A cultural explanation of why we foreigners love Italian food
Never and nowhere will you find a man who does not like Italian cuisine! Indeed, any form of disagreement stops when pizza, pasta, risotto, bruschetta and pannacotta are brought to the table.
What kind of epidemic has taken over the world, causing people to revere Italian delicacies? One possible answer is not just the combination of ingredients, but also the idea that eating with a lot of passion is part of the overall Italian culture. And the word “world” (sorry for the pun) is exactly the key. Italian recipes have always been influenced by several cultures that passed through the territory of the Roman Empire, some as subjugated peoples, others as conquerors. Culinary influences mixed like everywhere else, and later fresh spices and unusual products from the new continents arrived in the ports of the peninsula.
A little history
The Italian diet already contained all kinds of foods such as meat, fish, fruits and vegetables, although they were sometimes combined in a way that today would seem strange to us. With the spread of Islam in southern Europe in the 9th century, a clear oriental impact on Italian cuisine could be observed. In Sicily and southern Italy, the Arabs brought the culture of making ice cream, as well as other Arabic specialties and sweets. For example, the brokenfamous Sicilian dessert, comes from the Arabic name of its pottery, the qas’ah.
The tradition of cooking ancient Roman dishes was poorly preserved in the Middle Ages. Indeed, as people rarely had the means to buy meat, they developed different vegetable recipes. However, an evergreen Italian food like pizza has its roots in the days of the ancient Romans, who already baked a similar roll, later called pizza. After a few centuries, the popular Margherita pizza was invented in honor of Queen Margherita: green basil, red tomatoes and white mozzarella reflect the national colors of Italy.
Italian identity and the national sense of food took shape among the magnificent Roman ruins and the beauty of the Venetian canals, in the narrow streets of Naples and under the bold arches of Bologna, in the Renaissance splendor of Florence and in the factories noisy. from Milano.
Tradition as a reminder of true values
So let’s say it. Although it may seem pretentious, Italy is one of the last nations in Europe able to preserve the tradition of gathering family and friends around a table. Here, this ritual is seen as a salvation or an escape from a hectic life and from the increasing alienation of human beings. That is why, almost all lunches or dinners are accompanied by pasty wines whose scents spread on the table like a summer sea breeze.
Never a table for one… It’s tradition!
Indeed, in Italy cooking is a real pleasure that is celebrated daily with family or friends, whether at home or in a good restaurant. The typical meal is prepared in large quantities, and cooking can take hours, as Italians never eat alone. Lunch or dinner is considered a time families should spend together, talking about issues, events, and experiences.
The contrast between North and South
One of the main geographical differences between northern and southern Italy is the vast Po Valley. Indeed, as soon as you move south from Emilia-Romagna, you will cross the mountainous backbone of Italy. That is why in the north there is more pasture and – where there is pasture – there are also cows. Beef and veal, milk, butter, sweet creams and delicious cheeses like Parmiggiano Reggiano are king here.
Olive oil is used throughout the boot, but in the South it is the key ingredient, as butter or creams are not used there. However, there are a lot of goats and sheep, and from their milk you can taste strong Pecorino cheese. From the Steps down you will rarely find a calf, but instead you will find lambs, pigs and chickens.
Even homemade pasta is made differently according to the traditions of each part of the country.
Finally, the islands. Sicily has been influenced by the Greeks, Spaniards and Arabs, and it’s not for nothing that couscous is a traditional dish. This also applies to seafood. The fish of the Adriatic is different from that of the Tyrrhenian Sea and, especially in the warm Sicilian Sea, swordfish is common.
Italians are tied to their provinces and get angry if they come from Venice to Florence and find their food prepared differently. Recipes have not moved from one province to another, because Italians love everything domestic.
Wine as a way of life
An old Roman proverb says:To get to know a nation – sit at its table, try its food and drink its wine, then you will know what kind of people they are“. That said, the The Italian love for wine is no secret. Italy is the largest producer of wine in the world, and locals use it in abundance as, on average, they drink 13.6 billion glasses of wine per year. So that everyone can enjoy this nectar of the gods, in Abruzzo there is even a free wine fountain 24 hours a day. The oldest winery in the country, Barone Ricasoli, was founded in 1141 in Tuscany.
Wine is one of the cornerstones of Italian culture and lifestyle, a crucial element that fosters the passion that pervades the whole country from top to bottom. In ancient times, the Greeks, who considered wine a sacred drink, called Italy Enotria, which means “land of wine”. Wine was already an integral part of daily life, a custom that remains the same today. Thus, in Italy, the cult of wine continues to be perceived as a gift from heaven, and many Italian vineyards (there is not a corner of the country where they are not found!) grow with great love and creativity. . Finally, Italian wines have a specific taste because they are made almost exclusively from native grape varieties. Although you can easily find the highest quality white wines, Italian red wines are known to be the best in the world.