Friday, 8 April 2016

Family, Food and Etiquette

Something that I feel particularly proud of being an Italian is the way we connect with our families. Yes, we are very family loving community. We love to go out together and prepare large sharing platter. I feel it brings us all emotionally closer. 

Only the other day we were in one of the beaches at the Turkish staircase (ScaladeiTurchi). This is a natural feature of brilliant white (unusually white!) rock eroded into giant steps by the sea. It looks like marble, feels like chalk. If you like hiking, then this is the place. Also, it is one of the few things you can see in Sicily without having to pay for.

One of my paternal uncles owns a sprawling beach house close by. He is also our favourite chef who can whip up delicacies in a jiffy.

The meal began with a large sharing platter placed in the middle of the table and filled with cold cuts, marinated vegetables, olives, rustic country breads and a selection of Italian cheeses. The Primo course included an impressive choice of homemade pastas with a tasty selection of sauces. The highlight of his culinary splendour was of course reinventing the wheel by scooping out a hollow within a large wheel of Parmesan cheese to create a shallow bowl for blending and mixing his delicious risotto, which will be further enhanced by the rich flavour of the cheese.

I can’t write any more. Revisiting my favourite chef and his delicacies also makes me feel hungry. But before signing off, here is some Italian etiquette which my uncle taught me when I was a kid. As the adage goes, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. Cheers!

No bread should be eaten together with pasta. Bread is only allowed near a pasta dish to do a good old fashioned scarpetta, that is, to wipe the sauce off the plate and savour every last bit of it. 

  • Have mineral water and/or wine with your meal. Forget sodas or milk unless you are a teenager or small child. Only, if you are eating pizza at lunch time, sodas might be ok.
  • Coffee may be drunk with fruit or desert but never with main meal. In addition, traditionally coffees with milk (cappuccinos and lattes) are for breakfast. Lunch and dinner are followed by espressos, or, at most an espresso macchiato.  
  •  Cinnamon does not go on cappuccinos or lattes. Chocolate/cocoa or whipped cream does. 
  •  For salad dressing, we Italians, use olive oil and vinegar only. So do not expect ranch, thousand island or, worse yet ‘Italian’ salad dressing. Grated Parmesan is never used on lettuce. 
  • Never use a knife when eating pasta, unless it is lasagna. Your fork is sufficient; using a knife is a huge insult as it implies that the pasta is so badly cooked that you can only cut through it with a knife.