Feb 182011

Michael Owen Jones published in 2007 an article with the wordy title ‘Food Choice, Symbolism and Identity: Bread-and-Butter Issues for Folkloristics and Nutrition Studies’ in the Journal of American Folklore 120. The article, in fact, a presidential address, reads as a fabulous compendia of wisdom about food and our digestive systems (e.g. Emily Jenkins: ‘The body is not the same from day to day. Not even from minute to minute. Sometimes it feels like home, sometimes more like a cheap motel near Pittsburgh’) and most importantly enjoyment and relish at the perversities and surprises of food studies.

There is almost no Italian content, certainly nothing that would encourage us to put the article in our Italian food listings, but there is this small aside on Vance Packard, The Status Seekers (1959): ‘a man grew up in a poor family of Italian origin that subsisted on blood sausages, pizza, spaghetti, and red wine. After high school, he worked in logging camps where he learned to prefer beef, beans, and beer. Later in an industrial plant in Detroit, he worked his way up the ladder and cultivated the favorite foods and beverages of other executives: steak, seafood and whiskey. Ultimately gaining acceptance in the city’s upper class, he won culinary admiration by serving guests, with the aid of his servant, authentic Italian treats such as blood sausage, spaghetti, and red wine.’  This seems nicely to bridge the period when Italian food was entering the US mainstream and even ceasing to be ‘foreign’. SY

Dec 242010

The following is the beginning of a fascinating article by Maria Desiderata Montana that can be found here.  Maria has her own website on the San Diego food scene that is well worth a look. SY

Growing up in a large Italian family, I learned how to respect tradition and embrace family ties through cooking. I think my passion for cooking started when I was 7 years old, waking up early Christmas Eve morning to make homemade ravioli for our big Christmas dinner. When I say early, I mean the crack of dawn. You see, my mother couldn’t rest until the ravioli was finished. It was as if she, a perfectionist by nature, just couldn’t wait to see how beautiful they would turn out. While the rest of the house was quiet, my mom would play soft Italian music really low and share her childhood stories, as my sister and I helped roll out the pasta dough. Forget about the men in my family ever helping in the kitchen. Our Italian tradition was that the cooking was for the women only [continues]

Nov 162010

What does “extra-virgin” mean on a bottle of olive oil in Kentucky? Starting in October 2010, it’ll mean a lot more. For years the Italian government has complained to the USDA about mislabeling of olive oil sold in the US market, mislabeling that relates to both provenance (Morroccan oil sold as Tuscan), content (mixed oils sold as “100% pure olive oil”), and quality (“extra-virgin”). This last term until now did not have any official, legally binding meaning in the United States.

The USDA has, however, announced new regulations that will take effect in October, standardizing nomenclature and mandating certain purity levels for different grades of oil. The decision was hailed by the California Olive Oil Council, whose members have been voluntarily following similar guidlines for years. The new regulations will make competition more fair for quality producers (who in the past have been forced to compete with cheap products) and will certainly reinforce the value of the “Made in Italy” brand in the United States.  ZN

[Read the new regulations here.]