By: Judy Dick
Italians love their food. They analyse it, dissect it and when they eat, they savour it.
A typical Italian meal begins with antipasti then it progresses to primi, the pasta. Followed by the secondi. These meat dishes are so imbued with vigorous flavours, they almost leap clear off the plate.
But we need to digress for just a moment. Just to introduce a little known fact about their coffee.
Italians made the Cappuccino; that big cup of double espresso, steam froth topped coffee, laced with cocoa or cinnamon sprinkled on its dome for effect, ever popular.
The world loves a cappuccino but the Italians appreciate and drink it at breakfast and rarely ever past 11.00 am. Now back to the authentic Italian food.
An Italian Lunch Is The Biggest Meal Of Their Day
Lunch is eaten between 12.30 and 2.00 pm. It begins with Antipasti, a combination of cold hams and salami.
This is followed by Primo Piatto, the first course; a rice or pasta dish. The second course is either meat or fish which is complimented by contorni. Contorni is a side dish of vedure comprising colourful vegetables or in the warmer months, insalata, a crispy salad.
Dolce. Ah! The dessert that embraces seasonal fresh fruits, cakes if desired followed by the Caffé espresso. Drunk slowly and enjoyed fully the coffee is gone. And in a heartbeat, suddenly the streets are empty. Everyone has disappeared. With bellies full to bursting they have returned home for riposo. During riposo just about everything is sleeping, except the restaurants and the sunshine bearing the hottest part of the day.
If You’re Going to Eat Spaghetti Like a True Italian, Prepare it Like One
You may be guessing that true Italians always create their own fresh pasta from scratch. Some do, but even in Italy, packaged pasta has been offered for the sake of convenience. In some places, it has sometimes become more popular. It was the chef who discovered the simplicity and the complimentary quality of the boxed varieties.
But, first and foremost, pasta should always be prepared al dente. It must not be overcooked so that it sticks to the gums or the roof of the mouth nor should you commit the ultimate sin and wash it after it is cooked. No Italian enjoys spaghetti that sticks in any sense of the word.
If you intend to prepare Italy’s classic dish, then the spaghetti is Aglio olio, made only with garlic and olive oil. A real sauce is not included because the delicious flavours are already suffused within.
Italians love to eat Aglio olio. It is often preferred as a late-night snack after parties and is filling, extremely tasty and supplies this busy race of people with energy. They need it to fulfil their loving natures … all that physical expression spells Amore fare.
Spaghetti alle vongole is another relished dish served with clams. Then there is the simplicity of pasta with a fresh tomato sauce which is also considered very traditional. Who said the Italians didn’t know how to cook uh?
Note, however, the Italians, just as they are with almost everything else, are very light-handed with any sauce. The flavours are encapsulated in the pasta; too much sauce and you lose the essence. Besides, adding too much sauce makes the dish less appealing and it won’t look or taste as good.
Go Lightly There, With The Cheese We Mean
If you’ve ever studied a Real Italian you’ll notice they only add a little Parmesan. A light sprinkle is preferred.
However, the rest of the world, like the unscrupulous Aussie who adores and wants so much to emulate the authentic Italian, dumps a load of Parmesan on his spaghetti and wonders why the al dente just turned “la pasta e’ scotta; pap.”
Ditch That Twirling Spoon
If you want to be a sophisticated Italian, do not, repeat, do not eat your spaghetti with a fork and spoon. Italians never use a spoon to eat spaghetti.
They enjoy the slap of each pasta strap careening with the chin as it is sucked through pursed lips. And why not? There’s something delightful about a playful Italian. So get those forks twirling and know that every single dish you consume is prepared with love and pride.
You Should Also Enjoy This Last Lingering Thought
It is extremely rare to come into contact with immondo, an unclean environment. The Italians aren’t obsessive compulsive, but their homes and their restaurants are spotless.
When you see Nonna carrying her mappina which just happens to be an extension of her hand, you must understand not one self-respecting dust mote can live in that much cleanliness.