“Uno o vive per mangiare o mangia per vivere”.
In the United States we treat food as a fuel, something we need in order to live.
During my short time in Italy, I have devloped a new respect for food and the friendship that is created when people eat together.
In Italy, sharing a meal creates a bond that ties people together.
There is a magical connection between the cook and their dish.
Italians take pride in their food and they cook only with ingredients that are fresh, local and in season.
Cooks spend time planning the perfect way to plate their “masterpiece”.
Eating is a delight to be enjoyed with friends and family, it is not a necessary inconvenience.
My eating habits at home are typical of a normal American student.
Eating is not an event; it is a necessity.
My lunch is normally served in a brown paper bag and eaten in the car.
I experienced my first Italian meal the day I arrived at my pensione in Florence.
I was famished and I arrived just in time for lunch to be served.
Lunch, I discovered is the main meal in Italy.
I was seated at long table with the other students.
First, we were served pesto pasta and I over ate because I thought it was the entire meal.
Once our plates were cleared, I got up to leave; however I noticed no one else moved.
Confused, I sat back down.
Manola, the owner and cook of the pensione, returned with plates of chicken, mashed potatoes, salad and bread.
Lunch was a feast and needless to say, I was overstuffed by the time it was over.
I now understand that a meal should never be devoured it needs to be savored and enjoyed in the company of friends.
An Italian meal is a production and the dishes are presented in a specific order.
The diner is offered an “Antipasto”, which can be either a hot or cold appetizer such as bruschetta or, my favorite, Mozzarella in Carrozza.
It is followed by “Il Primo”, normally pasta, rice or soup.
Next they are presented with “Il Secondo”, which is the main entrée, typically beef, poultry or fish, served with a vegetable or salad.
Last but not least “Il Dolce”; this includes everything from Tiramisu, Zabaglione and Pastries to Gelato.
Food is a major part of Italian culture and daily life.
Now that I have been in Italy for over a month, I have a new admiration for food.
I love the aroma of simmering ragu’ and the bouquet of a local wine.
I appreciate and respect the need for family and community.
Nothing is as relaxing as a wonderful meal with friends, followed by an after dinner stroll.
Italians eat to live and eating is a pleasurable social event that brings friends, family and strangers together.
Americans need to learn from the Italians, they need to stop and enjoy life.
Communication flows when people enjoy a meal with family and friends.
As for me personally, I will return to America with the knowledge that life is better if I stop and savor it.
Let’s raise our glass to “La Dolce Vita”.