Italian Food and Culture

Food culture in Italy involves rich traditions, delicious meals and the family. Regional recipes, cooking styles and specific ingredients are often handed down through family members but some of the best Italian recipes were being recorded in books as early as the 1700s.

Individuals with Italian ancestry are well acquainted with traditional foods that have ‘Old World’ flavors. They are also helping to introduce others to Italian food and helping the Italy food culture become even more popular.

Food is a serious business with Italians even if it only a snack or small meal. Each region of the country has some unique dishes that have evolved over the centuries. One rule that is followed by all Italian cooks is the use of only the freshest and best ingredients.

As much as sports are a favorite activity within most cultures the enjoyment of food is a tradition that the Italian people pursue with a passion. There is no rush to finish a meal and the Italian food culture emphasizes the fact that meals should be shared and enjoyed.

The food needs to be prepared and this preparation often involves many cooks and assistants in the kitchen. In Italian culture food and cooking are symbols of love and sharing and the kitchen is the central hub of all home life. For big dinners the family should be gathered before any of the main meals are served. In some instances it may mean waiting for tardy friends and relatives to arrive. This waiting period allows people a chance to experience the heady aromas of the dishes that are about to be served. Waiting to eat also means that the anticipation has heightened the appetite.

Even in the modern Italian restaurant the focus is on making the dining experience pleasant and enjoyable. Many meals can take up to two or three hours from appetizer to dessert. In some Italian settings a diner may be served as many as five to ten separate courses.

If the servings are prepared individually for each diner they are typically smaller in size so that each person can thoroughly indulge in all of the different types of food being offered. Family style meals are a pillar of Italian food culture tradition. The food is served in large bowls or platters. This communal dining style is ideal because it fosters intimate bonds and a sense of fellowship among diners.

Saffron, rosemary, thyme, basil and garlic are some of the favorite spices that have become staples of Italian food culture. Polenta, seafood stews, pasta dishes, risotto, roasted vegetables, gnocchi, spatzle and fresh fish are also important throughout Italy. Olive oil, freshly baked breads, pesto sauces, marinara sauce are accompaniments to many traditional Italian meals.

Cheese and wines are used in Italian cooking, but these items are also used as appetizers and snacks. A picnic lunch consisting of a bottle of red wine, bread and cheese can even serve as an introduction to a few of the bold flavors associated with traditional Italian food. Although espresso, coffee, beer and tea are also available throughout Italy wine remains far more popular with diners.

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