Ashley Manigo Food For Thought

Experiencing Italy through its cuisine

Introduction

Through this portfolio, I am attempting to visually display the culinary experience I had in Italy as well as convey the knowledge I obtained through the weekly class sessions and assigned readings. My food journal gives an in-depth visual of the different foods I tried and further commentary of how I tried to navigate through this completely new foodscape. Through the various field assignments I focused on different aspects of the food culture, whether it be food ways or food stuffs, and explained how I encountered them, what that meant to me and more importantly what I took from the situation.

Food and Identity

From the very beginning of the course, it became very apparent that food and identity are heavily linked together. Italy being the young nation that it is heavily relied on food as an identifying factor before it unified as one nation. Every region of Italy had its own unique cuisine and food ways that served as a personal identifier. Fast forward to present day, Italy as a nation still identifies heavily through its food and the superior food ways it possesses. Another way the importance of food in Italian culture is visible is the manifestation of cucina povera and how it has made its way through different social classes as well as stood the test of time . Originally lower class foods such as lead and even pizza were only associated with a certain class of individuals and carried the negative social stigma as well. It is slightly amusing to see the association change as people of “higher” standing discover the foods and deem them acceptable.

Personally , I relate to this form of socialization through food deeply. A large portion of why heritage has similar cucina povera roots. Popular dishes that both sides of my family enjoy eating such as pig’s feet , collard greens, and chitterlings. are all a result of social identity being tied to food and these were the items that my family were able to obtain at the time and eventually became large cultural staples and bonding dishes. I have also seen this dishes that were frowned upon and given to the lower class individuals rediscovered by professional culinary artists and incorporated into fine cuisine.

In America, I don’t really think food links us together as a nation. There are only a few stereotypical American foods, such as hamburgers, fries, and apple pie; but we are such a large melting pot of a cultural that finding identity through these food items can be a difficult thing to do. Instead, I think food serves as a way to stay true to ourselves and our roots while here in America because it allows us to remember our heritage and roots.

Field Assignment 4

During my stay in Italy i definitely experienced while dining at different establishments. It felt this more so in the southern parts of Italy, which is quite similar to the notion of southern hospitality in the States. When we were in Florence, we found a great agricultural based restaurant where the owner explained the ingredients of the dish and even gave us complimentary dessert. When I visited Rome with Adriana we visited a restaurant that gave her a free espresso. We also visited a cafe one night for dinner and loved it so much we came back a second night. They remembered us and even deemed a table “ours”. It felt very comforting to be treated so kindly in a foreign place

Field Assignment 3

During my trip to Rome with Adrianna, I realized that the food further south is vastly different from the food in the Emilia Romagna region. One thing that stood out to me personally when I first arrived in Bologna was that the pasta seemed to be less saucy than “Italian” dishes I’ve had in the States. There were many times when I was taken aback by how low the ratio of sauce appeared to be, especially in tagliatelle al ragù. However, in Rome, the pasta dishes did not give me this impression and I found their dishes to be more flavorful than those in the Emilia Romagna region. The taste of the tomato based pastas in Rome was more mild and a bit sweeter while the dishes here have a heartier taste, most likely due to the strong role of ragù.

The first day I ate linguine with lobster at a restaurant called Seacook.

For dinner I had carbonara with truffles. Then for lunch the next day I had a fruit salad and egg sandwich and for dinner gnocchi with tomato and basil.

Field Assignment 1

When reflecting on my trip to the market, I am realizing that there similar food cultures in Italian markets and American markets. The markets in Bologna seem to largely be a weekend centered event , much like going to the farmers market in America. In my family, it is an event that is mainly reserved for the weekend. It is also an opportunity for the social aspect of food to shine through as the different merchants discuss the history and facts of their products and locals communicate with one another. I believe shops of this nature are very important to the principles of Slow Food which involve knowing where your food comes from as well as purchasing locally grown foods. I honestly feel the same vibe from the local flea market in my city back home. My father and I go on a weekly basis and have developed a close relationship with some of the vendors.

Field Assignment 2

Although this observation was made within the Emilia Romagna region, there seemed to be a larger seafood presence when we’ve gone to places outside of Bologna. When we visited Ferrara the osteria we ate lunch at  had a fish menu to choose from, which isn’t a common aspect on the menu of the many restaurants I’ve frequented. The breads offered at the table were also different from the typical slices I’ve received at eateries like Eataly and Osteria dell’Orsa. In Ferrara the bread appeared to be more geometric and knotted and also slightly harder.

The pasta that was served was also different in Ferrara. It was a tubular shape, which differs from the usual tagliatelle, tortellini, and ravioli. It’s shocking how you can travel such a short difference and things change so drastically.

Although I haven’t been to many areas outside the Emilia Romagna region, I have heard from those that visited Venice that seafood is an even bigger part of the meals there. The fish market is a pertinent example of its presence in that area. Crawford also told the class about having salted cod for dinner in the Amalfi Coast and it being completely encased in salt, which is something also quite difference from the Emilia Romagna region.

In Verona , Mattia told us that both horse and pigeons are common meats that are eaten, which is less common here. A presidi in Verona is marmellate.

The markets in Ferrara seemed more plentiful and widespread, which may be the case because there are less narrow streets and roads.

In Florence, a popular type of bread is marocca di casola. It is made with chestnut flour, wheat flour, beer yeast, mother’s yeast, potatoes, water, extra virgin olive oil and salt.

Post Study Abroad

One major thing that I believe is apparent from my trip to Italy and the deep examination of their food culture is how distant and different my own relationship with food is. An extremely visible aspect of food in Italy is its ability to create bonds and reinforce togetherness. No one really eats alone. Families always eat dinner together. Lunch is so important that individuals return back to their homes to enjoy it with their families. Food has never played this large of a role in my life, especially in a social aspect. I found it quite difficult at times to wrap my head around these different eating habits and more so the rational behind them .

A quick summary of the role food plays in my life is as a necessity, which accurately corresponds with the perception Italians have about Americans with their food. Thinking about food doesn’t conjure any warm memories of family dinners or evening preparing dishes with my grandmother or mother. What I see is something I need to ingest in order to stay alive. This is largely due to the unhealthy relationship I have created with food. Just like everyone else, I find eating comforting and pleasurable. So much so that I often treat it as a luxury. There are moments when though I am hungry, I will not eat because the environment isn’t to my liking or I won’t have the amount of time I would like to have. Being a college student further engrains this mentality in me as I rarely have free time and sometimes go the entire day without eating, only to binge at the end of the day . by this point, the only concern for food that I have is to consume is to cease the hunger pains.

The Italian relationship with food is vastly different. Time is carved out for eating and it is paired heavily with socializing. Whether it is lunch, aperitif, dinner, Italians are always in company. While in Bologna I realized that most of my eating habits were considered taboo among the locals , like my preference to eat alone. Although it is seen as a weird thing in the States it is much more weird here. I’ve gone to Pizzeria Toto alone and had the waitress deem me “lonely” and give me a sympathetic glance. I also went down to a bar one evening to ask for help opening a wine bottle and they were shocked by the fact that I planned to drink alone.

When remembering the different discussions we’ve had in class, my experience growing up with food was not like the Italian way or how the American way was portrayed in the “Socializing Taste” article. At certain family events, there was a separation of the older adults and the children at different tables, but that was largely for social reasons. The adults wanted to be able to talk about whatever they desired without having to censor anything. I also never had conversations with my parents concerning what I wanted to eat for dinner, I always ate whatever was prepared. Of course they would be days what I wanted would be considered, but that didn’t happen frequently. Finishing my plate was also something that wasn’t emphasized. If I didn’t feel like finishing something, I didn’t have to. I could save my portions for later, or just decline eating. I also wasn’t bribed to finish things in order to have dessert as dessert wasn’t a large part of our meals.

Overall I admire the why that Italians interact with each other and with food. It is emphasized as a pleasurable experience and always made time for, which is something we have lost touch of in the fast pace society.

My Food Journal

*I did not eat breakfast for a majority of this trip. I have the same eating habits in America and the difference in foods (breakfasts being more light and pastry-based) did not encourage me to start eating in the morning.

Week 1: Verona

May 14th- The initial week of my program in Bologna was mainly an overload of culture shock. The hustle and bustle of the city was something that I wasn’t really used to as I come from a very small town in North Carolina and I don’t really explore much of Durham outside of Duke. When I first arrived in Bologna, I began to realize that I did not even know the basic food ways of Italy, such as where to get food, the hours of availability for such places, and other simple things like if takeout is permissible. Luckily I was able to go to a market with Mattia where we both had a piadina at Mercato di Mezzo and was able to pick up on how the Italians interact with their food and try a local cuisine.

May 15th- The following day we had dinner at Pizzeria Toto as a group and met each other. Here I discovered that in some settings takeout is permissible and that serving sizes can be quite large. I opted for a salad to save any strain on my stomach. Also, as far as the pizzas are concerned, if it is not in the description that means it is not on the pizza. This includes basics such as tomato paste and cheese. If it is not listed as an ingredient, that means it is not on the select pizza.

 May 19th- I returned to Pizzeria Toto and actually ordered a pizza, the 4 Stagione to be exact. The size of the pizza was a bit too much for me and I ended up taking home the leftovers. I was surprised to see that Italian serving sizes could be so large.

Week 2: Ferrara

May 23rd- Tried a piadina for the third time due to a necessary assignment from Mattia’s language class to go to La Mia Piadina and practice placing an order in Italian. It was an interesting experience to see so many people come to the small little restaurant, including those that appeared to not be locals.

May 24th- After class Grada 4 and I went to Eataly to eat before out tour of Bologna. I ordered the ravioli with ricotta and asparagus

May 25th- Adriana cooked dinner for our apartment this day. She prepared a tomato and basil pie with mozzarella .

This week it became apparent that obtaining food with our buoni pasto would be quite difficult. There were many restaurants that displayed the sticker for them outside of the window, but when asked about it would refuse to accept them, or create crazy rules that never worked in our favor. This struggle only worsen when trying to find places to dine for dinner. We began shopping at the supermarket and preparing meals of our own to deal with the dilemma. This is when I realized that a majority of the basic food stuffs and essentials are quite cheap and substainally cheaper than the same products in America.

Week 3: Free Weekend

 May 30th- This day we visited a completely vegan restaurant before visiting the MAMbo Art Museum

May 31st- Grada 4, Adriana and I stumbled across this restaurant while trying to find a restaurant that both accepted buoni pasto and was vegetarian friendly. I had some tortelloni with ricotta and butter.

June 1st- I spent this weekend home in Bologna and decided to cook for myself so I would not have to leave the apartment so frequently. I made a simple pasta and tomato sauce meal with a glass of wine.

Week 4: Florence and Rome

June 6th- I tried the Spaghetto at Eataly to experience Italy’s take on a classic perceived Italian dish. I felt quite shameful ordering it knowing that the proper option was tagliatelle.

June 8th- Our apartment and the apartment on Pratello got together and cooked a dinner of risotto .

June 9th- We traveled to Florence this day. It was quite eye opening as I began to realize that I greatly prefer the cuisine of the south over the food off the north. For lunch I had bowtie pasta with seafood, chicken , and potatoes.

  

For dinner, Adriana, Jasmine and I stumbled across this agriculture- based restaurant where everything was grown locally. We all had pasta and the waiter gave us a special treat of cherries for dessert.

 

 

June 10th- Adriana and I started our first day in Rome off with a seafood lunch at a restaurant recommended by our Airbnb host called Seacook. I ordered the lobster linguine and was blown away by the quality of the meal, ambience of the restaurant and the manners of the waiters.

Week 5: Modena and Rimini

June 11th- For lunch we got pulled into a tourist trap and had an amazing fruit salad and egg sandwich.

For dinner we ate at our now favorite restaurant in Rome, Assaggi d’Autore. I had gnocchi for the first time and Adriana and I shared two deserts, a mimosa cake and a chocolate cake.

   

While in Rome, I discovered that the flavors of the foods are quite different from those in Bologna. Then meals further south seem to be lighter than those up north, which helped with the excessive amounts of walking that took place and the scorching temperatures. I was able to get through an appetizer, and main dish and desert without feeling too full.

June 12th- I had the primo di mare with linguine and cuttlefish at Eataly and happened to meet my lovely professor Luciana.

June 13th-Modena

We took an interesting tour of a dairy farm where we were reunited with the lovely Fabbio and witnessed how parmigiano reggiano is properly made and sampled some of the exquisite cheeses.

Then we observed the making of authentic balsamic vinegar and even tasted the three different varieties.

June 16th- Melissa, Grada 4, Adriana, Jasmine and I spent the afternoon at the food festival Al Meni. It was an eye opening experience as we got to see a completely different side of the Italian food scene. There was a large tent where renowned chefs were making specialty dishes that you could try if you purchased a ticket. There was an entire aisle dedicated to selling fruits and vegetables similar to a food market. On the opposite side there were many merchants selling clothing and other objects.  I really like the strong presence of healthy and holistic food options in Italy. I found a stand that was selling “L’acqua Viva”, which is water with probiotics and other cleansing ingredients such as ginger and lemon.

 

June 17th- This was the day before Melissa’s birthday and we went out and had dinner with her at a restaurant near the coast. I had the seafood ravioli

June 18th- After the long train ride back to Bologna, I went to Eataly and devoured some ravioli, again. It was filled with potatoes and asparagus.

Week 6: Bologna 

June 19th- La Taverna for lunch; tortelloni with tomato and basil.

Later that evening we had a tour of Il Gelatauro and got to met the owner. We were fortunate enough to see where the gelato is made, taste a new flavor, and hear about the history of the shop.

Jasmine Adriana and I stopped by the takeout pasta place called Terra e Sapori where I ordered tortelloni, again.

June 20th- Pizzeria Toto; Rustica

June 22nd- Had the life changing experience of trying the Noiese pizza at Toto and asking for added oregano just days before my flight to leave.

June 23rd- Pizza Altero- Salsiccia slices and wine.

I bought a bottle of wine while I was in Rome and discovered that I was having some difficulties bringing it back home with me as planned, so I devoted my last night in Bologna to finishing the bottle.

Pre Arrival Food Relationship

Food isn’t much of a central part of my family anymore. There are only a few events that warrant large celebrations around food and those are usually only holidays, like Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and Thanksgiving. The only meal that is thoroughly prepared in our household is dinner. Breakfast and lunch usually consists of small conventional meals like cereal, oatmeal, or microwavable sandwiches. Sometimes if the day involves strenuous activities my mother may cook grits with eggs and another meat option. Lunch is also the same way. It may consist of any type of conventional meal ranging from frozen meals to canned soups or we may get take out from a nearby restaurant. Dinner however almost always includes white rice, some type of meat and a side of vegetables. There is never a day in my house where rice is not cooked. When we eat meals, it is often not together at a table, but rather in the living room in front of the TV. There was also a period of time where I would take my food into my room and eat and we would all be in different rooms. I believe my family’s eating habits corresponds with and goes against what is commonly perceived as “mainstream American” eating habits. It corresponds in the foods that we eat and the way that we consume them. It is quite stereotypical for Americans to eat fast food and fast food makes up a substantial portion of our meals. Our eating is also more centered around entertainment instead of actively participating in family time. We always watch TV with all of our meals. I have also scheduled eating at certain times so I can watch a certain show with my meal.

For the previously listed holidays, my family usually eats more cultural foods like macaroni, collard greens, ham, and sweet potato pie. My grandmother also does a majority of this cooking. These food choices reflect our cultural heritage and traditions in South Carolina. I think the meals with my mother and father are less traditional because my mother does not enjoy cooking and neither do I.

Blog 1

When reflecting on my trip to the market, I am realizing that there similar food cultures in Italian markets and American markets. The markets in Bologna seem to largely be a weekend centered event , much like going to the farmers market in America. However, there are markets that are open during the entire week and many markets for more specific foods like meats, fish, and cheese. In my family, it is an event that is mainly reserved for the weekend. It is also an opportunity for the social aspect of food to shine through as the different merchants discuss the history and facts of their products and locals communicate with one another.

The market I visited was located around the Cinema Lumiere and in the open area across from it. There were musicians playing music in the streets and people riding their bikes and transporting their products back home in the baskets on their bikes.

These vendors did not have their products in the street and they were all located in the same vicinity. Some vendors had their products out in small baskets and plates so customers can see them and sample if they desired. Many cooked meats were available for samples. Vines and beers were also being sold, but I only saw a menu for them. There was an area where meat was being sold and they setup was quite similar to that of a supermarket. The fish was laid out flat in a large glass container and the customers pointed to the precise pieces they wanted until the vendor reached the specific piece they wanted. I believe shops of this nature are very important to the principles of Slow Food which involve knowing where your food comes from as well as purchasing locally grown foods. I honestly feel the same vibe from the local flea market in my city back home. My father and I go on a weekly basis and have developed a close relationship with some of the vendors.

I don’t believe the markets target a specific type of individuals as this way of purchasing food seems to be a city wide event. I saw individuals of all ages at the market, including children off in a certain area playing. I didn’t see many supermarkets; I believe those are located in more heavily populated areas of the city and the locals go there less frequently, like the woman named Irene that I interviewed.

The other side of the market near the movie theaters was more of my liking. I walked in and immediately saw a table of honey, a weakness of mine. As I further ventured into the area, the variety of things being sold changed. I saw more stands for fruits, honey, and marmalades. Specific descriptions of foods were quite vague and straightforward but you could gain a deeper understanding of the items if you asked the seller specific questions. I also found it quite interesting that lavender was being sold in bunches at the market as well. There was also a children area with toys for them to play with signaling that going to the market is often a family oriented event. The prices of most things seemed marginally cheaper than the products at the supermarkets. If I were to focus on fruits and vegetables sold at this market, I would say that these products target individuals they are more concerned about the source of their food and preserving the social aspect of eating and purchasing food. Aside from buying things, there were many individuals sitting on the benches and talking amongst themselves. They also value the personal interaction these markets bring about. Some even when with friends. There are many vendors that sell a wide variety of things from clothes, Knick knacks, fruits, vegetables, and even junk foods as well. Before departing, I bought a jar of honey from a lovely woman.