Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Italy and the Quest

Italian food is very good. This much everybody knows, even people who have never been to Italy and have only tasted the american rendition of it can tell you as much. Sometimes though, they say, it can be a little too heavy and eating Italian food all the time would make you super fat. WRONG. American Italian food would make you super fat, sure. American Italian food was created by Italian immigrants who arrived here mostly from a reality of close starvation and found an abundance of food, especially of protein, that they could not have afforded back home. Just like my grandfather, who grew up in a poor family and knew what real hunger felt like, spent the rest of his life obsessed with food and definitely ate more than he should have, this people created a cuisine that is a celebration of the end of hunger. But the Italian food you eat in Italy is not necessarily fat and heavy, although of course it can be. Moreover, Italian cuisine relies on centuries of tradition, and it is incredibly rich and varied. Besides the "holiday dishes" that were prepared only on special occasions, when the family would all get together to celebrate something and involve hours of preparation, we also have a simpler everyday cuisine, food that was eaten by peasants, that relied on what the ground produced on a certain season, on foraging on wild herbs, mushrooms and plants, on local and very seasonal ingredient. That is why I think traditional Italian food is perfect for the quest. I bought a couple of cook books in Italy with the most traditional pasta and soup recipes and I am going to try to adapt some of the recipes to my everyday life. It will make me feel closer to home, but it will also help me with the quest. When these recipes were originally created, hundreds of years ago, sustainable local food was really the only option available, maybe if we go back to our roots we will find out a wisdom that we have lost. Obviously I am going to have to tweak a few things. The produce of Illinois is definitely not the same as Tuscany or even less Sicily. Some products are not available outside of a specific region or town in Italy, but I think it will be an interesting journey, an unexpected turn in this quest that I have undertaken.

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