Living in Italy means having the possibility to eat well and follow a healthy Mediterranean diet. In our home meals are about spending time together, as a family. My husband and I have been married for 28 years. The day we began living together we decided there would be no TV in the kitchen, while we are gathered around the table. The same thing goes for cell phones. For us, meals are special moments. Moments in which we share our thoughts, have lively discussions and tell one another about our day. Here in Italy most people eat lunch and dinner at home. Work hours are different. They go from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Then from 3.30p.m. to 7.30p.m. Throughout the years, all these special moments have been bonding. Especially as we watched our two boys grow up to become young men.
Groceries are an early morning chore, usually carried out by grandmothers who often cook for the whole family. Thirty years ago there was no need to drive to groceries stores. Local shops were handy to reach by foot or with a bicycle. Bread was bought at the bakery, meat at the butcher, vegetables at the greengrocer or local fruit and vegetable market. If you lived in a seaside town like we do, there used to be the fish market where the fresh catch of the day was always available. Now most fishermen have a stand in one of the big grocery stores in town, although it is still possible to buy fresh fish by seashore early in the morning. All these local and environmentally sustainable shops still exist, but most struggle to survive. Competiton from the food industry corporations is driving small store owners out of business. They simply cannot compete with the prices of the supermarket chains. With a population of poor and working poor constantly on the rise it becomes very difficult for Italian families to make ends meet. Therfore, even if we would like to shop local, it isn’t always possible because we are forced to look for bargains on everything we buy.
Sadly, the Italy I grew to know and love as a child is disappearing. Most people here will tell you that “times change”, that “this is progress”. I question myself: “Are we really progressing?”
In light of this dilemma I am always asking myself: what can I do to preserve and cherish an “old” way of life which helped us thrive as a community? Given that “old” does not mean useless (actually it’s the exact opposite), the word “share” comes to mind. So what can I share with others that could make our lives a little better? A recipe for example. My Nonno (grandfather) was a baker. My Nonna (grandmother) tought me how to make homemade pasta when I was a little girl. I grew up in their kitchen, listening to my grandparents’ life stories. They were stories of war, poverty and death. My Nonno became a baker to feed the family. He was the last of 13 brothers and sisters. His father died when he was a baby, leaving the entire family without an income. Six of his older brothers and sisters caught the Spanish flu and did not survive. Devastated and grief striken his mother Assunta became gravely ill. She passed away when my grandfather was 19 years old. “I laid in her bed and cried like a baby every night.” – my grandfather would say. His sad blue eyes filled with tears. My own as well. When poverty strikes the priority becomes being able to feed oneself and those we love. When great sacrifices are made to put food on the table, you learn to respect and be grateful even for a simple slice of bread.
Sharing a recipe may seem commonplace, but the way I see it food is not just about eating. It’s about nourishing our bodies, our memories, our values, our traditions, our cultures, our hearts. Ultimately, food is love. Preparing and sharing the simplest meal with family and friends, and why not, even with someone we have never met before brings joy and a sense of fullness to our lives. In it’s own way, food can contribute to giving meaning and purpose to our lives.
Today I’m making a cold pasta dish for lunch. Here’s the recipe. Enjoy!
Fusilli or other type of short pasta 400 g
Cherry tomatoes 300 g
Tuna (can) 250 g
Mozzarella 200 g
Black olives 50 g
Basil 10 foglie
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt (to taste)
Pepper (to taste)
Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Place condiment in refrigerator. In the meantime cook your pasta in boiling water (salt the water when it begins to boil then add pasta). Once cooked, run cold water over your strained pasta. Mix condiment and pasta together. Enjoy with family and friends or take it to work to have during your lunch break. Oh yes, almost forgot, this recipe feeds four people and is super easy and fast!