Italian Cuisine: A Cultural History (Arts and Traditions of the Table: Perspectives on Culinary History)
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Italy, the country with a hundred cities and a thousand bell towers, is also the country with a hundred cuisines and a thousand recipes. Its great variety of culinary practices reflects a history long dominated by regionalism and political division, and has led to the common conception of Italian food as a mosaic of regional customs rather than a single tradition. Nonetheless, this magnificent new book demonstrates the development of a distinctive, unified culinary tradition throughout the Italian peninsula.
Alberto Capatti and Massimo Montanari uncover a network of culinary customs, food lore, and cooking practices, dating back as far as the Middle Ages, that are identifiably Italian:
o Italians used forks 300 years before other Europeans, possibly because they were needed to handle pasta, which is slippery and dangerously hot.
o Italians invented the practice of chilling drinks and may have invented ice cream.
o Italian culinary practice influenced the rest of Europe to place more emphasis on vegetables and less on meat.
o Salad was a distinctive aspect of the Italian meal as early as the sixteenth century.
The authors focus on culinary developments in the late medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque eras, aided by a wealth of cookbooks produced throughout the early modern period. They show how Italy's culinary identities emerged over the course of the centuries through an exchange of information and techniques among geographical regions and social classes. Though temporally, spatially, and socially diverse, these cuisines refer to a common experience that can be described as Italian. Thematically organized around key issues in culinary history and beautifully illustrated, Italian Cuisine is a rich history of the ingredients, dishes, techniques, and social customs behind the Italian food we know and love today.
local dishes, and age-old rivalries, it is in the process of resurrecting itself from the ashes, demonstrating paradoxically how a country composed of diverse fragments and an excess of different identities can convey the impression of a consistent, homogeneous beacon of gastronomic culture when viewed from a distance. chapter two The Italian Way of Eating Flavors and Fragrances from the Vegetable Garden Written at the end of the thirteenth or the beginning of the fourteenth century, the Liber
On lean days, members of the faith- 70 THE ITALIAN WAY OF EATING ful were obliged, with varying degrees of severity and a progressive scale of restrictions, to abstain from animal meat, which could involve foods derived from animals as well as meat itself. Up to the fourteenth century the Lenten diet in the strict sense excluded milk products and eggs, which were allowed only on the lean days of midweek or on the eve of feast days. Then these products were permitted even during Lent, with
side), softening the contrast between tastes and “lightening” the flavor. In areas such as Sicily and Andalusia, which experienced Arab domination directly, these changes were particularly rapid and precocious. But products tend to circulate, and in the High Middle Ages Italy already had a profusion of maritime cities and traders. In addition, for a few hundred years the Arabs, far from being disruptive to the political unity of the Mediterranean, provided a crucial point of commercial contact
cultural preference for oil typical of the Romans persisted even in the sixth century. But the overall context had changed in the meantime, since the political and social advancement of the Germanic people had launched a genuine campaign to promote animal fat and animal products in general. Lard also became the preferred fat used in aristocratic cuisine. Though governed by strict rules regarding the consumption of meat, even the monastic diet conformed to the habits of the population at large by
which generally favors one or the other of these condiments.” Artusi’s well-meaning tolerance—his thoughtful invitation to his readers to respect the diversity of individual and collective tastes—may have attributed too much importance to territory (or place) in the definition of differences. In fact, other variables, of a social and cultural rather than an economic nature—liturgical obligations, the dietary imagination, the mechanisms of fashion—also contribute over time to building up complex