Food as Culture: The Romantic Realities of Food in Italy

Talking about food is best on a full stomach, as the resulting discourse, often fraught and conflicted, flows best when not hindered by hunger-induced crankiness. Not only is eating a political and agricultural act, it’s also a cultural one. What, when, and how you eat – even how you digest – begins with a history and tradition much greater than you, the individual. Even more than parental preferences, monetary limitations, or family philosophy, your country’s food identity shapes your own. In The Physiology of Taste, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin argues that food production and consumption are tied to national identity and culture. Brillat-Savarin’s book, published in 1825 and strongly influential in the philosophy of Italy’s Slow Food movement, argues that gastronomy ( the practice of choosing, cooking, and eating food) is the science of “all that relates to man as a feeding animal”.

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Thoughts from Afar

I edited and uploaded the images for this post almost four weeks ago. In my ongoing, not always successful, effort to squeeze as much as possible out of each day, I had mis-assumed that I could complete 12 hours worth of “to do” items in 6 hours, including writing about our late summer garden. I recently returned from three weeks spent outside of Oregon, flying into Massachusetts, then out of Massachusetts and into Italy, and finally out of Italy and back to Portland (by way of Newark. I hope I never write “by way of Newark” again).

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An Eggplant Kind of Summer

Around the fifth time we dropped a few pounds of eggplant into our red market basket, we paused and took a closer look at our selection. We always buy globe eggplant (or if available, fairytale) each August for several recurring dishes. For the past three summers, a muggy August night wasn’t complete without heating up the house even more to make Frankie’s Eggplant Marinara or Ottolenghi’s corn polenta topped with stewed tomatoes and eggplant. But beyond seeking out eggplant specifically for those two dishes, we’ve rarely bought eggplant in the eager, slightly impulsive way we buy tomatoes, corn, or peaches.

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