The Italian food culture is blessed with two types of arts; one is the art of cooking and the other is art of eating.” For Italians, making food is to be treasured, enjoyed passionately, making it carefully examining and not made with callous attitude. One of the Italy’s greatest resource is its wealth of local food markets which has fresh vegetables which are home-grown. The best way to explore the Italian delicacies is to try making them yourself as then you would be finding yourself discovering the rich culinary history of Italy. Everyone loves the taste of Italian food, but for those of you who just started to learn about it may slowly find your life starting to change in unexpected ways.
Let’s explore some of the aspects of food in Italians’ Style:
How Italians’ Prefer Appetizers:
In Italy, appetizers are considered as a mini meal, not full-sized serving so it’s not meant be shared between two people. An appetizer can be as simple as an assortment of olives, pickled vegetables, cheese, salami, or a plate of marinated olives with bread and some cheese. Appetizers in Italy are kept really simple so that you don’t get full by having the mere appetizers. Pasta is often served as the small second course meal in Italy. Along with pasta, Bolognese sauce or ragu, a rich meat sauce from Bologna is served in lasagna, spaghetti. This amazing looking red flavorful meat sauce is traditionally served over pastas or with baked lasagna. There are some different yet classic Piedmont dish like agnolotti (“priests’ hats”) as the Italians call it. These little rectangular pillows of dough have crimped edges filled with herbs and braised beef or veal then topped with with some Parmesan cheese sprinkled over it. Every town has its own variation and you won’t find the same recipes that are alike. The Italian’s idea for appetizer is really simple as it is followed by many main courses.
Bread plays a supporting role:
Bread can reflect you about how Italians eat: bread is varied from one region to the other. Sometimes, it’s served with salami or cheese and as a crostini or bruschetta topped with fresh tomatoes. However, bread is not eaten throughout the meal and it is certainly not taken between courses. It’s generally served with the main course and salad. Mainly, because Italians love to “fare la scarpetta” (“do the little shoe”) meaning: mop up the plate with a piece of bread. However, be cautious about this as it’s not considered appropriate in public places or when you are a guest at someone’s home. It’s advised to reserve honoring this Italian tradition at home or among family members in order to prevent yourself from being wrongly judged! Though, its centuries old tradition in places like Tuscany to clean your plate as it is seen as a prestige statement which reveals your social status.
However, remember: Don’t make a main course of the bread: as it’s a supporting member, not the star dish!
Snacks are not Italians’ Preference
Fast food hasn’t been deep rooted in Italy’s food culture that much because they firmly believe in dining well, slowly enjoying small portions and savoring a meal with the company of friends and family. As the Italians really appreciate the concept of la dolce vita, “the good life.” According to their culture, when one dines well; there is no requirement for junk food snacking between meals. They take some time to relax and grab a merenda (tea break) as a small snack in the evening until dinner. That’s just life and the Italians make the most of this custom.
In Italy, there is centuries-old practice of street vendors of selling tiny (cicchetti) snacks beneath the shadows of the buildings during the late afternoon when hunger start to strike and people crave for a bit of food. There are cool recesses of hideaways called “bacari,” these little spots are the best place to skive away while sipping some tea and rejuvenate oneself with light snacks before dinner.
Dining in Italian’s way
Dining in Italy is more than just nourishment. It’s a way of life that is meant to be explored, enjoyed and never rushed. Dining in courses (small portions) is believed to be more civilized and considered healthier for digestion whether it’s pranzo (lunch) or cena (dinner), there is a continuation to the dishes served that is common in every region.
In Italy, lunch is the main meal not dinner. As, dinner is usually lighter and include simple dishes such as a frittata with soup or salad. The big meal is served at midday usually on Sundays when the generations of the extended family gather together at the table to enjoy a full meal with multiple courses that are savored over a long afternoon.
Here’s a breakdown of the Italian typical courses served for lunch and dinner. Not every course is eaten every day and even more food are included for special occasions but only few dishes are eaten regularly. They start the meal with often a plate of local cheeses or a more elaborate display of pickled vegetables, olives or crostini. Primo piatto is the first course depending on the region it can be risotto or pasta (either fresh or dried) followed by the second course. Second is the main course, either it’s meat or fish accompanied by a contorno (side dish) that’s often a verdura (vegetable) often composed with salad. Green salads come at the end of the meal,it can be served with pastas and meat. The salads are simply refreshingly and cheese comes before the dessert course(dolci).
In general,Italians are passionate people and they use food to satisfy and express themselves elaborately. The authenticity about Italian food is that it’s difficult to find anywhere else in the world. As, Italians value their food culture and preserve its place in their lives and at the center of their traditions holding deep pride with their head high.
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Written by: Sadaf Rahman