August 9, 2008

Everything Italian tastes better

Well, I’ve been posting for a while, but I’ve never introduced myself. I’m a PhD student, writing my dissertation on Discrete Choice Econometrics. But I’m also passionate about food and a devoted home cook.

Why do I love Italian cooking? First, I personally believe that everything Italian tastes better. I know it is a strong and debatable phrase, but still I’m pretty convinced it’s true. If I have to describe Italian cuisine I would say something like: the best simple food through the quality of the ingredients. Yes, Italian cuisine is simple and really far from being pretentious. In Italian cuisine you don’t use a lot of ingredients, but you use the best of them.

Currently everyone is interested in organic food and local produce. Well, in Italy it has always been like that. You have your local street market with fantastic local produce, produced in the same way for centuries and made perfect by generations of artisanal farmers and producers. That’s why I really think that traditional recipes can’t be beat: classic recipes call for the best of the best, using local artisanal produce (that nowadays can be extremely expensive, but in Italy it was how ordinary people ate: in Lombardy ossobuco is the ultimate comfort food, while in the rest of the world it became a fancy dish). And Italian cuisine can be simple, but it is always made from your heart. Everything in Italy revolves around eating, because it’s by eating that people in Italy socialize and it’s by cooking that you show your love. And I love that.

Another thing you need to know about Italian cuisine is that it’s extremely regional. You’ll discover this throughout this blog. Dried pasta is something from Rome to the south, while in the northern regions they use fresh pasta. Pesto is from Liguria, prosciutto is from Parma – as well as parmigiano reggiano cheese – and risotto comes from Lombardy and Piemonte. Don’t try to get a good risotto in Rome, because you won’t. Instead try spaghetti alla carbonara, which is the ultimate Roman dish. Even if I think that traditional recipes can’t be bettered, I’m not saying that you cannot try new flavors. I mean, I’m always trying new dishes. Actually when I came to North America I discovered a lot of new things, including traditional Italian-American cuisine, which has lots of traditions that are lost in Italy now: I never heard about the “feast of seven fishes” before coming to America, and we don’t have such a thing called pepperoni in Italy, just in the same way you won’t find marinara sauce or even meatballs. I think that today we’re seeing an interesting changing point in Italian-American cuisine. Together with the globalization process, Italian products began to come to America. And by this, Italian-American cuisine met Italian cuisine, giving a continuous and vigorous development of what we can call a kind of international Italian cuisine. Just to mention an example, think about the use of pesto which exploded in America in the late 80’s, or the use of balsamic vinegar during the 90’s – even if I have horrible doubts about the industrial one that is available everywhere nowadays.

Finally, thinking of Italian-American cuisine, I must say I really like the idea of Italian immigrant cuisine. People flew from Italy in incredible huge quantities. I mean really huge. In fact, there are as many Italians with an Italian passport living abroad as Italians living in Italy. They discovered a new world, just in the same way Columbus did it first, and so they adjusted their culture of food in order to meet the new reality they were facing, but always keeping the essence of Italian cuisine: its simplicity.

I also like the idea of Italian immigrant cuisine because I myself come from a family of Italian immigrants. I grew up in Chile, with a Mediterranean climate and landscape that recreated the land of my ancestors exceptionally well. My family worked in the Chilean vineyards just as they had before in Italy. And I am an immigrant in North America now, with both Chilean and Italian passports. So the recipes I’ll share with you reflect this process. You’ll find traditional Italian recipes, as well as traditional Italian-American recipes, and some of my – let’s say – signature dishes (and also some nice recipes I like from around the world, always with that extra Italian touch). So your whole experience will be Italian cuisine absorbing elements from America – the continent, experiencing Italy through American flavors but keeping the Italian point of view and approach. What you’ll get is Italian culture working at its best: by food.

Posted by Daziano at 10:17 PM |  
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