6 May 2009

Rocket launcher

It amazes me that people aren't aware of the link between motor racing and salad.

Only this evening I had to explain again to Mrs Graph (who had chided me for buying wild rocket rather than taking it from that bunch which she is growing in the garden) that wild rocket is not the same as domestic rocket. By definition; it's wild. Which means it has to be caught. And - as I would have assumed most right-thinking folk would have spotted from its name - it moves pretty bloody quickly!

Anyway, as a direct result of the extraordinary speed it exhibits in its native environment, we now have motor racing.

In the farming regions around Torino (called in English Turin, but actually more accurately translated as Tureen) it was regarded as the finest of leaves with which to flavour the locally produced soups - 'Zuppa Torino' identifying the local pot in which a variety of zuppe were concocted.

As demand for the zuppe grew, so too did the voracious requirement for greater and greater harvests of wild rocket (Rucola). The more that needed to be harvested, the fewer and further between seemed the 'Rocket Men' (Uomini Ruchetta) who were paid to capture the Eruca sativa.

One of those whose livelihood depended upon the successful chase was Ferrucio Lamborghini, born in 1876. His small farm, high in the hills of the Appenini at Renazzo, Cento, (ironically in the region of Ferrara) was insufficient to support his sizeable Catholic family. For that reason he began marauding further and further afield, reaching far west to the outskirts of Torino; netting wild rocket across that vast hinterland.

Greedy for the rewards the peppery brassica could bring, in 1891 (at the age of just 17) Ferrucio designed and built two rapid, narrow, single-seater vehicles equipped with a wide blade across the front for the sole purpose of hacking down the flying rocket plant. As he and his 15 year-old brother Miura raced across the Italian 'Steppi', the world was first introduced to the sport named later after the wild rocket itself, which was at that time so desired as to be referred to as"Principal in the Recipe" - in Italian 'Uno di Formule' - Formula One.

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