Last year, I spent Christmas with my wife’s family. Her father owns a small hotel in a little roman spa town called Salsomaggiore Terme in the North West of Italy, around 2 hours’ drive from Milan. As well as spending Christmas there, we took the opportunity to cover a fair bit of ground in the region, visiting quite a few Italian towns. Given my love of Italian food, I was in heaven. After living and eating like an Italian for a few weeks, a couple of observations stuck me as being valuable lessons.
Firstly – the Italians know that they are onto a good thing so they stick with it. It is actually quite difficult to find food in Italy that is not Italian. As someone who’s used to having cuisine from every nation in the world available at all times, it was strange for me to stick to just Italian food for a few weeks. Even in Courmayeur (a few kilometres from France), every restaurant was serving Italian food. But when everywhere you go you can get an amazing pizza for five Euros or a great tagliatelli ragu for a similar price, it’s hard to argue.
Secondly – so often the beauty of an Italian dish lies in its simplicity. My father in law is a chef and watching him put together the Christmas lunch I was struck by the fact that each dish contained relatively few ingredients, and there were no crazy technical methods or eccentric flourishes required. It was all about getting high quality, in-season, local produce, and then not stuffing it up.
The first lesson reminded me of the old saying: “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it“. The second, of another saying: “Keep it simple, stupid“. Both the lessons I learned, and the sayings, can be applied to the work we do back in my real life at Fenwick Software. Sometimes IT people are tempted to change something that is working simply because they think there is a more elegant solution – this is not a good idea and at Fenwick we avoid the temptation. The other temptation is to get lured into thinking that a technical solution is the only solution, instead of looking at the whole picture and perhaps applying a simple change of process or procedure. Often a little lateral thinking will reveal a simple way of solving a problem without resorting to crazy technical methods or eccentric technical flourishes.
So I enjoyed wonderful food and learned some good lessons.