Opinion: Italian food aint broke but let's fix it
ROME--I love Italy. I really do. The wine, the sun and the food, served by a smiling waitress is something I can’t help but love. Okay, I know it’s a cliché, the young student abroad entranced by the more relaxed pace of life and the way a negroni always tastes better whilst sitting in a sun drenched piazza is nothing new… and that’s the point.
Of course I love Italian culinary culture, but then again I’ve only recently become acquainted with it. And yet to the average Italian, the dishes they love were loved by their parents, their grandparents and so on. When it comes to trying something new you will be greeted with blank stares. Northerners probably wouldn’t mind the perceived lazyness that grips the south if it didn’t extend to their cooking and their penchant for frying things and southerners think that all the cured meat makes northerners stuffy. Parochialism abides.
Flippancy aside food penetrates deeper than being just a means to assuage hunger, it is part of the fabric of Italian life. And maybe it’s time for a change. I recently spoke to a man at the forefront of Roman cuisine and he emphasised how Italian food hadn’t moved forward in the last 50 years. Surely if my father’s tales of school dinners are to be believed we should consider ourselves lucky the rest of the world has seen some change.
This is not to say the Italians are stuck in the mud, they’re on to a good thing. And I’m certainly not naiive enough to see food as some kind of miracle metaphor to explain all aspects of the Italian psyche, but I will add that we are all products of our environment and perhaps a little bit more open-mindedness would not go amiss.
Italy has recently been torn apart by division politically and economically, and perhaps embracing the “other” in an attempt to reconcile or improve is what’s necessary now. In any case, if it means using food as soft diplomacy and beating a metaphor to death I’m all for it.