Angelo Garro ~ hunter, forager, mentor, friend…(part 2)

“I know there is no straight road 
No straight road in this world 
Only a giant labyrinth 
Of intersecting crossroads” 
~Gabriel Garcia Lorca

A8 2I met Angelo on a boat in the Bay. It was the day after the 30th Anniversary celebration of Chez Panisse restaurant at the Campanile tower on the University of California, Berkeley campus. I remember the cold wind, the slight hangover, the joy of a beautiful gathering completed that was continuing the day after, and Lulu Peyreud swaying to Bob Marley. I also remember talking about Siracusa, Sicily with Angelo, hunting wild boar, foraging porcini and making things with our hands ~ pasta, proscuitto and dresses. Since then, my husband Lloyd has killed a boar with Angelo, I have had two children and a clothing business for over a decade, and been inspired by Angelo’s gatherings at his forge in San Francisco to create my own salon dinners at my atelier in Berkeley, two of which Angelo has been to. But for me, it was a weekend in Telluride last fall, at the 40th anniversary for the Film Festival, that brought it all together. It was Angelo’s second time at the festival, there was an extra day because of the anniversary weekend, and he was staying in the same house as me, with our friends Alice Waters and Davia Nelson. Angelo had launched his Kickstarter campaign for his Omnivore Salt and was a few thousand dollars away from his goal; his friend Werner Herzog, who was at the festival as well, had made the short documentary for the project, and we were up in the mountains watching films, talking Slow Food early Saturday morning, about its start in Italy and journey around the world, and there was talk about possibly foraging for mushrooms the following day.

I remember 10 years before, staying with Angelo as well, but also with my then 3-month old daughter Royal. Angelo, writer Tomas Sanchez and film-maker Werner Herzog had collected a bunch of mushrooms from the forest. I recall a mushroom dinner and thought how amazing it was to be present at these gatherings around food and film (and fashion, too, for I annually hold a trunkshow of my clothes during the festival). The idea of foraging again this year came about because Michael Pollan was in town and had connected with a local resident on the charter to Telluride… To read more about our foraging adventure, see Part One ~ On Foraging. But this adventure, for me, added to the already vivid image I had of Angelo as teacher and inspiration. It was his eagerness to show me how to listen quietly, to stop for a few hours, be present, and really look, In doing so, I found my first mushrooms, and then more, and more, and it was sublime.

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Above ~ Top image, Angelo and I, Telluride Film Festival 2013. Left, with Michael Pollan, Right, with Charlie Hallowell and I.

I admire Angelo ~ everything he stands for. From his sense of self and who and how he is in the world, to how he touches the lives of others. I remember teaching at CAL when I was a grad student there, and I would have students bring in an object of significance ~an object in the Arjun Appadurai sense of a tangible, holdable thing that has a social life and gains its meaning through the life it has, the past it evokes, the present that is permitted to live through it as a vehicle…Angelo’s Omnivore Salt is that for me. It is more than a salt ~ a little piece of a belief system, a little piece of Angelo, his forge, his vision, that creates both an imagined but also real community in which we all can become a part..Below, we talk about it ~~~

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Above ~ Omnivore Salt, left, with David Tanis‘s watermelon radish dish at one of my dinners. center ~ as a gift. right ~with lunch in Telluride.


Angelo Garro, Interview #8, March 5th 2014, at his forge,
the morning of his show at Fouladi Projects, prints by Wendy Macnaughton

On COMING TO THE BAY AREA, from Canada ~ “It’s about community. The food tastes good, because… you are with your friends; and I’ve been doing this for 30 years. There’s so many simpatico people, and it is exactly about that. I came here in late 1983 and started my business in 1984. I met Alice (Waters) through Bob Carrau. I was having a birthday and two days before i got chanterelles and caught eels and Bob brought Alice, and she loved the ocean to plate idea…. that was 1986-87. Everyone was gravitating to the forge and I thought, I must have something to share, some knowledge. Alice took me to Chez Panisse and introduced me to Paul (Bertoli) and we foraged mushrooms, made salumi in his garage, hunted boar.. but these were all things I started to do in Canada. Paul and I made wine together ~ Zinfandel…I learned a lot through my life but most my inspiration comes from my friends. That’s my source of inspiration ~ everything is organic. It’s not an accident that I came from Sicily. It’s truly magical. We have been invaded by everybody. There’s something you know is there ~ the magic ~ enduring to survive and live because there is something in the air that’s mixed together with this amazing archaeology and past, that hovers like the fog over you. I can smell the orange blossom, drink the wine and everything tastes good….”

On SICILY ~ “My grandmother had a beautiful orchard ~ 1000 citrus and she grew everything and in summer she would make tomato sauce and olive oil and what I remember as a child is I used to go there and she would say chase the sterling birds off the trees and I would come with a sling shot. We’d make sugo and I would go and get the fennel for the fennel cakes and there were wild leeks that tasted like spinach. It grew to the ground like a star, furry, but like kale and wild chicory, watercress on the river. My grandmother was a master pickler. Her house smelled like the season, and I would just stay there. There was the persimmon season and on the 2nd of November there were 50 species of chrysanthemum. It was a continuous way of living; after school I went there and took my books and did homework. I couldn’t wait to go there. But I left Italy at 18.

On becoming a BLACKSMITH ~ “When I was in Sicily I had a tendency to creativity and I wanted to go to art school but it didn’t happen. My dad wanted me to do accounting. When I left I went to Switzerland, near zurich and i took art classes (metal and sculpture) and studied casting, form, molds. we did a field trip to a blacksmith guy and i fell in love and this would be a vehicle to art because i could support myself with it. i went to canada and apprenticed 2 1/2 years with Josef Cathomas… FIRE.. i like the smell of the coals that is really bad for you but it’s magical and they made swords and then gates.. the gates were inspired by women doing embroidery. they thought we could wrought iron like that and make beautiful gates. they were inspired by the lacing.”

On MEETING at Chez Panisse’s 30th anniversary, the day after ~ “It was on the boat ride. We were there with Alice and Lulu and maybe Peggy, Bob and Tony, Camille. There was good food and prosecco and everyone was inebriated with this bay beauty. Lulu was entranced with the beauty of the water. It was quiet. No one really talked that much. You just had met Lloyd. You were an anthropologist and had lived in Italy.”

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Above ~ Carneros Pinot Grape Pick, Oct 2012 ~ one of many my family has been on, hosted by Angelo, to pick grapes for one of his wines…

On FIG TREES ~ “There is something spiritual about the fig tree. It covered Eve’s vagina. I grew a fig tree here. That was the first thing I did because it reminds me of home. We try to replicate what we left in childhood.”

On BRINGING BACK WHAT WAS ALREADY THERE ~ “There’s two types of people. One that studies the science of food and wine; but we don’t have to. It’s totally a part of us. We don’t need to know the science. We just do it. That is the gravitational point. We have grown apart, with industrialization.. in 1910.. the guy I bought this shop from said they would pick up the garbage with wagon and mule. In the 60s we went to the moon and then Silicon Valley happened. The progress is scary. Everything has been produced within 100 years… People have lost an identity because of fast food.. We had a renaissance of American food with industrialization of food and technology which has distanced people more and more and the idea is to bring back what was already there…”

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Above ~ Salon dinner #41, co-hosted with Deb Durant. Guests ~ Matthew Winkelstein, Amy Cranch & Marc L’Italien, Patrick Hooker & Joan Ellis, Tom & Barbara Pridham, Noel Castellanos & Tim Molak, Ben & Leilia Peake, Mad Dog & Anne Smith Rainey, Angelo Garro, Stela Jelincic, Christine Sullivan, Racheal Matthews, Marcy Lauer, Suzanne Drexhage & Stanislaw Sobolewski, and Amy Louise Murray. (top, right ~ Angelo w/ my August, dinner #32)

On WINE ~ “In the last 15 years my wine has been constantly the same, some years better than others. I let the wine express itself. I do nothing to it.. versus commercial wine where they try to do too much to it. I mix pinot and syrah and the wine becomes alive and there’s a spark and it begins to move; but it’s not good to blend too much. Everything is too big and too much in America and this strive for the unusual versus the familiar. Wine should be a necessity that you drink for every meal. I have two glasses of wine for dinner and I don’t drink after that. It is a totally integral part of eating for me. I don’t drink off the meal.

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Above ~ Angelo, Joe, Laura Guido-Clark, Sandro Rossi, Paco Prieto, Jenny Rankin, Wellington Dong, myself, Chad Arnold, Eve Love, Sue Kauer, Richard Hylton, Anya Fernauld, Mani Niall, Lloyd Bernberg, Renato Sardo, Sara O’Malley, Hope Bryson, Jamel Freeman, Royal, Nora, August.

On HUNTING ~ “In Sicily, I did my hunting license at 16 and my father gave me three shells and his gun and he said that’s it. So I left in the morning and forgot to eat or even take food. I just left, I was so excited. I saw so many BARTAVELLE and I was too overwhelmed, and they would fly away and I wouldn’t shoot and I would continue on, until finally I shot one! And then shot again and missed.. and then with the last shell I got a rabbit ~ a cottontail and my mother made a pappardelle with the rabbit; and we just baked the bird and made potato and vegetable and my dad said “Now you’re a hunter.” I was very close to my father.”

ON WERNER HERZOG ~ “I met him at Rose’s in San Francisco with Reed Heron (Peggy Knickerbocker’s friend who owns Rose Pistola).. He was with Lena, and I started speaking German with him. I was in love with his films but I didn’t realize that he was the one who made them. I had seen all of his films in Switzerland, and I told him I was having a pigroast at the forge. I like his modesty and humbleness and he saw this place and thought it was magical with me in it. He thinks I’m the real thing. He comes for Thanksgiving each year. He has an incredible talent in telling stories, and its this understated beauty that we experience when we’re together. It’s a connection and friendship that has endured 15 years.”

On HIS SPACE AT THE FORGE ~ “It’s totally consistent with my spirit. I create the space according to my needs and my need is I have to do my work. I’m the 5th blacksmith here. I’ve done a few small improvements to make it more Sicilian. I have a cafeteria and I sit with friends and share a meal or two; a cellar for wine, and an office where I have my past through music ~ Beethoven, Mahler, Verdi, Norma by Bellini. Those people who do great work inspire me to do great work. I still inspire myself by the old masters, Renaissance. It’s a way to re-create something you don’t have here. This is a new country. I bring in all my friends and share food and ideas. You were inspired by me because you did it for the same reasons. The one thing we need is love. It comes down to your stomach. Love and then you die. And we may also have taught things along the way for continuity. It’s like with the pig roast. We started awhile ago ~ with Paul, then here at the forge, and then with Alice and then it triggered me to be inspired to do Omnivore Salt ~ a way to rub this under the pig. And then maybe share that ~ to share with the rest of the world. It’s one product, so how much money can i make? But the salt is a vehicle to cook well and share the experience with your friends.”

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Above, top ~ Royal at the forge, before seeing Alonzo King LINES Ballet. Left, 2012 Pig Roast. Right, with Richard Hylton, Patty Lawton.

On FILM ~ Fellini’s 8 1/2, La Strada, Pasolini. In my 20s I was an avid film goer. Wrath of God, Kurosawa’s RAN, Bergman, Truffaut, Bresson ~ He did cinema verite like the italians ~ villagers that hunt. They were about people and he was a master of taking regular people and making them into actors. Citizen Kane. In Hollywood films, they were actors so it doesn’t stick in my mind like the day to day life stories of people.. British films IF and Clockwork Orange. Babette’s Feast and Like Water for Chocolate. Swept Away by Lina Wertmuller. Love and Anarchy, Mimi the Metalworker. and La Comte Lucien (?) about a guy getting recruited into the Nazi party; there’s a scene with a slingshot and killing birds. The antifascists refused him and fascists opened their arms to him. Grizzly Man and Dieter Needs to Fly…I wanted to make film and I have three short films (one on how to make colatelli)…In Telluride, Alexander Payne’s NEBRASKA ~ Movies in Europe they stick with you and narrate peoples’ lives better, versus here in the US, where everything is make believe so it doesn’t.


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Above ~ An exhibit at Fouladi Projects, inspired by Angelo’s salt… Jeff Burwell showing August how to operate the machine. August packaging the salt.

FOOD: fennel cakes remind me of Siciliy, every time I take a bite.
DRINK: a glass of good spring water, remind me of the natural springs in Sicily.
WEAR: white shirt ~ fine 800 point cotton. Muji japanese store.. in taily this short sleeve version is worn by the italian navy.
LISTEN: classical and opera. Cavallier rusticate. which is in the Godfather. intermezzo. it’s just the music and i put it on repeat.
READ: Pablo Neruda and frederico garcia lorca.
BOOKS: Voltaire’s CANDID. He introduces you to a character and the next page he’s dead and it makes you cry! Rarely can a writer do that today. Michael Ondaatje, Sue Miller’s The Good Mother. I like verisimilitude and novels that can do that so I read non-fiction.

ARTISTS: “Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Picasso and Clemente. With much contemporary art there is no legacy or reference to the past; it could be done on the moon. David Ireland ~ he was so human, and had an amazing social sense. We knew he liked my work and I liked his work so we sat down and enjoyed meals. He came a lot, once a week, and we didn’t talk about art. I miss his humanity.”

On BEING and BECOMING RELEVANT ~ “The guy from the midwest Paul Willis (hog farmer), said you’re quote a philosopher. And when Todd Selby asked me what’s the meaning of life, I thought oh, fuck… you know what ~ when we are born, we are irrelevant. We are relevant to our parents and then we spend all of our life coming relevant. I said this because we DO spend ALL our life ~ whether through clothing, food, metal ~ to become relevant to others and share that sense of creativity, feeling ~ ALL… if you don’t feel ALL (or WHOLE) and everything.. there’s nothing ~~~”

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Above ~ Angelo, at home, in his forge, during our interview…

Angelo’s forge ~ it’s a place I remember during three specific phases of my life ~ before having babies, whilst being pregnant, and with both children as infants, toddlers, now Royal 11 (above, with the cake), August 8 (packaging Angelo’s salt). It reminds me of the Nelson Mandela quote about returning to a place that doesn’t seem to change, although you yourself have. Our relationships too have changed, altered. And how exciting. Angelo though, is this persistent inspiration for me, who reminds me always to slow down, look around, make things, always evoking the past by weaving it into the present. 


“The past,’ he thought, ‘is linked with the present by an unbroken chain of events flowing one out of another.’
And it seemed to him that he had just seen both ends of that chain; that when he touched one end the other quivered.”
~ Anton Chekhov


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1 Comment

  • Reply October 26, 2015


    I was just going to cure some olives that I bought at the local farmers’ market so I pulled up an article from 1993 that I found in the L.A. Times called “The Olivesmith at Olive Time” I used to follow the recipe for salt cured “Greek” olives until our olive trees all became infested with some disease. I typed your name into Google to see if there was any more info on olives and there is no mention of them or your wife, Helen, whom I spoke to when I called your # with a question I had about the curing process….you’ve sort of gone “big time” in the last 23 years!!! Are you no longer doing the olive “thing”?


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