“There are two laws in the universe: the law of gravity, and EVERYONE likes Italian food.” Neil Simon. What is there to say about Italy that hasn’t been said before? Italy is a beautiful country, with friendly people, rich cultural influences, and of course, it’s true above all – the amazing food. I recently had the opportunity to experience this Foodie Paradise and what I learned was amazing. The first may be a shocker, so please sit down. What we consider in America to be Italian food is not really Italian cuisine at all, it is really influences of Italian mixed with some of our culture here in the states. I learned many things about the history of the beautiful country of Italy, its inhabitants and the foods from its different regions, while visiting. It was amazing to experience how historical influences have impacted the foods in Italy, from the growing of the food to the preparation.
I’d like to share with you the many things I learned while visiting, that I think will inspire and delight you, the way they inspired and delighted me. One of the truths I heard and experienced was good Italian restaurants do not put salt and pepper shakers or parmesan cheese on their tables. The act of placing those on the table is generally considered a sign of poor quality food. The chef believes he has chosen the best combinations of ingredients and if you taint them by adding something to the food, that means he didn’t do a good job. So, only poor quality restaurants in Italy will allow you to do this.
Another concept I was exposed to was using minimal ingredients when making a dish. Many of their dishes in Italy used as little as three main ingredients in their preparation so the layers of flavor can come through. As you may know, olive oil is used widely in Italy as a cooking medium and very rarely do they use butter when cooking savory dishes. Another interesting fact is Italians don’t infuse their olive oils. They don’t put garlic, rosemary, or other herbs and spices in a bottle or jar to soak in that flavor. They allow the soil, wind and rain to “infuse” the flavor. While over there I was exposed to many varieties of olive oils. I tasted olive oils that were fruity, with a slightly sweet taste, while others were bitter and spicy. I could detect hints of grassiness and peppery notes at times. It fascinated me how Italians allow nature to infuse their oils naturally.
Here’s a side tip I can pass along to you to best preserve your oil or olive oil. Don’t keep it in your pantry for more than 6 months or it will most likely be rancid and then should not be used it for cooking. Also remember to keep oils away from heat and sunlight. Overall, I walked away thinking to myself maybe we can take a page out of the Italians book of cooking. We can use fresh, natural ingredients and few of them, use high quality olive oil, store it appropriately, and keep things simple and flavorful. Food is meant to be savored and enjoyed! Don’t you agree? Bon Appetit my friends!