

Tasting the meat cut culatello from Zibello at the Antica Corte Pallavicina or at Cavallino Bianco restaurant in Polesine Parmense is a good reason for a trip to the Parma area. The owners of the two restaurants, the brothers Massimo and Luciano Spigaroli, raise a unique breed of pigs. The culatello must be tasted with the Fortana sweet sparkling red wine. Then, head to "Osvaldo Colombo liqueur- distillery" in Salsomaggiore Terme to taste the traditionally produced Nocino (liqueur prepared from an alcoholic infusion of unripe walnuts) and Bargnolino (liqueur obtained by the infusion of the Prunos Spinosa berry).


In the nearby village of Tabiano, the Tabiano Bakery produces a delicious local focaccia.


In the city of Reggio Emilia, try the erbazzone, a savory pie filled with tasty spinach and green chards. In Brescello, don't miss the spongata, a traditional cake usually eaten at Christmas time.

In Modena, which is the reign of Lambrusco wine, my favorite spot is Osteria Giusti. In the village of Zocca, Ilvano Prostrati, owner of the Montanaro restaurant, bakes the typical muffin-type flat bread tigelle. Try them with a bit of lard and pepper. In San Propstero, Mec Palmieri produces the best mortadella ever.


In the regional capital Bologna, the delicatessen Tamburini has the world's best tortellini. The most amazing meat is sold in the Zivieri family's butcher shop in Mozuno. My favourite trattoria of the year, Il Borgo, is in the village of Monteveglio.

In Ferrara, the meat cut salama da sugo is amazing, and you can find it at the Rizzieri brothers' butcher shop. Here, you'll also find the best bread in all Italy, the coppietta ferrarese. It is delicious with the eels from Comacchio valley. Franco Rizzati's pastry specialty is the Tenerina cake.


In Lugo di Romagna, in the Ravenna area, the Cooperativa Botteghe e Mestieri produces the pasta cappelletti and passatelli.


The amazing formaggio di fossa (underground cheese) Pellegrini and Gianfranco Rossini mature in the pits of Santa Caterina, in Gambettola and Sogliano al Rubicone in the Forli-Cesena area. In Forli, the chocolate with salt and the chocolate with formaggio di fossa produced by the Gardini brothers are wonderful.


Finally, Gambero Rosso in San Pietro di Bagno Romagna is a great traditional restaurant. In the same area, near Rimini, taste the local thin flatbread piadina and the Sangiovese wine in Coriano, which is the Montalcino of the Romagna region. Try also the pecorino hard cheese from Buon Pastore in Montefiore Conca and the soft cheese squacquerone from Pascoli in Saignano sul Rubicone.


Then, there is the raw ham from Parma and Modena, the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, the balsamic vinegar from Modena and Reggio. Each one deserves an entire book. This happy and rich land is the best place possible for an unforgettable and delicious tour of tastes.

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Society

Debt Trap: Why South Korean Economics Explains Squid Game

Crunching the numbers of South Korea's personal and household debt offers a glimpse into what drives the win-or-die plot of the Netflix hit produced in the Asian country.

In the Netflix series, losers of the game face death

Yip Wing Sum

-Analysis-

SEOUL — The South Korean series Squid Game has become the most viewed series on Netflix, watched by over 111 million viewers and counting. It has also generated a wave of debate online and off about its provocative message about contemporary life.

The plot follows the story of a desperate man in debt, who receives a mysterious invitation to play a game in which the contestants gamble their lives on six childhood games, with the winner awarded a prize of 45.6 billion won ($38 million)... while the losers face death.


It's a plot that many have noted is not quite as surreal as it sounds, a reflection of the reality of Korean society today mired in personal debt.

Seoul housing prices top London and New York

In the polished streets of downtown Seoul, one sees endless cards and coupons advertising loans scattered on the ground. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, as the demand for loans in South Korea has exploded, lax lending policies have led to a rapid increase in personal debt.

According to the South Korean Central Bank's "Monetary Credit Policy Report," household debt reached 105% of GDP in the first quarter of this year, equivalent to approximately $1.5 trillion at the end of March, with a major share tied up in home mortgages.

Average home loans are equivalent to 270% of annual income.

One reason behind the debts is the soaring housing prices. In Seoul, home to nearly half of the country's population, housing prices are now among the highest in the world. The price to income ratio (PIR), which weighs the average price of a home to the average annual household income, is 12.04 in Seoul, compared to 8.4 in San Francisco, 8.2 in London and 5.4 in New York.

According to the Korea Real Estate Commission, 42.1% of all home purchases in January 2021 were by young Koreans in their 20s and 30s. For those in their 30s, the average amount borrowed is equivalent to 270% of their annual income.

Playing the stock market

At the same time, the South Korean stock market is booming. The increased demand to buy stocks has led to an increase in other loans such as credit. The ratio for Korean shareholders conducting credit financing, i.e. borrowing from securities companies to secure stock holdings, had reached 21.4 trillion won ($17.7 billion), further increasing the indebtedness of households.

A 30-year-old Seoul office worker who bought stocks through various forms of borrowing was interviewed by Reuters this year, and said he was "very foolish not to take advantage of the rebound."

In addition to his 100 million won ($84,000) overdraft account, he also took out a 100 million won loan against his house in Seoul, and a 50 million won stock pledge. All of these demands on the stock market have further exacerbated the problem of household debt.

42.1% of all home purchases in January 2021 were by young Koreans in their 20s and 30s

Simon Shin/SOPA Images/ZUMA

Game of survival

In response to the accumulating financial risks, the Bank of Korea has restricted the release of loans and has announced its first interest rate hike in three years at the end of August.

But experts believe that even if banks cut loans or raise interest rates, those who need money will look for other ways to borrow, often turning to more costly institutions and mechanisms.

This all risks leading to what one can call a "debt trap," one loan piling on top of another. That brings us back to the plot of Squid Game, "Either you live or I do." South Korean society has turned into a game of survival.

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