Monday, 7 April 2014

Food, or more accurately Eating Habits, of Italy

Can't have a theme of Italy without talking about their favourite of all topics - food. They buy it, cook it and eat it just like everyone else. But in between is all the rest of their Italianess.

They buy it - usually fresh and as they need it every day from local shops. Cook it - after discussing with each shop keeper and all other customers about the best recipe, lots of disagreements and secrets of how their grandmother or aunt or cousin would have done it flying around. Eat it - and talk about it, discuss how it was cooked and press each other to eat more, all round the table with the rest of the family, eating so much they often need to sleep it off afterwards.

Breakfast is short, sometimes cereal but more likely to be either dry toast like biscuits or bread and nutella or just hot chocolate. Adults don't actually often have breakfast, just the children with the adults grabbing a caffe on the way to work.

Lunch is long, children will sometimes have it at school, sometimes go home, most workers go home for it. Several courses, a starter which is either pasta or a rice dish, followed by meat then vegetables, then fruit. Sometimes cheese or cake. Bread is on the table at all times. Contrary to belief pasta is not meant to be a main course.

Tea is leftovers more often than not, or maybe cheese and salami, olives and sliced tomatoes drizzled with oil. Usually quite a small portion, lunch was the main meal.

It used to be said that the Italian diet was healthy and it is, but these days Italians have started going down the unhealthy route with the dreaded McDonalds springing up here and there. But meals are mainly made up of what was bought from the local shop or mercato with their piled high vegetable stalls. When they entertain then it gets big, lots of courses all freshly made, I've been to functions where there are 20 or 30 courses spread over several hours with dancing in between, at least you get to make space for the next course. Even going to dinner at someone's home you get a lot of dishes. Dessert is more often than not bought in, though, cake from the best pasticceria very often.

Different regions have different specialities, for instance people of Tuscany are known as bean eaters as they use it a lot. In Anzio where my family live they eat a lot of fish as it's right on the sea with a lot of fishermen bring fresh fish in every day but my grandmother who came from further inland in Lazio would mainly only cook food of her region including lots of meat, or peas cooked with pancetta and never fish, she stuck to her 'own' food which is very typical of people here.

If you are going take an empty stomach with you as it will be easily filled up while you're over there. What do you eat where you live?


Jodie said...

Great blog! Glad we found each other. Happy A-Z!

Kate Larkindale said...

I'd love to be able to eat this way, but somehow our society isn't geared up to having a long, leisurely lunch. I'm lucky if I manage to grab something to eat at my desk before 3pm most days....

Diane Weidenbenner said...

I remember ordering shrimp scampi or something like that in Rome. The restaurant was beautiful and a bit upscale. The bowl that I received had pasta on the bottom, an aromatic red sauce on top and then large prawns with their feelers and heads still attached. I couldn't eat it so I just moved their poor, cooked bodies aside and ate the pasta. Guess I'm too used to the Americanized shrimp with no heads or shells and plenty of batter. Enjoyed the rest of my trip in Italy very much, though! Gorgeous countryside, tasty food and friendly folks! also doing the A-Z blog!

DayDreamer said...

I'm glad too, hi Jodie.

Kate, I just eat whatever I find in the fridge or cupboards for lunch, my grandmother would have been horrified.

Diane, you're not like some of my relatives over there, then, as they will eat head feelers and all along with the meat inside. Hmm, not me though.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I would enjoy all the fresh food. (We don't eat a lot of processed food at my house and we never do fast food.) A big lunch is smarter than a big dinner.

Anonymous said...

Oh, to eat this way (and shop this way) sounds wonderful! But as I was reading, I kept wondering how I would manage to find the time to cook. I work as a teacher, and even though I live close to school, putting together a daily meal for lunch would be a challenge. (I would love a long lunch break!)

Oh, to have hired help, right? Or be able to stay home full-time.

Thanks for the post. For lunch I usually eat a spinach salad (olive oil/balsamic vinegar) with meat (tuna or chicken), nuts, cheese, and a sliced apple.

Not a typical American lunch, but I'm trying to eat well.

:) Laura

DayDreamer said...

Alex, you're sounding very healthy, it's certainly the sensible route.

Laura, the long lunch is slowly going away, due to more women working and also not having time,but they still seem to mange, somehow, to have it longer than we do. You lunch sounds delicious and very good for you at the same time.