(Mirror) According to a much quoted truism from playwright Neil Simon, “there are two laws in the universe: the law of gravity and everyone likes Italian food.”
I grew up in Italy and, like all Italians, I live a romance with food. Everyone can cook and everyone is an expert.
You want to make pasta? It’s pasta, tomato, oil, and garlic with a touch of red pepper if you like it with a kick sprinkled with parmesan cheese.
Pizza? It’s dough, mozzarella, tomato, and basil, that’s all! You don’t need layers of pineapples or bacon over it. Masterpieces should not be tampered with.
Italian food is simple at heart. It’s all about harmony rather than quantity. There are usually 3 to 5 mandatorily fresh top quality ingredients and it is fabulous. Why overcomplicate a good thing? And it goes way beyond just simple nourishment. Discussions about how a particular dish should be cooked, what sauce is acceptable with which pasta shape, or which wine should be served with it, are serious business.
The reason for this reverence for food and how it’s prepared stems from the importance of family in mostly Catholic Italy.
Sunday would not be Sunday without going to Mass. Of course we couldn’t eat before Mass because we had to fast before Communion, but we endured because the good part was that we knew, when we got home, we’d find freshly handmade ravioli, or tortellini or gnocchi followed by lamb or rabbit, ossobuco, pork roast or fish and a large variety of butter or olive oil sautéed vegetables, with the ever present rosemary oven roasted potatoes.
Large extended family groups come together to eat and socialize as often as possible. The average year is littered with religious holidays, around which traditions have grown about which particular foods must be eaten.
It’s a tradition, a feast, and it’s not optional. Italian food has now travelled all over the world. Italian immigrants have brought their cuisine with them and used food as a comforting taste of home, setting up restaurants and sharing their passion with the rest of the world. It’s this passion and pride that also make the food so delicious, popular, enduring and wholesome.
You don’t have to be Italian to agree that food, any ethnic food, is one of the greatest pleasures of life, if not the most satisfying, therefore we have dedicated this issue of the Mirror to the dining experience.
I hope you enjoy it. Buon Appetito!
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