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ITALY: TRADITION IN ITALIAN CUISINE

of greens and may include rughetta (also called rucola, ro- cola, and, as it is in English, arugula).

Dolce

The next course in the Italian meal is dolce (dessert). Due to geography and climate, there are abundant varieties of fruit available most of the year, though the more inter- esting ones are seasonal. Many berries, figs, grapes, nes- pole (medlars—round orange-colored fruit of a tree in the rose family, which, like the persimmon, is inedible until overripe), watermelon, and Sicilian blood oranges are still seasonal. Fruits are either served in bowls of water, or cut into large chunks on a platter (watermelon), or as fruit salads; if a mixed salad, it is called macedonia, but salads of specific fruits, such as berries, are also possible.

The best-known Italian dessert today is tiramisu (lit- erally, “pick me up”), composed of mascarpone (a very creamy, soft cheese, typically made from cow’s milk), la- dyfingers, coffee, and other ingredients specific to the home or restaurant. Then there are zabaglione, a light fluffy whip of egg yolks and Marsala; torta della nonna (grandmother’s cake), made with custard and pine nuts; panna cotta (boiled cream), served with a variety of top- pings, such as berries, chocolate, and caramel; profiteroles (mounds of little cream puffs filled with ice cream and

drizzled with chocolate); crem caramel; zuppa inglese (lit-

erally, “English soup”), a triflelike concoction; and many different types and flavors of gelato. Other desserts are based on ricotta (for instance, cannoli, crisp pastry shells filled with sweetened ricotta), almonds, sponge cake (for example, cassata, often flavored with an alcoholic bever- age such as maraschino—a wild-cherry liqueur), and chestnuts. Monte bianco (Mont Blanc) is a seasonal dessert of chestnut puree, brittle meringue, and whipped cream. Crostate are open-faced tarts filled with ricotta or jam.

Though it is technically the last course, the Italian meal does not quite end with dessert. Italians always drink their espressos after, not with, their dessert. And with or after the coffee, there are always digestivi—alcoholic bev- erages so named because they are believed to help di- gestion. They are made with herbs or fruit. Amaro (for

example, averna and montenegro), sambucca, and limoncello

are popular examples. The meal may also finish with al- mond biscotti, called cantucci in Tuscany, which are dipped in Vin Santo (literally, holy wine), Moscato, or Marsala—sweet dessert wines.

See also Crustaceans and Shellfish; Pasta; Slow Food.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bugialli, Giuliano. Giuliano Bugialli’s Foods of Italy. New York:

Stewart, Tabori, and Chang, 1984.

Carluccio, Antonio, and Priscilla Carluccio. Carluccio’s Complete Italian Food. New York: Rizzoli, 1997.

Fant, Maureen B., and Howard M. Isaacs. Dictionary of Italian Cuisine. New York: HarperCollins, 1998.

Hazan, Marcella. Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. New York:

Knopf, 1992.

ENCYCLOPEDIA OF FOOD AND CULTURE

Mariani, John. The Dictionary of Italian Food and Drink. New

York: Broadway Books, 1998.

Paolini, Davide, and Michela Vuga. From Rice to Risotto. Lon- don: Kea & Cartago, 2000.

Root, Waverley. The Food of Italy. New York: Vintage Books, 1977.

Judit Katona-Apte

TRADITION IN ITALIAN CUISINE

The reason so many people fall in love with Italy has much to do with its cuisine. Italian cooking has been in- fluenced by diverse groups of people and places, histori- cally and in modern times. The Americas, for instance, had a huge influence on Italian cuisine. Tomato sauce, polenta, and anything piccante (hot) would not exist in Ital- ian cuisine without the introduction of tomatoes, maize (corn), and peppers—all plants native to the Americas.

The world has adopted parts of Italy’s cuisine, but not the structure of its meals. In Italy a meal is a leisurely sequence of events served in courses on separate plates, each appearing in the appropriate sequence. Americans often find it frustrating for a meal to be so lengthy, but, for Italians, dinner is often the main event and the focus of celebrations.

The cooking style is usually quite simple. There are no really elaborate sauces, and what sauces do exist are used only in small amounts, just enough to moisten pasta or delicately anoint meat or fish. Italian chefs claim, with some justification, that the secret to Italian cooking is sapori e saperi (flavors and skills), which implies doing lit- tle to excellent fresh ingredients.

Similarities and Differences

While there are many differences between regions, and between households within a region, the concept of Italian food would not exist unless there were many sim- ilarities as well. There is a tendency for food experts to stress the differences instead of the similarities within the Italian food tradition. But there is much that links it as a single cuisine. Some examples are the structure of the meal, the pasta course, and potatoes used as a vegetable rather than as a staple source of carbohydrates. There is also the ubiquitous antipasto of sausages and cheeses. The types of sausage and cheese may be local—in Remem- brance of Tastes Past, Davide Paolini estimates over six- teen hundred types—but nonetheless they are all cold cuts and cheese served on a plate before the pasta course. There are also rules common to almost all Italian cook- ing, such as not pairing cheese with seafood, or lemon with tomato sauce.

Having said all that, there are regional cuisines, and restaurants tend to be specific to a region. A restaurant serving dishes from too many regions would not be pop- ular with Italians. There are also many foods associated with specific localities. Among the best-known examples

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