martedì 1 maggio 2012

Will the great Italian food tradition be overtaken by vending machine? The italian way.

Do you still have a taste? Ah, childhood. A voyage of discovery in Calabria, the most un-industrialised region of Italy. Topolino, the emotion of an old family car. Fantastic, perfection. Being in a stranger's garden picking ripe persimmons reminds me that, as a child, the countryside was our sweetshop. It was a stolen treasure. Back to the world that gave us passion for food. Unbelievable. The killing of the pig or Festa del maiale. We have fond memories but does anything survive of the world we loved? In the past everyone had a pig. The meat would feed a family for the whole year. Pig produce is central to the Italian way of eating. For boys especially being present for a kill was an important part of becoming a man. My mother used to look after the animal all year. "Mama, you loved those animals, why you didn't cry?" She said "Son, there were tears, not running down on my face, but inside my face". In killing the pig we learned to respect every piece of food that comes from the animal. We make prosciutto, pancetta or bacon, capicola, ham and salsicce. The poor animal is killed but it's a feast!
Calabria produce very good olive oil. They produce quite a lot but they don’t export a lot. Remember, the wine you use for cooking is the wine you have to drink. If you put a good wine in the dish, you can take it out as well. The most exciting part of any big family occasion was when we sat around the big table to eat. Here they don’t have crisps and jelly. In other words, they don’t have food for children. The children’s food is exactly the same as for grown-ups. For me, it’s unthinkable that big family which were so much a part of life in Southern Italy, are becoming a memory. It’s silence in the house. It hurts me to say that Italy now has the second lowest birth rate of any country in the Western world.
We have an expression in Italy, “Bambinone”, it is to describe the babies that have life so good, they never grow up. As my mother would say “You know for sure that Jesus was Italians, because his mama believed her son to be a god, and he thought she was a virgin.”
I think there is a bad way to eat among young children. We have a problem of obesity. For the children left to fend for themselves over lunch, there is no healthy option, the vending machine where the students come to have a snack. Horror show. I’m so angry. I’m quite upset. How can a school with children like that have a vending machine? It is a sign of our time as well, that we have to copy everything that America sends to us. Now, over a third of local children are clinically obese by the age of eight. Italy has more overweight children than any other country in the European Union. Why in the southern Italy, when there is a proven history of good dieting, do children now have a problem? Kids used to run around, now they sit in front of TV, video games..and other sedentary games. TV is the dining companion of the obese children. We are missing proper food. Don’t you think our children don’t eat much fruit today? Unfortunately not. I remember, as soon as the fresh fruit is coming out on the tree, we used to raid the tree, we used to get on top there. We used to borrow quite a lot. The philosopher Pythagoras set up a school 500 years before Christ. And Pythagoras wrote the first recipe book ever to recommend eat fruit and vegetable.
Grannies in Italy they are extremely important. It is practically the soul of the family, where Granny is. It fills me with hope, knowing that in this age of working mothers and only children, grannies are coming back because this means Granny’s way of cooking is reaching the new generation.  Carry on  the generation after generation, how to eat healthy food. God willing, the great Italian food tradition will not be overtaken by the vending machine. Italian way. Without a family and a community our kids grow up in a virtual world. They fall sick of great solitude and depression. It’s exactly what children in the world should do, get knowledgeable about food in a quite entertaining  and lovely play way. Life is made up of simple things, the earth, the house, the oven, the fire, grandparents. We are going through a terrible economic crisis and people need to reset the family economy. It is very important in a crisis to go back to earth and life. We might cook very good. We might do fantastic things, it’s a lovely country , but do you know what the best recipe for Italy? We produce fantastic children. But we don’t make children enough, we don’t cook enough. We should do more.

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