The Social Construction of Italian Slow Food

Italians love to tell you how great the food in Italy is. They go on and on about, fresh cheese this, seasonal that. They initiated the Slow Food movement for crying out loud. Taken at face value it seems that Italians have forever been in step with nature, seasonal produce and local artisanal producers. This is just one of the many ways that Italians not so subtly demonstrate that they are well, better than us.

Apparently, however Italian food historian Montanari (1996:161) begs to differ.

Montanari emphasises just how much producers and consumers have traditionally seen seasonality as an affliction. He says 'symbiosis with nature and dependence upon her rhythms was once practically complete, but this is not to say that such a state of affairs was desirable; indeed, at times it was identified as a form of slavery'. This was especially true of the poorer sections of society, where consumption of foods such as grains and legumes was the norm precisely because these foods could be easily conserved. Access to fresh and perishable foods - such as vegetables, meat ad fish - was the luxury of an elite few. This, 'the desire to overcome the seasonality of products and the dependence on nature and region was acute, though the methods for doing so were expensive (and prestigious); they required wealth and power'. Montanari therefore concludes that it is 'doubtful whether we can attribute either a happy symbiosis with nature or and enthusiastic love for the seasonality of food to "traditional" food culture


In Morgan, K., T. Marsden and J. Murdoch, 2006. Worlds of Food: Place, Power, and Provenance in the Food Chain. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pg, 9

3 comments:

    This is particularly evident in Carlo Levi's 1945 novel, Christ Stopped in Eboli. His descriptions of the diet of the residents of the small southern Italian town was banished to are fascinating, and he claims that the residents typically little more than bread, if anything at all.

     

    like Plato said, necessity is the mother of invention... some yummy things developed thru Italian tricks for filling up the stomach, like panzanella, or of tricking the palate - like tiny bread crumbs fried in garlic to replace parmesan...
    A direct line can be traced from the Italian paupers' sad dependence on legumes/pulses to my present day laughing with happiness, every time I make cheap dishes with beans from the boot-shaped land... evil
    Our good friend Marco seems to eat at least one spag carbonara per day in rome - so the benefits of luxury in modern day italy are not ignored by him at least. egg yolks and bacon on the daily.

     

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