Garlic and Oil: Politics and Food in Italy
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Pasta, cappuccino, olive oil--Italian food is a favorite in our cafes, restaurants and homes. But what is the history of Italian cuisine? And where do we get our notions about Italian food? Contrary to popular belief, the Italian diet was inadequate and unchanging for many decades. Successive political regimes--liberal, fascist, democratic--struggled to improve eating habits, shaping not only Italian cuisine but Italian identity. This book reveals the harsh reality behind the myths surrounding this highly-romanticized cuisine.
Tallarico, Grano e pane (Rome: Editoriale degli Agricoltori, 1933); La vita degli alimenti (Florence: Sansoni, 1934); Lo stato biologico degli alimenti e lo sviluppo (Rome: R. Garroni, 1930); ‘L’alimentazione e la prolificità umana,’ Razza e civiltà 2, 2 (March 1941), pp. 81–91. 47. For example, Sabato Visco, ‘Alcuni risultati di un’indagine sulla panificazione nella provincia di Sassari,’ Quaderni della nutrizione 3, 3–4 (July Notes • 191 48. 49. 50. 51. 52. 53. 54. 55. 1936), pp.
press, whether as photos of a bare-chested Mussolini threshing wheat or the public distribution of food baskets to the poor on the holiday of Epiphany (Befana). For the period 1922–35, there were two distinct stages of fascist intervention in food issues. The first stage corresponded to the first four years of fascist rule and consisted mainly of price controls intended to quiet consumers. Intervention in this area was limited in scope, yet it was during these years that the early contours of
and oil, a sum that amounted to 26.12 percent of the total food budget. Extravagance came in the form of treats like stewed prunes or chocolate pudding. There was little money left over for extravagant dinners, wines, or liquor. There were, however, three courses for lunch and dinner, meat, and a variety of animal-based proteins served every day. By way of comparison, Momigliano used a case study of a bricklayer and his family (wife and a 10-year-old child) to demonstrate working-class budgeting.
of food consumed changed over time. Italians consumed more fresh vegetables, meat, and fish in the 1920s. Barberi’s work, which charted the availability of basic foods between 1910 and 1942, confirmed Spina’s findings. Barberi found significant increases in the consumption of wheat, milk, sugar, and meat over a 30-year span. Both Spina and Barberi found nutritional levels to be adequate for the 1920s and early 1930s, and both were optimistic about Italy’s continued progress in the area of
cornmeal (in the north) or beans (in the south). Occasionally, additional packets of dried soup mix or dried vegetables were distributed.9 Non-Italian relief organizations also provided assistance. UNRRA (the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration) negotiated a series of accords with Italy in 1945, appropriating over US$50 million to help the needy and to assist Italian children. The International Refugee Organization fed the thousands of Croats, Slavs, and Orthodox Russians in