Anyone who regularly reads the papers, Twitter or Facebook will have seen that many articles have been doing the rounds recently following The Academia Barilla's release of "The 10 Italian Cooking Commandments" which are as follows:
- You shall not sip cappuccino during a meal!
- Risotto and pasta are not a side dish
- You shall not add oil to pasta water
- Ketchup on pasta: please, don't
- Spaghetti Bolognese? No way, it's tagliatelle!
- Chicken Pasta: not in Italy
- "Ceasar Salad"
- The red and white checked tablecloth is only a stereotype!
- "Fettucine Alfedo" are popular only overseas
- You shall respect tradition and what Italian mamma says
Call me a food snob, but my first problem with this list is that it doesn't cover even half of the embarrassing Italian food faux pas that I'm constantly having to explain to confused, and often horrified, Italians. I remember being mortified the first time I brought my Italian boyfriend to meet my family in the UK and my brother insisting that we go to the popular Italian restaurant chain, Prezzo (which translates as 'price' or 'cost' in Italian). Aside from being puzzled by the slightly bizarre name of the place, my boyfriend was deeply disturbed by many of the 'Italian' dishes on the menu. Based on some of the Italian chain restaurant horrors we have encountered in the UK (they know who they are!), I decided to compile some commandments of my own which include:
- One does not stuff their pizza crust. Not with cheese, and particularly not with hot dog sausages! I mean, come on people, that's just wrong!
- Thou shalt not put chicken, steak, salmon, pineapple, sweetcorn, jalapenos, spicy minced beef, BBQ sauce and god knows what else on a pizza!
- Thou shalt not use thousands of ingredients. The whole secret to Italian food is that they keep it simple so stop over-doing it! Pasta with gorgonzola, chicken, pancetta, leeks, broccoli and parsley* or pizza with Sausage, N'duja, chillies, roquito peppers, red & yellow peppers, mozzarella, rocket, pesto, oregano and grana padano**, it's a bit much don't you think?!
- There is no such thing as 'Italian nachos'. Nachos are Mexican. They always have been and they always will be, no matter how much pesto you put on top.
- Similarly, garlic bread is not Italian either. A baguette is french for starters! Garlic bruschetta maybe, garlic bread, no way.
- The tricolore salad does not contain avocado. In fact, they don't even really use avocados in Italy as they're considered to be a tropical fruit. The green part of the salad is meant to be basil.
- Carbonara does not include, onions, mushrooms, garlic or cream. And it's made with pancetta, not bacon.
- Pepperoni is not a type of sausage. In Italian, the word peperoni actually means peppers (yes, as in the vegetable).
- On a similar note, restaurant staff could at least do some research into the correct pronunciation of common words such as bruschetta (pronounced brus-ket-ta) or prosciutto (pro-shoot-toe).
- Finally, the biggest misunderstanding of all has probably got to be regarding the organization of an Italian menu. It's completely different to that of any other nation in that they have antipasti (bruschetta, meats, cheeses etc), then a primo (usually either pasta or rice), then secondo (a fish, meat or vegetarian dish) and contorni (side dishes of vegetables or salad), followed by fruit, desert and, finally, coffee. I'm not saying you have to order them all but it could at least be acknowledged that they exist!
It's not that I'm a some crazy purist when it comes to Italian food, I love a bit of fusion cooking as much as the next person, what annoys me is that these restaurants, supermarkets and even TV chefs put the label of 'Italian' on something that is quite clearly not Italian at all! I almost have respect for places like Domino's because, although they may have taken the pizza and completely butchered it, at least they don't claim to be making 'authentic' Italian food. Just yesterday, I cooked an 'English carbonara' for my Italian family and they loved it. My problem isn't with adapting recipes, it's with the fact that the British nation seems to have had the wool pulled over their eyes, not only in terms of Italian food, but foreign cuisine in general.
Do you have any pet hates when it comes to unauthentic foreign food? Perhaps an Indian 'classic' that's not so classic after all? A Chinese essential that's impossible to find in China? Post your comments below!
For more Italian food posts and recipes check out my blog: http://mozzarelladiaries.blogspot.it/
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