The salty Pecorino Romano cheese delicately melts as it’s grated over a swirled cloud of pasta. The tangy characteristics of the creamy sheep’s milk are accented by the crushed black pepper. The piquant spice of the pepper contrasts not just on the palate, but visually on the plate. It seemingly floats before you as a petite pillow of off-white pasta with flecks of deep black pepper. Cacio e pepe is an easy dish to create. The execution of ratios, timing, and delivery, however, make it incredibly difficult to perfect.
I raced for a quintessentially Italian team nearly half my professional career and the culture permeates everything. Italian culture swallows you — you don’t check in and check out on a casual whim, rather you live it every moment of the year. It’s an austere existence, that of a professional cyclist, so you’re not basking in sinfully rich Fettuccini Alfredo night after night. That said, it’s truly amazing to witness the mountains of perfectly al dente pasta hidden beneath a half-wheel of grated cheese that we did vacuum down. With freshly cracked pepper, ovviamente. Ride to eat, eat to ride, it’s said. Given that cuisine is so married to cycling, that tastes are always sharper after a good effort, there’s merit in simplicity. Occam might as well have been a cyclist, his razor slicing back any “entities multiplied unnecessarily.” Shed the excess.
If you know anything about me, you’re likely familiar with my distinct fondness for maple syrup. A single ingredient. From a tree. While I don’t mean to bring up food in just every paragraph here, the genius of maple syrup as sports nutrition lies in its simplicity. Rather than a heavily processed carbohydrate that’s then artificially flavored, supplemented, and colored, maple syrup is naturally loaded with the electrolytes, amino acids, and antioxidants providing it the categorical title of a Superfood. Sure, it has heartwarming connotations around the familial Sunday morning breakfast table, but maple syrup is healthy precisely because it’s not chemically altered nor poured out of a plastic bust of some non-extant Aunt. Simple is pure. Simple is good.
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