The death of Italian cuisine?
A book decries the growing popularity of junk food and processed food on Italian dinner tables – which increasingly resemble American ones.
Italy is the land of the Mediterranean diet, good food made at home, and a thousand jealously guarded traditional specialities. At least that’s what we like to think. And the Americans also like to think so, cultivating a sometimes slightly idealised image of Italy (and France, in fact) as a sort of food Eden.
But how far does this image correspond to reality? This is the question asked in The Lost Art of Feeding Kids – What Italy Taught Me About Why Children Need Real Food, a book that has just been published in the United States by Canadian journalist Jeannie Marshall and which was reviewed a few days ago by the Wall Street Journal (here).
Marshall, who has lived in Rome for several years, first describes her admiration for traditional Italian food culture: raising a child in Italy, she rediscovered the fact that children should be eating “real”, varied food that is cooked at home, not just processed foods prepared for them, as is the case in North America.
However, Marshall most importantly describes her disappointment at the discovery of how quickly the Italian diet is being eroded by habits imported from abroad, especially those linked to junk food and processed food. In an extract from the book published in Slate with the ominous title The Death of Italian Cuisine, she describes the growing consumption of burgers, processed snacks and soft drinks by Italian kids and concludes:
“I wanted to believe that Italy was more sophisticated than North America, and that Italians were more discerning about the food they ate. I didn’t want to believe that they were so rapidly descending into the food mess that I thought I left behind in Canada. Weren’t Europeans supposed to be more selective when it came to food? Weren’t they supposed to resist all this? Food traditions evolve over time. They are the collective ways that a culture has learned to feed itself with what’s available. The problem is that what’s available in Europe now includes huge amounts of junk food and soft drinks. This is how a child ends up drinking Coke with his pizza in a pizzeria in Rome”.
Are our meals really more and more like American ones? Debate is inevitable.