Not many of us know that Italy had long been revered for its culture and history. It was the fountainhead of the mighty Roman Empire, Roman Catholic Church, Humanism and Renaissance. Had it not been for the Italian painter Leonardo da Vinci, we might never have got the mysterious Mona Lisa. Italy is the place where we find the world’s only leaning tower in Pisa and this is the country where the 20th century dictator Mussolini propounded his philosophy of fascism. This is where the noted sports car manufacturer Ferrari is based. Italy, the mainspring of fashion, has also been popular for its vintage wine and notorious for its mafia. But when it comes to this country, the only things most of us conjure up in our minds are its pizzas and pastas. They are perhaps the two most popular imports of Italy and dishes that people in every nook and cranny of the world like to savor. Such is the drawing power of Italian food that it can even relegate a country’s rich culture and history to the background.
However, pizzas and pastas are not the be all and end all of Italian food. Italy is a country that boasts of a myriad cuisines and recipes which have been influenced by a long history of various political divisions. Instead of a single tradition the food in Italy is a potpourri of regional customs which have led to the development of a distinctive culinary tradition. The article below will shed more light on the history of Italian food. Read on!
Interesting Information On History of Italian food
Historians reckon that Greek eating habits had a strong influence on the Italian food as early as the eighth century B.C. However, it was the Roman civilization that brought sumptuousness in the Italian food. The significance of food in early Italian society can be gauged from the fact that they even had a cookbook back then. It was authored by Apicius in the first century B.C.
The history of Italian food can be traced back to the traditions prevalent more than 2000 years ago in the Roman era. Fabled for their luxurious lifestyles, the Romans loved to indulge their taste buds with different varieties of food and wine. Sea routes were being explored back then and exotic flavors, spices and other edible items were imported from lands as far as China. With the decline of the Roman empire, many of its dishes too languished. However, Roman traces in Italian food are still evident in some of the dishes like polenta which are akin to the food cooked for the soldiers over 2000 years ago.
In medieval times, Italy stood divided as each of the cities and states was governed by a different ruler. This is what helped in bringing about the different styles we see today. Every region boasted of its own customs and traditions which reflected in its food habits as well. Sometime during the 5th century AD, the Arabs began to invade Italy and this resulted in a spread of their cuisine such as roasted meats, baked pies and stuffed pastries. Being divided by mountain ranges also facilitated the evolution of a plethora of regional dishes.
Tuscany in Italy was at the centre stage of the 14th century renaissance movement. The movement revived not only the arts, culture and science; it also had a major impact on Italian food. The rich liked to prepare opulent meals and serve them in extravagant serving wares. Trade flourished as Italian travelers ventured to far off lands and brought back spices and dishes indigenous to the countries. Christopher Columbus is credited with introducing tomatoes, peppers, chilies, corn and potatoes to Italy. This had an indelible impact on the cuisine of Italy.
Trade was on the upswing in Northern Italy where the main ingredients included butter, eggs, grains and rich cream. This is when pasta originated in Northern Italy in the early Renaissance period. With the passage of time, pasta embraced the whole of Italy. Austria and France too had occupied Italy for a long time which added diversity to the Italian cuisine.
The economy in southern Italy was not as robust as it was in the north. There was widespread poverty and this is what led to the origin of some of the most traditional Italian dishes. It was here that the now ubiquitous pizza and spaghetti developed. Dry pasta became a staple ingredient of the southern Italian dishes.
Italians today have stuck to their traditional cuisine. They still like to savor their multiple course meals and enjoy a glass of wine.