Italians are obsessed with food. Living here, I seem to have become so, too. However, my obsession runs toward those foods that are not Italian. That is why I was so delighted to find a slew of Chinese markets near Civitanova and why I made this, um, asian-Italian-fusion dish:
Udon noodles with octopus (frozen), bietola (local), soy sauce (available in EVERY supermarket….for what?) and sriracha (spicy Thai nectar of the gods).
Tofu (from Chinese market), kung pao sauce (see former), broccoli, zucchini, broccoli/cauliflower-hybrid-alien-thing, pepper, onion, garlic and strange flat green bean type-things. All vegetables local.
It pains me to hear that some politicians in Italy are trying to make it difficult to grow and sell “foreign” produce here. Not only might the above have been better with some bok choy or bamboo shoots, but did no one tell these folks that tomatoes are not indigenous to Italy? The idea that introducing other foods might somehow sully what they’ve got is difficult for me to understand. They can have their amatriciana and carbonara, their porchetta and caccio e pepe. Why can’t I have (and why don’t they want) a little stir-fry now and then?
I know, I know, I just got back from France and was a little disturbed by the latest fads—hamburgers, bagels, cupcakes and I’m a little saddened that Laduree has opened an outpost on Madison Ave. When I lived in NY I liked thinking that I had to go to Paris for a really good macaron (or to the Bouley Bakery for an OK one). But I could still get all the French food in France that I could want. Knowing Italians, I don’t see them abandoning their beloved recipes any time soon. I just want a little cheddar cheese* now and then.
And I know I come from a land that doesn’t have its own cuisine. What is “American food”, anyway? To the people I meet, they all think it’s hot dogs, hamburgers and peanut butter all the time. I try to explain that we can make almost all the things make: olive all’ascolana, porchetta, fresh ravioli filled with fresh ricotta, amatriciana with real, local guincale but I can tell they really don’t believe me. How can they? While in the US there’s the option of locally grown and produced food, in Italy it’s often the only option. Thankfully, I’m sometimes able to find another.
*Speaking of cheese (and on an entirely different subject), I was informed the other day during a discussion about fat and cholesterol and the abundance of both in the local cuisine that mozzarella is not cheese. It is mozzarella. Therefore, pizza is not bad for you if you’ve got high cholesterol.
You’ll be pleased to know I tried my hardest, in broken Italian and English, and with nothing else but my own belief to defend the notion of all that is cheese and why mozzarella is indeed that. I fear my argument was lost in translation……..