I'm Elena. I'm getting on for forty, and I live with my partner, Giacomo, who is three years younger than me.
All my boyfriends seem to have been a few years younger than me, I don't know why. Either I look younger than my age, or they look older. In either case, it's never been a problem for me. On the contrary! At home I'm always the one who is bursting with energy and ready to try anything once. And Giacomo humours me, luckily! I've been a vegan for seven years and Giacomo, partly to please me and partly out of curiosity, has started to try it.
Every day we invent new recipes based on fruit and vegetables, all sourced locally. We order it from "L'alveare che dice sì" – literally, "The beehive that says yes" – a countrywide network of local producers and artisans who meet every week in the various parts of each city. It's really easy: we choose what we need online, and then pick it up directly from the farmers and producers in person. It's nice to be certain that we are buying local produce and – why not? – a great opportunity to meet up and chat with our neighbours.
For my last birthday, Giacomo gave me a state-of-the-art professional juicer, so now I often spend more time preparing fruit juices and smoothies than talking with him!
"So now I have to be jealous of a machine?", he jokes. Well, better to be jealous of a machine than another man, right?
It's true, I'm a bit fixated on healthy eating, and I never cheat. Almost never. I say 'almost never' because I have to admit that on the rare occasions when we eat out, I simply can't resist a home-made 'tiramisù'. I always feel really guilty about it the next day, but all I need to do is to switch on SuperMax (yes, I've even given the machine a name!) and I feel better!
SuperMax sits proudly on a metal base which highlights his bright red colour. This means that he is always to hand when I need him: the fresh vegetables are on the shelf below, and the glasses are above. All my precious herbs and spices are lined up on the shelves on the wall behind. It's a really practical set-up which I call my "health corner".
Though it's true to say that the whole kitchen smells of health – after all, it's the room where we spend most of the day. It is bright and spacious, so it's no problem to move around. I have even recreated a small vertical vegetable patch: all the in-season vegetables are neatly planted out or picked and put in the fridge, while my herbs and aromatic plants are on the window-sill.
Anything that we can't eat fresh is transformed into preserves, jam or purée, or preserved in oil or pickled in vinegar, so they can be used during the rest of the year to give my dishes extra zest.
Every so often we invite friends over for a drink or perhaps for dinner, and we astonish them with a wide range of tasty vegan snacks and appetizers!
The spacious central island in the kitchen is the perfect place to prepare and enjoy our special non-alcoholic mojito, made using untreated lemons and fresh mint. The perfect apèritif!
When I'm in the kitchen, I love every part of cooking - slicing, cutting, kneading, blending and baking. And - why not? - tasting Giacomo's creations (actually, he's becoming quite a good cook). But he doesn't have much time, he's always in a rush. He works as a personal trainer in a gym just outside the city centre, while I work mornings in a small herbalist shop in the suburbs. My morning is spent preparing the natural herbs used to make infusions and herbal teas, and I love to listen to the customers and understand what they need. I have a big book (I call it my "Bible") which describes the properties of all the herbal remedies, and I always keep it on the table next to the large glass jars containing herbs, flowers and seeds. Everyone in the shop calls me the "plant wizard", and many of my spells seem to work, because the customers keep coming back!
I generally spend my afternoons attending courses in yoga and bio-furnishing. My dream is to open a small vegan bar near home, where I can sell only local products. Somewhere that customers can spend a little time relaxing and getting away from the stress of daily life.
A bit like our home – an oasis of tranquillity in the heart of the city!
"L’Alveare che dice si!" [literally, "The beehive which says yes"] is a platform which brings together farmers and craftsmen wishing to sell their products directly to the consumer. Buyers can simply order online – fruit, vegetables, bread, meat, beer and a wide range of other locally-made products – and collect their order directly from the producers and artisans who get together every week in the various parts of each city.