Monday, June 29, 2009

Eat Something...You're Too Thin!

There is an expression that goes: "Some people eat to live while others live to eat." Italians usually fall into the latter category. What differentiates us from others who enjoy a good meal are the things we like to eat. I wrote a post a while back on this phenomenon in my other blog, "Spaldeen Dreams" called: "More Pudding, Mom!" (View), but there is more to be said. Meat and potatoes we find boring, besides, many Italians came from poor families where meat on the table was a luxury, usually reserved for Sunday dinner. To compensate for the inexpensive and meager ingredients they had to work with, Italian cooks raised culinary creativity to new heights.

For example, leftovers were given a new lease on life in soups, omelettes and salads. A favorite school lunch of mine in high school was a pepper and egg hero sandwich. As the oil soaked through the brown bag I carried my lunch to school in, it imparted an extra flavor element that actually enhanced the taste of the sandwich. The smell was so mouthwatering that I often ate my lunch in homeroom class before first period. I would then buy a hot school lunch to keep my stomach quiet at noontime.

Pie is a favorite dessert for many people, but Italians took pie in a whole new direction. When baked with unusual fillings like escarole, spinach or even calamari (squid) pie became a delicious and very nutritious main course. Sicilian Escarole Pie Around Easter, another favorite main course pie was "Pizza Rustica", a pie filled with meat and cheese. Go a little easy on this one because it is molto delicioso, but will have your beleaguered arteries begging for mercy. Pizza Rustica Recipe

When non-Italians think of "Italian" pasta, they think of the traditional macaroni with meat sauce eaten by many pisanos on Sunday afternoons. In fact, Italian pasta dishes are so much more versatile. There are many sauces used such as garlic and oil, cream sauces such as Carbonara GIORGIO’S SPAGHETTI CARBONARA and Alfredo, and of course vegetable sauces like Pesto and Primavera. PASTA PRIMAVERA Italian mothers improvised many dinners for cold winter nights mixing pasta with such diverse ingredients as cici beans, peas, potatoes, lentils, cannellini beans, lima beans, broccoli and broccoli rabe. These wonderful dishes filled the stomach, were very heart-healthy, and cost pennies a serving.

Being a people with a collective sweet tooth, desserts too were sometimes unique. A favorite of mine usually made around the holidays was honey balls or "Struffoli" as they are called. Struffoli (Honey Balls) Recipe These are a lot of work to make, but just wonderful to eat. "Cartellate" Cartellate (Fried Honey Spirals) are crisp pastry spirals that are drizzled with honey. They are sometimes called the "dahlias of Saint Nicholas" because of their color and shape and also their association with the nuns of the hospice for pilgrims of Saint Nicholas of Bari. I could not close without mentioning two of my favorite Italian cookies, Pignoli macaroons and Venetian Layered or tri-colored Cookies Italian Dessert Recipes

As we get older, unfortunately many foods go on the restricted list. This stinks. So many pleasures are denied to seniors; the least they could do is to let us eat!


LOOKING FOR A WORTHY CHARITY? TRY THESE FOLKS: Children's Craniofacial Association

No comments: