Living in Italy you soon become aware that food has god-like status, on a par with football, Ferrari and your mother. It’s the focus of animated conversations, the holy grail at the end of many a Sunday drive (sometimes for several hours) and everyone has an opinion. Food is revered and respected, which is maybe why my in-laws could never accept the fact that my toddlers ate with their hands and flung any undesirables around the kitchen. No, you just don’t do that. Food, mealtimes, the whole ritual of being a tavola is an integral part of Italian DNA and possibly one of the things I most love about living here.
Seasons are still marked by food: late-summer fresh figs, the arrival of wild mushrooms, and then the panettones appear in the supermarkets and what better breakfast than a slice of panettone and glass of milk before you go to school. Winter is also the season of cassoeula where I live, a pork dish made with sausage and savoy cabbage, and grown men discuss how their mothers make it and the subtle differences and various merits of including or leaving out various parts of pig. (Read skin, trotters and the rest.)
Polenta, wild boar stews, pizzoccheri (buckwheat pasta with potatoes, cabbage and cheese flavoured with garlic and obscene amounts of butter), brasato (braised joints of meat) and here we are in the mountains of Lombardy and it’s freezing outside but the log fire is lit and life is good.
Then Spring arrives, and after, the first hot days with people buying honeydew melons and Parma ham, and before we know it we’re back into summer again and an abundance of tomatoes which are then bottled into home-made tomato sauces at the end of the season.