What happens when most people hear you’re Italian:
Foreigner A: “Ahh buongiorno Tonino!”
Foreigner B: “Ah I love cheese”
Foreigner C: “Ah pasta, I love Italian pasta, I’m sure you eat pasta every day, lucky you!”
Foreigner D: “Do you eat pizza every day? I love pizza with pepperoni!”
Foreigner E: “I can’t wait to go to Rome and try out the original pasta Alfredo!”
And these are the latest ones I received:
Foreigner F: “I’m Italian too! From Cremona. Yeah… my grandparents were from Cremona, I was born in Santiago”
Foreigner G: “Ohhh you speak Italian?? Please say something to me!”:
Stanito: “What do you want me to say?”
Foreigner G: “Ohh anything ^^”
Stanito: “… ”
I get that all the time, and like me, many people I know. But last week it got to my nerve, particularly the assumption of eating pasta everyday because you’re Italian. So a friend and I were discussing this and without even realizing it we came up with all sorts of myths and derivates that are normally attached to the word “Italian”. And this is the purpose of this post: knowledge sharing.
Gladly, I’m one half-Italian born in Rome who will not mind if:
– I see people adding or altering the Amatriciana recipe by adding anything not originally contemplated in the recipe;
– I see people eating spaghetti with a spoon or directly cutting them;
– I see people having pasta with seafood and parmigiano cheese;
– I see people having cappuccino after having a fish meal;
– I see people cleaning with a piece of bread the remaining of sauce on a plate (it’s the best part, why wouldn’t you?);
– I see people mixing more than one piece food with another on the same plate;
Dear reader, all the above is safe ground and should be accepted by my local people, because:
– if you don’t grow up or become familiar with spaghetti, it becomes a Herculean task if you try to eat them without making a mess, so yes, it takes time and practice;
– if you don’t become aware that certain combination are as severe as death sentence (cheese+seafood), there is no reason why you should be castigated;
– there is no rule which stipulates that is forbidden to have cappuccino in any other day time other than breakfast. You will not die if you choose to enjoy a foamy cappuccino after a fish meal (I see people having chocolate after fish, what difference does it make with coffee? none);
Italian culinary tradition tends to be too strict, I see it happening all the time. I remember when I had a cappuccino right after “fritto misto” (fried seafood). I was perfectly fine and that cappuccino was exquisite. But my dinner friends… were not fine with the situation. It’s all about combinations basically, if you don’t mind mixing one flavor with another, then you’re good to go. One of my favorite dishes is Serbian, and it’s literally meat + parmigiano + white cream all in the oven. In Rome, this dish has never been popular among our family friends and it’s because of the combination meat + either cheese or cream.
However, there are things which I consider an assault to Italian culture, a way to include certain concepts under the name of “very Italian”, for which I felt obliged to satisfy several people requests by compiling an urgent list with the attempt of raising awareness against cultural pirates (bear in mind that I skipped all those suggestions regarding misspelled names and apparent typos, ie. Ñoqui instead of Gnocchi, there are too many and frankly you can accept them as “adaptations”):
– There is no such thing as Alfredo sauce in Italy, there never was.
– There is no Bolognese sauce either! The real name is ragú.
– There is no pizza or pasta with chicken. If you do find it… that’s not Italian.
– There might be pizza “quattro stagioni”, but definitely not a pasta with the same name.
– There is no pasta “primavera”, honestly, I’ve never heard of such thing before in my life.
– There is not “spaghetti sauce”, spaghetti is a type of pasta that can go with MANY sauces, but spaghetti sauce? No such thing.
– There is no “Italian seasoning”, I actually had to look this one up to see what it is: water, soybean oil, garlic, spices, xanthan, red pepper, paprika… Paprika? Xanthah? Sorry, that’s not Italian.
– There is nothing Italian about adding oil to pasta boiling water.
– Panini is the plural for “panino”, which literally means sandwich. It’s a sandwich, not a type of sandwich.
– Salami is the plural for “salame”, a highly seasoned type of sausage. Why in plural then?
– Caesar salad is not Italian, and never was.
– Latte… Latte means “milk”, and in the list of Italian ‘milky coffee drinks’ there’s no Latte on its own. You caffé-latte, yes, also latte-macchiato, of course, I love it, but no ‘latte’ alone… Kind of lousy if you think about it.
– Cappuccino never had cream on top, is just foam.
– Biscotti is plural for “biscotto”, which literally means… cookie.
Any suggestions or addition? 🙂 Feel free to comment!