Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Italian cooking crimes

A colleague pointed me towards a newspaper article she'd spotted in yesterday's paper called Italy's 10 rules to avoid cooking crimes. It has appeared in various forms in newspapers around the world during the past couple of years and can be summed up in The 10 Italian Cooking Commandments. If you know anyone who is Italian, or simply enjoy Italian food, it makes for delightful reading. I nodded my head in agreement at some of the commandments and raised my hands in question (as Italians do) at others. Tomato sauce on pasta - seriously??

Let's get some things straight.

Pasta is a main meal, not a side dish. It may be one of many courses in a multi-course dinner, but it's not served on the side.

Pasta is cooked al dente (al DEN-te - not al DON-tay) which means that it is actually quite firm. It's every Italian kid's job is to check whether the pasta is ready. This is done by sight, feel and taste - not how long it has been cooking for. I remember my Form 1 cooking teacher telling our class that pasta must be cooked for exactly nine minutes. "Nine minutes!" she shouted at the Italian kids who had started taking theirs out of the pot because it was already done. She wasn't going to win that one.

Spaghetti, or any form of pasta, does not come in a tin. That's impossible.

Cappuccino is a breakfast drink. That means you only drink it with breakfast or early in the morning. People who know me well learn to understand this, to the point where I sometime get txts saying, "you'd be proud of me - I met a friend for coffee and didn't order a cappuccino because I know you don't do that at night." Latte is partially acceptable during the morning, but after lunch it's espresso all the way. To illustrate how wrong it is to order a cappuccino at night, let's say it's like going out for dinner and ordering cereal and toast with a side order of steak. Although people present very convincing arguments that breakfast foods can actually make a yummy dinner (bacon and eggs, etc), it doesn't extend to breakfast drinks.

Apparently it is believed that Caesar salad is Italian in origin. Although I don't claim to know of every single food that originated in Italy, this misconception was news to me.

Pizza has a thin base and very few, fresh toppings. Cheese is not stuffed into the crust and barbeque sauce is not dumped over mountains of random toppings.

Tiramisu is not the only Italian dessert, nor is it particularly traditional. It is a northern dessert that has been adopted as universally Italian but is far less common in the south (although I won't argue about how good it tastes).

Ravioli is nothing like the neat little parcels you find in supermarket chillers. The real stuff resembles flying saucers with a bit of meat in the middle.

Parmigiano-Reggiano/Pecorino Romano is a gift from the cheese gods. It is much stronger than the gently flavoured parmesan-type cheese that most people associate with Italian food. Likewise, homemade mozzarella is nothing like the plastic stuff you find grated on pizza.

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