Saturday, January 07, 2006

Italians Love Greek Food

Most Italians I know are rather suspicious of French food. Their basic image of French cuisine is that it’s way overrated because it's heavy. "Heavy" is about the worst thing an Italian can say about food which is kind of funny coming from the land that produced lasagna. One Italian friend told me that adding cream to a sauce was like cheating; if you don’t know how to make something taste good, just add cream. This respect for light food is sometimes combined with a sense of Italian culinary nationalism. For Italy, the specter of France, the wealthier, more progressive and sometimes condescending neighbor to the north causes some defensiveness. But the one and only area where I see Italian nationalism is in the cuisine. Italians do not boast about their president, their economy or their language but most believe their food is beyond compare. Interest in foreign cuisine is spotty and recent. (This is for most people, eh. Our circle of friends here are very global in their outlook especially with food, but as in the States where I didn't know anybody who voted for Bush, the university community of professors and grad students can often seem like a small bubble separate from the community at large.) Actually some Italians only like Italian food and suffer when they travel abroad especially when they go to France. One very common exception is Italians’ love of Greek cuisine. For a few decades, Greece has been a popular vacation spot for Italians and most say they love Greek food. There is very little in the Greek repertoire that’s thick and cream based. Vegetables are often boiled and dressed simply with olive oil and lemon or lightly sautéed in olive oil. Meat and fish usually come grilled and served with a slice of lemon on the side. Great ingredients and simplicity of preparation are the hallmarks of Greek cuisine. Above you'll see my father-in-law's dish of cuttlefish with greens in an avgolemono (egg-lemon) sauce make a comment if you want the recipe and I'll get it for you.


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