Archive for April, 2011


Before enrolling in this class, Olive Garden was the only Italian item I was familiar with.  It turns out that I was familiar with something, Olive Garden, which is not even true Italian.  The Olive Garden dishes are not authentic Italian, but transformed American Italian dishes.  This concludes that I was not even familiar with anything that was authentic Italian.  This Italian food and culture class opened my mind to a whole new culture and lifestyle.  I am far from an expert about Italian food and culture, but this class has enlightened me and enriched my cultural well being.

 My view on Italian food and culture was broadened through the region presentations, readings, movies, and class discussions.  The open ended topics imbedded in the class structure allowed various topics and perspectives to be discussed.  For starters, Italians are not constantly in a hurry rushing from place to place.  They take time out of their day to enjoy food.  They take the time to prepare fresh food and enjoy the savory tastes with each bite.  Food is a staple to the Italian culture.  Among the twenty Italian regions, each region is known for its own specialty.  I was surprised to learn that each region was known for its own specialty, and that some regions were the only region to produce a specific dish.  I guess this makes complete sense if a certain type of food is only grown in specific regions due to the growing environments.  The climate throughout Italy is very differential.  This climate variation leads to the variation in food production.  Another topic of discussion that I found interesting was the topic of alcohol in Italy.  In “Eat, Pray, Love” they were going to go and celebrate a win for the soccer team and they decided to “go out” after the game.  In America, the term “going out” would make someone immediately think of going to a bar to share a few drinks.  However, in “Eat, Pray, Love” the phrase “going out” led them to a bakery where the soccer win was celebrated with cream puffs!  It is not socially acceptable to be drunk in public.  I respect this about the Italian culture.  This is a quick overview of the basics I learned from this class.

 Not only has this class interested me in Italian cooking and culture, but it has also interested me in cooking in general.  I have caught myself checking the label of ingredients more frequently when grocery shopping.  In addition, I feel like I have been eating healthier as a result of this food focused class.  Once I am out of school, where I will have more time to devote to cooking, I look forward to cooking frequently and trying new recipes.  Here are a few Italian dishes I want to make before I die!

                                                                        Timpano

                                                           I want to learn how to cook an artichoke.

                                                                       Carbonara

                                                                       Panforte

I had many favorites from this class, so I thought it would be beneficial to discuss my favorites among each area of the class focus.

 My favorite movie was “Big Night”.  We watched a lot of movies throughout this class and all of them were very entertaining.  There was just something about “Big Night” that won me over.  The movie seemed very authentic to me.  The Italian accents were enjoyable to listen too.  The storyline was a very relatable issue where I was able to understand both sides of the spectrum.  Do not forget about the food!  The food looked delicious!  It was mentioned in one of articles prior to the movie that the producers authentic mother helped cook the food shown in the movie.  This tid bit of information made me respect the movie even more.  I wish that I had an Italian restaurant like that in my neighborhood!

 I liked reading “Playing for Pizza”.  This book had an American side and an Italian side to the story.  The book gave a very deep insight to the Italian food and culture.  The book discussed about ways to order in an Italian bakery.  This is something that I would have never thought of until I was in the bakery, waiting to order.  Something that I greatly admired about the Italian football players was their passion for the game.   They were devoting a lot of time to their love of the game without being paid.  This is something that is not common in America.  The sports players always need more money!

 The Pinocchio class discussion was my favorite, most likely because we devoted one entire class to the discussion.  I felt like we were able to discuss a lot of different perspectives during this time.  We talked about aspects from the book that I never thought about prior to the class discussion.  I would have never realized the symbolism in the book when Pinocchio burned his feet.   As discussed in class discussion, Pinocchio was having feelings of being a real boy even though he was only a marionette made out of wood.  The class discussions were good in this class because I felt like everyone had a great opinion about the topic at hand, which was worth sharing.

 Out of the twenty regions, I would choose Calabria as my favorite region.  This is a hard decision to make because all of the regions have so much to offer.  When I go on vacation I like to go some place very remote.  From the regional presentation given in class, I got the feeling that Calabria was one of the regions that was not overrun with tourists.  I would be able to enjoy the beaches along the Mediterranean Sea and the mountainous areas in the interior of the region.  In Italy, I would like to escape somewhere I can take pleasure in the natural beauty of the surroundings while not having to put up with the hustle and bustle.  However, I would have to stay away from the traditionally chilli peppers.  I cannot handle spicy foods.

Something that I will never forget from this Italian Food and Culture class is that I want to go to Italy!   Thanks to this class I have been exposed to what Italy has to offer.  Now I want to experience the food, culture, and wonderful scenery first hand.  In addition, I will never forget the word picturesque, which was used very often in the class.  It is my new favorite word.  Thank you to Lucia for sharing Italy with me accompanied with your love and enthusiasm.  You are the best! Ciao!

Morel Mushrooms

 

These are morel mushrooms.  Coming from Southern Indiana, I always heard of people going “mushroom hunting”, but I never knew exactly what that meant.  This all changed when I met my boyfriend.  It is a tradition in his family to go “mushroom hunting”.  The tradition is to go into the woods in mid April, the timing depends greatly on the weather, and search for morel mushrooms.  Morel mushrooms can be typically found near poplar trees.  The number of mushrooms you might find also varies depending on the place and the timing.  For instance, when he and his family went last weekend, they found a great spot.  They found nearly a hundred morel mushrooms.  However, they always keep their hunting spot a secret because they do not want others to find their mushrooms!   Once the mushrooms are brought home from the woods they are cut in half while also removing the stem.  One way to clean them is by soaking them in salt water.  They are then dipped in flour and fried in bacon grease.   I would compare the taste of a morel mushroom to a French fry.  This is one of Southern Indiana’s delicacies, which I was introduced to a few years ago.   

Pinocchio

The other weekend I spent my Saturday afternoon reading Pinocchio.  I remember watching the Disney Pinocchio as a child, but I do not remember it very well.  So it was hard for me when I was reading the Italian Pinocchio story to find the differences between the Italian story and the Disney story.  I do know that in the book there was only a talking cricket, there was no Jiminy Cricket.  Also I do remember the Disney movie ending inside a shark, so I guess that was another similarity between the Disney movie and the Italian story.  I can say that I felt like the Italian story had more Pinocchio adventures than the Disney movie.  I guess the Italian Pinocchio was more mischievous that the Disney Pinocchio…just kidding ;).   Despite the differences, the moral of the story is a very good one for children.  “Pinocchio gains wisdom through a series of misadventures which lead him to becoming a real human as reward for his good deeds.”

 

Italian Pinocchio                                                              Disney Pinocchio

When my brother was little he used to like to tell “stories” also known as fibs or lies.  My mom shared the story of Pinocchio with him through the Disney movie.  I think the movie got through to my brother because he was seriously concerned about his nose growing.  It was a good lesson for him.  It is a tradition in our household to get an ornament every year for the Christmas tree.  The yearly ornament usually showcases a special event from that year.  For the year of the fibbing my brother got a Pinocchio ornament, and it hangs on our tree each Christmas to remind my brother to tell the truth!

 

During the last few weeks we have watched two movies, “Big Night” and “Dinner Rush”.  Both of them brought up the topic of traditional Italian food and Italian American food.  Out of the two movies, I was a bigger fan of “Big Night” because the film was focused more on the art of the food.  Throughout the movie they showed intricate details of the food.  In “Dinner Rush” there was still a focus on the food, but there was more of a focus on Italian American mafia.  “Dinner Rush” was still very entertaining and ended with a twist!  In the end, “Big Night” was very picturesque…I love that word…it is my new favorite ;).  From both of the storylines I could see where the dilemmas arose.  Both of the movies had a character who wanted to keep the traditional Italian meals in the restaurant while another character wanted to Americanize the traditional dishes to please the American guests.  If traditional dishes are Americanized, I am not against the action, but the restaurant should not be able to label their food as “Italian” food it should be called “Italian American” food.  Olive garden is a great example of this.  This topic is something that I admire about the Italian culture.  It is mandatory that guests are told what they are getting.  It is a strict guideline, and I think it should be.

What is my favorite kitchen tool?  It would have to be the spatula.  Now, there are two types of spatulas.  There is the one that you flip your pancakes with and then there is the one that you use to scrap the contents in a bowl.  I am referring to the spatula that is used to scrap the bowl.  See the photo below.  I have fond memories as a child using the spatula to scrap all of the remaining brownie batter out of the glass bowl in order to transfer it to my mouth!  My mom is also a fan of the spatula.  She thinks that you cannot leave any contents in a bowl.  You have to scrap that puppy clean before it will meet her approval.  According to her, I still do not know how to get everything out of the bowl.  We have approximately 5 spatulas at our house because they are always being used.   Here is to the spatula – my favorite kitchen tool.  What would my life be like without it??

Spring Fest: Walking Taco

This past weekend I had a walking taco at the Spring Fest.  We used to have these at our annual parish festival.  The walking taco is an ingenious idea!

    

All food is worthy to celebrate!  Within this blog posting I will write about a few traditional foods used at my personal celebrations and about my favorite foods…the ones I love to celebrate.

 At the beginning of this class I blogged about Karen Cakes.  These cakes are the first item of food that comes to my mind when I think about food to celebrate.  Growing up, these cakes were ordered for birthdays, times requiring celebration.  Also these cakes should be celebrated in themselves.  Karen Cakes were always very original and tasteful.  Every cake was moist and delicious, no matter the flavoring.  At Christmas, my family always celebrates the holiday by baking homemade cookies.  When we were younger it was a more serious situation because choosing my cookie cutter was a hard decision for me to make. 🙂  We celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday with my grandma’s traditional barbequed turkey.  My Aunt Paula’s deviled eggs are required for the family’s Easter celebration.  In addition, summer gatherings are celebrated with my grandpa’s fish frys.   These are a few traditional foods featured at my family’s celebrations.

 What foods do I like to celebrate?  Anytime that I have ice cream, it is a time for celebration.  I have always been a huge fan of ice cream.  I cannot wait to go home and take an afternoon drive with my family to the Dairy Barn, which is in Birdseye, IN.  Birdseye is a very small town known for its ice cream.  My favorite at the Dairy Barn is the soft serve chocolate swirl ice cream.   

    

 Any type of desert also fits my criteria for celebration.  I do not eat sweets regularly, but I do have a sweet tooth.  My grandma makes what she calls a Robert Redford Cake.  It is chocolate pudding and cool whip layered delight.  It is a nice, cool summer treat.  When I was younger I did not understand why it was called a Robert Redford Cake.  I guess there was a generation gap :).  I know that he was a heartthrob back in the day.  I can say that I am a fan of him if he is anything like this cake!  Delicious!

 These are the foods I use while celebrating and the ones I like to celebrate.

Drinks of Choice

My daily liquid consumption is pretty boring.  I am just an ordinary and habitual person.  I always carry a water bottle with me full of water.  Drinking water is very healthy, but I know that I do not drink enough of it; even though, water is all that I drink.  I can remember my mom telling me that I should drink 8-10 glasses of water a day.  That is a lot of water!  I would spend a great portion of the day in the bathroom if I did this!

 Milk is my choice of drink in the morning accompanied with my bowl of cereal.  I drink water throughout the day.  If I need a pick me up throughout the day or on the day of an exam I will drink a little Mountain Dew.  I do not drink soft drinks regularly, so when I do it is an occasion.  I have had a small cup of coffee before if I needed a pick me up.  However, I like to stay away from the coffee because it makes me jittery.  I like to buy Lipton Diet Green Tea and V8 Tropical Juice at the grocery store every once in awhile.  I prefer the diet green tea over the regular, just because of the difference in taste. 

 I will be turning 21 at the end of the month, so we will see how my drink choices change.  Any suggestions?  My friends have already organized a birthday event, so I will probably have plenty of help on choosing drinks. 🙂