Friday, September 24, 2004

Ciao bell'[?]

Italian is, judged purely by aesthetic pleasure from both listening and speaking, my favorite language and my second favorite cuisine (after Malaysian/Singaporean, which I suppose is sort of cheating because it encompasses southeast Chinese and south Indian along with Malay).

Americans' early impressions of Italian cooking, like their impressions of Chinese cooking, were by the specific local origins of immigrants as well as how those immigrants adapted to the pantries and palates of their new hosts. (I, for one, prefer my lasagna with ricotta rather than bechamel. [Ducks bombardment of rotten tomatoes])

If anyone familiar with regional Italian cooking knows if dishes associated with Italian-Americans (e.g. sausage & peppers, cheese steaks, etc.) have original analogues back in the Old Country, well, that's what comments are for.

Stacy Albin, "You Say Prosciutto, I Say Pro-SHOOT, and Purists Cringe", The New York Times, 2004 September 20.

Ann Gustafson can discuss food - especially Italian food. She spent many days in the Bronx with her Sicilian grandmother, Sebastiana Ceraolo, learning how to cook with mozzarella. Only Mrs. Gustafson did not call it "mozzarella.'' She said "mozzarell.''


Not to many New Yorkers or New Jerseyans. (Doesn't Tony Soprano drop his final vowels?) Not to some vendors at the annual Feast of San Gennaro in Little Italy this week. But it makes Italian teachers, the purists who love the language just as Dante wrote it, wince.

They suffer prosciutto (pro-SHOOT-toe) becoming pro-SHOOT, calzone (cal-TSO-nay) becoming cal-ZONE and pasta e fagioli (PAH-stah eh faj-YOH-lee) becoming pasta fasul (fa-ZOOL).
Liliana Dussi, a retired New York district director for the Berlitz language schools, said many first- and second-generation Italians whose ancestors immigrated to the United States before World War I were informally taught Italian expressions and the names of food, some of which has ended up part of everyday language in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.


Oh you heretic! Ricotta? Bechamel IS an integral part of lasagna....damn americans...;)

I have always found the taste of bechamel too salty and its texture too unctuous for my liking it sounds like I'm discussing something other than bechamel.

Long story short: not a fan of bechamel. Not in lasagna, not in its Greek analogue moussaka, though I could live off the thankfully bechamel-free Lebanese moussaka.

Americans don't eat much seafood period.

Not only is Italy smaller than the US, but it's a peninsula! Whatever happened to examining the impact of biogeography a la Jared Diamond?

There's a reason why lobsters, clam chowder and crab cakes are associated by name with Maine, New England and Maryland instead of Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma.

I wouldn't even begin to know how to prepare a fish dish.

Recettes pour le Paresseux: Salade Nicoise Manquee au Jeet

Cans (or, better yet, pouches) of tuna
1 bag of pre-washed baby spinach
Lemon juice
Black pepper
Capers (optional)

1. Mix lemon juice into tuna.
2. Serve over bed of spinach, add pepper and capers. A lemon-based vinaigrette wouldn't hurt.

Spinach can be replaced with nutritionally inferior lettuce.

Ratios of tuna to greens should be adjusted for taste and, more importantly, appetite.

Ready-made antipasti (e.g. roasted peppers, mozzarella balls, artichoke hearts, grilled eggplant, sun-dried tomatoes) add variety without adding labor.

Ripe tomatoes and red onion require little in the way of labor.

If you want to take it to the next level, you may as well make a real salade nicoise or grill a piece of fish.