In order to spread the concept of leading the good life via food (or at least talking about it!) the folks over at Farrar, Straus, and Giroux hava agreed to send a free copy of Why Italians Love to Talk About Food to one lucky Scordo.com reader ! Here’s how you can enter the Why Italians Love to Talk About Food book giveaway contest:
– Prize Giveaway includes one (1) copy of Why Italians Love to Talk About Food.
– Only one entry per person please.
– Please use a valid email address when leaving a comment so I can contact you just in case you’re the lucky winner (I’ll need your shipping address).
– Farrar, Straus, and Giroux will send out the book to the single contest winner during the week of 2/1.
1. How did you first get interested in the relationship a typical Italian has with his or her food?
It was soon after I began my formal study of Italian language and culture in the University of Moscow. Suddenly I realized that there’s a multitude of topics, either abstract or practical, which are closely linked to a food themes of in the mind of Italian people (and of people of Italian origins of course). An Italian says about his or her mother that ‘she’s as gentle as a bread’, about a friend: ‘we’re like mac and cheese’ (‘cacio con i maccheroni’), and about a nasty person: ‘his pumpkin (head) obviously lacks salt (brains)’. So the more I’ve been reading Italian journalism, poetry, novels, even philosophy and academic books, the more obvious it was: in order to understand Italy and Italians, one definitely should familiarize herself with secrets of their culinary code.
2. What surprised you the most about how Italian interact and relate to food?
I just love their comprehensive approach to food! A dish can’t be ‘delicious’ or ‘bad’ per se, it’s to be evaluated in context of the entire feast menu. To really enjoy spaghettis, one should take into account a dish that was served before it (antipasto), what was a main dish, and what followed (a dessert). Such an approach suppose that a customer is not only able to evaluate a palatability of every single dish, but also understands what sequence/combination of dishes might be considered prefect, good, adequate, bad, or disastrous. I should affirm that literally every adult Italian has got – subconsciously in the majority of cases – this culinary culture, that he or she has adopted from the very childhood, both in family and in social institutions (kindergarten, school, college etc.)
Yet to say that Italian teenagers today – and especially in big cities – gradually absorb an American-style eating traditions: hamburgers, French fries, hotdogs, Coca-Cola. It is possible that in a decade or two Italian culinary rituals and traditions will sink into degradation and will be swept away by a globalization.
3. Americans get a bum wrap for their relationship with food (not to mention the typical American diet); are things changing in the US? Will we ever see regional cooking make a comeback in the US?
Well, you tell me! I strongly hope that there’s a possibility for that in the US, but let your readers express their own judgments. I will enjoy reading them. (Scordo comments: well, what do you think of Elena’s question, will American ever be food obsessed in the way Italians live and eat?)
4. Your book is not a typical cookbook; was it difficult to talk about food with no references to recipes?
The main subject of my book is not a food in itself, but what Italians SAY about it. To a certain degree, my book is a systematized collection of testimonies of Italians who cook, sell, describe, picture, enjoy and eat Italian food. To put it the other way, my book’s main focus is not on recipes, but on existing general concepts and their roots.
5. Is there a particular regional, Italian, cuisine that you like best?
My favorite regional Italian cuisine is definitely that of beautiful Toscana (Tuscany). Its food is full of energy and dynamism essential for Tuscan character. I adore the taste and look of fresh Tuscan products: vegetables, bread, fish, meat, and not to forget about its inimitable wine. I would highly recommend a freshly-made fiorentina beef stake (only a couple of minutes on grill), a cazzimperio salad made of fresh vegetables and special seasoning (vinegar, olive oil, local spices). Tuscan bread is in the base of the world-known bruschettes. As for a local fish courses, made of Tuscan fish, so rich in flavor, my favorite is a delicious cacciucco soup, which according to a local tradition should be prepared of at least five different kinds of fish (as many as Cs in its name, cacciucco), though the more the better.
6. Of the southern regions of Italy, is there a dish or food philosophy that you enjoyed researching or were surprised by?
As almost every newcomer, I was amazed by a practice of meridionale (southerners) to eat a wet uncooked fish or seafood just from the net, seasoning it only with salt and lemon juice and washing it down with chilled white local wine. This viand turned to be just as tasty, nutritious and delightful as French oysters accompanied by Chablis wine or Japanese fugu sushi with Japanese beer; the only difference is that the last two are world-famous luxury food, while only few connoisseurs outside Italy know the divine taste of a freshly caught octopus, sea urchin and frutti del mare accompanied by chilled Fiano wine (brought to Apulia by Angevins some 800 years ago). To tell you all the truth, I believe that one should try these delicacies only in Italy, combining a joy of gourmet with other esthetic pleasures Apulia with its magnificent seashore and plenty of old Norman castles offers.