We often need the past to give meaning to our present.

I have a dear friend who, over many years, has enthralled us with stories of his family, his culture and the traditions from which the very substance of his character is so deeply defined.

His stories have taken me on journeys into the unknown and enriched my life as well as my family. He has been able to connect with all generations of my family and my children love to spend time in his company because of the generosity of his soul.

It is because of the vibrant love he has for food, wine and good company; it is because he shares his life so fully with us.

Among the many stories he has shared with me, the most poignant is his story of Aceto Balsamico.

The foundation of his Balsamico comes from his grandmother. It is this past which makes the object like Balsamico so enticing and deep-felt.

It is the smell that wafts from that small bottle containing Aceto Balsamico, the one whose roots can be traced back to his grandmother if not beyond, that sets thoughts of sun and darkness, deep recesses where the caskets lie, filled with grapes brought about by sun golden fields.

It speaks the language of his ancestors down through the years connecting each in the tapestry of life until we, in the present, are blessed with the sharing of this truly remarkable food.

It is neither the taste that astounds the senses, nor the texture that continues to change as it ages, but the knowledge we taste another time made under a different moon reflecting life past, to be experienced in the present.

And, if you are capable, imagine the slow smile of delight it will bring to those in the future as it is brought out once again for a new audience to delight in.

The first time I tasted it, I experienced a moment of simple awe. Sensations I had no knowledge of pervaded my mind and body. You see, I never have been a great lover of wine. I can taste it, but probably do not appreciate it as so many of my friends do. However, tasting its cousin, Aceto Balsamico, brought me to feelings of completeness.

Now maybe I understand their passion for wine. Mine is now Aceto Balsamico.

My friend is part of Balsamico. I taste his passion for his family and culture.

In Italy, there is the saying that to make Balsamico you need three essential ingredients: the cooked juices of the grapes, wooden barrels and time.

Each is crafted with care with expertise handed down from generation to generation. The grower of the grapes and the preparation is art done by an artisan. The making of the barrels, each unique often using different woods sizes to give a different flavour, flows from another artisan’s hands.

And time. Oh how do we describe the sweet passage of time, through the passing down the love of creation can we in the future benefit?

Light, sun-filled Italy now shines in the deep-shaded North through food and friendship. We are all so richer for this.

Todd Hardy has studied and taught a variety of martial arts over 38 years and trained with many people from around the world. Would you like to comment on what you read here? Contact him at toddhardymla@gmail.com.