December 8, 2007

I'll have....

Jamie Oliver is everywhere: in the news, in the window of the bookstore at the Termini train station and just about every other bookshop in the city -- A Brit selling an Italian cookbook to Italians. Brilliant, chef's hat off to him.

The picture on the front cover shows a dishevelled 30-something blond guy in jeans slouching against an old Fiat 500, with a paint-peeled wall as a backdrop and a plate of spaghetti in hand. It screams "relaxed Italian food". He got it.

In the editors review, one phrase caught my cross-cultural eye, "... As an outsider, Oliver has great reverence for the traditions of Italy, and he offers some surprisingly deep insight about how a lack of choice and a massive working-class population have kept those traditions alive." As he traveled around the country, he understood the importance of food rules (that dictate when you eat, what, in what order and at what time of the year) and realized how important they are in maintaining what we know and love as Italian cuisine. The lack of choice that creates many a cross-cultural moment for travelers and expats, is one of the foundations of Italian lifestyle. The best small trattoria offer no choice at all, just dishes made from the freshest ingredients they found that morning at the market.

He also insists on including a "graphic and gruesome" photo of a slaughtered sheep. If you want good wholesome Italian food, you have to start with the freshest basic ingredients, including the beast. This also disturbs Anglo-saxon sensibilities for whom a freshly picked tomato is one thing and a whole lamb is another.

Happy cookbook hunting.
a domani,

PS just came across a great post on traditional Italian regional cuisine and a plea to support its origins, written by my wandering italy blogging buddy.


Roam2Rome said...

There is a large discussion on this, even outside of Italy.

Japan. It also says food is important, and we need to maintain what we know and love as Japan cuisine... whale meat.

Uf, in the end, it really does come down to gruesome beasts being slaughtered. Many kinds of them. I forget about this when I have that stake... but lately I've been so reminded of this.

David in the dolomites said...

I think that there is more emphasis on novelty in the US and UK. In Italy, you see people trying to learn and perfect a traditional dish, often the cucina povera. So the dish is good, homey, well-balanced because it was successful over time.

In the UK, many people are suspicious of "foodies" like Jamey Oliver, although he gets away with it because he is a cheeky lad.