The next cuisine I shall test is Italian.
Italian cuisine is surprisingly more complex than you would imagine. I knew it was more than simply pizza and spaghetti but it is still incredibly diverse, probably because of all its regions. Let’s begin with the history, like I did with Jamaica.
I’ll start with how the people got to the country of Italy, or whatever it was called in Prehistoric Italy; that is how far back human history in Italy goes. Back then, the landscape was different due to the Ice Age’s glaciers.
The Italian “Ice Age”
Human remains (not Neanderthals) found in Italy date back to 43,000 years ago; and are among the oldest human remains found. That’s how long modern humans have been living there, which is pretty darn impressive. I’ll skip the rest of the prehistory and get into the ancient history, Roman history, that is.
I think this picture is from an old movie from the looks of it
They had dominance over Western Italy and came up with Western civilization’s science, art and philosophy that lasted all the way to the Medieval Times and even the Renaissance. When the Romans fell in 476 AD, the country scattered into several city states and stayed that way until they evolved into their own regions which diversified the culture, specifically the cuisine. Since the history is so long, given how old and influential the country is, I’ll summarize the basics of its history from then on. Italy faced many hardships like parts of it getting conquered by the Spanish, Austrian or Napolean empires and later WWI.
Napoleon was actually 5’6″ which was a respectable height for his time
But Italy came out on top and is now a very strong country. As a little fun-fact, I took the liberty of counting all the regions of Italy, which adds up to twenty-three, that’s right, twenty-three, so I’ll just talk about the main ones. Just for the record, the climate does play a part in making each region more unique. Veneto (the province/region that Venice is in) has three: The Coastal climates, The Plains and The Mountains. Venice uses a lot of seafood, so it could be considered coastal. I should mention that the capital of Veneto is Vicenza, I just assumed it was Venice, but what do I know?
All right, I think that’s enough, considering its 50,000 year span, so I’ll talk about the big event, the food! Starting with Veneto, which is known as the best wine makers of all Italy. Its plain regions specialize in grilled meat, often a blend of chicken, beef and pork, as well as bar-b-que, grilled polenta and even grilled veggies.
Mountain food is a little different, even though it uses pork, it also uses game meat (I picture large amounts of mountain goats and maybe game birds, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I was wrong). Also common to this region is the use of mushrooms, cow milk cheese, and the staple of Italy – Polenta.
Polenta is made with ground cornmeal
A lot of Veneto dishes sound simply wonderful and they have so many variations. I think its a shame there aren’t any (or at least not any I’ve tried or even heard of) Veneto restaurants in Toronto. Italian cuisine, like several other cultures and cuisines has been stereotyped into a simple and sometimes plain wrong picture. Like I said, more than just pizza and spaghetti.
Speaking of pizza and spaghetti, another fun fact; there’s a historical myth that Marco Pole introduced spaghetti to Italy in the form of Chinese noodles. Actually, according to my research, I believe that it comes from Southern Italy (pretty sure, actually) and spaghetti is only one of many Italian pastas. There are tomato sauces, white sauces, meat sauces, seafood sauces… and the pasta? Its virtually endless! Spaghetti, macaroni, linguine, rigatoni, faralle just to name a few. Plus other starches like polenta, rice, risotto and gnocchi, again, just to name a few. In case you were wondering what gnocchi and risotto are, I know I was, here are the basics.
Risotto is made from Arborio rice which is starchier and therefore more creamy
- Gnocchi – a type of light potato dumpling
And now for the finale, will this cuisine reign supreme? I’m asking. Seriously. I don’t know. We will all have to wait for the final showdown, but here’s a sneak peak for the next one… its a little closer to home…