There must be some Italian mammas out there rustling up homemade tortellini and tiramisu but I haven’t met any of them. Most of my Italian friends are working mums who stop off on their way home to pick up a pasta pronto (ready meal) of lasagna or stuffed peppers. We were guests at a recent dinner party where the starters consisted of cubes of ham. The prima course was pasta with a tomato sauce, followed by a main course of grilled chicken with a green salad. Hardly a herb, spice or flavour to be seen. However, a jar of dried chilli flakes was available to provide some zing/interest/joy to the meal, which everyone added liberally.
Pudding began with a fruit bowl. Not a fruit salad or prepared fruit but literally the fruit bowl placed onto the table. Fortunately this was followed by tiramisu…from a shop. Even at a dinner party, this is perfectly acceptable. No need to hide the M&S boxes here!
There’s also a myth that Italians don’t drink much, just a glass of red wine with dinner. Really?? I could barely keep up with the speed and quantity of prosecco, red wine and limoncello being thrown down necks. Am I mixing with the only drinkers in Italy or is this more indicative of modern Italians??
I really have yet to see why Italian food is so revered; yes you can get great tasting ham, fantastic cheeses or yummy pizza – but you can get those in England too. All the Italians I know do their shopping at the supermarket, topping up with a few choice items (maybe bread or cheese) at a specialist shop – just like I would do in England. It costs too much to do a full shop at the local alimentary (grocery), macellai (butchers) or pasticceria (bakery). I’ve also been surprised to find that people here eat a lot (and I mean a lot) of packaged goods – Nutella, Kelloggs cornflakes, Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream, the same staples we have in England. Italians especially like shop bought sweet items – biscuits, cakes and pastries. Children are met after school with a merenda (afternoon snack), maybe a Ciambella (a ring donut kind of cake the size of your head) or a huge slab of pizza Bianca (pizza base). Not once have I seen a piece of fruit or a home-made treat being handed out. So I’m totally skeptical when English chefs (yes, you Jamie Oliver) bang on and on about how amazing (and healthy) Italian food is. Now, if you want to start talking about fish & chips, afternoon tea or a full roast lunch then I’m with you all the way! What do you think? Does Italian food live up to the hype? Am I missing something?? Or do you agree with me that it’s overrated and overpriced?