Food forms an incredibly important part of Italian culture
There’s an Italian saying, which roughly translates to “in Italy, it’s all about the food.” Whilst most cultures preserve their heritage through their cuisine, few take as much pride in it as the Italians. In Italy, food is seen as a way to express identity, with families passing down carefully guarded recipes, and food forms the centrepiece of all other traditions and celebrations.
They’ve been making cheese for thousands of years
The Italians have been making cheese for at least 2,000 years, and it shows; some of the best cheeses in the world are made in Italy, with Parmigiana Reggiano – one of the country’s most famous dairy delights – often dubbed the ‘king of cheese.’ Scientists have discovered that casein, a type of protein prevalent in cheese, causes the brain to release dopamine, making cheese mildly addictive and possibly explaining the moreish nature of pizza.
Pizza’s popularity spread after WWII
Before The Second World War, consumption of pizza was generally confined to Italians and those who had emigrated from the country. Whilst there was already a relatively large population of Italians living in the States, their cuisine had yet to be adopted by Americans outside of their communities. During WWII, US troops stationed in Italy discovered the delights of Italian cuisine, and when they went back home they spread the word about what everyone had been missing out on, leading pizza to become one of the country’s favourite foods.
They use a lot of carbs
Italian food is probably the most comforting cuisine in the world. It is also incredibly carb-heavy. As it turns out, these two facts are related. Eating carbohydrates causes the body to release insulin, which in turn elevates levels of tryptophan in the blood, ultimately leading to the release of serotonin in the brain and inducing feelings of happiness and relaxation. Pizza and pasta might not be good for your waistline, but they’re guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
Olive oil is added to pretty much everything
Along with cheese and tomato, olive oil is one of the staple ingredients in Italian cuisine, and with good reason: it makes everything taste better. Whether used as a cooking oil or liberally drizzled over a finished meal, olive oil is loved by Italians for its ability to enhance the natural flavours of whatever it is added to. Recently, the theory of olive oil improving anything was tested by experimental foodies who tried adding it to ice cream. It worked so well that olive oil gelato is the new flavour du jour at forward thinking ice cream parlours.
Pizza evolved out of flatbread
Pizza is arguably the most iconic dish in all of Italian cuisine, and it is loved for its simplicity, indulgence, and ease of sharing. Historians believe that pizza evolved from a type of flatbread known as ‘panis focacius’ that was popular during the Roman Empire and often served with toppings. The word ‘pizza’ was first documented in Gaeta, a region of Southern Italy, in 997 AD. wh
Italians brought their cuisine with them when they left their homeland
Between 1880 and 1924, around four million Italians immigrated to the United States, most of them seeking a better life away from the poverty that was rampant in Italy. They primarily settled in cities along the East Coast, although some ventured further and found themselves in warmer regions like California and Florida. Wherever they settled, they brought their culinary traditions from back home, which is why cities like New York and Boston have some of the best Italian cuisine in the US.
Italians don’t use bread as an appetiser
The experience of eating at an Italian restaurant wouldn’t be complete without the pre-meal bread basket, but it turns out that this tradition isn’t practised in Italy at all. Whilst Italians do make use of bread at mealtimes, they don’t treat it as an appetiser. Instead, they use it to mop up leftover sauce after everything has been eaten, which frankly sounds like a much better idea.
Walking whilst eating is disrespectful in Italy
Modern life often feels like a mad rush, and many people try to save time by cramming their food on the go. However, in Italy this is considered highly disrespectful, which ties in to general attitudes towards food in the country. Food is seen as something to savour, ideally in the company of friends, and stuffing it into your face whilst hurrying to your next meeting doesn’t acknowledge the hard work and pride of the person who made what you’re eating.
Different regions of Italy have very different food
Italian restaurants outside of Italy tend to serve the same fan-favourites of pizza, pasta, and sometimes risotto. However, in Italy the food you will find on menus varies dramatically depending on which region of the country you are in. Italians view food as a way to preserve their cultural heritage and identity, and even staple foods like pizza will be made completely differently in different areas.