Have you ever thought why we Indians simply love Italian food ranging from the pastas, the risottos and the pizzas, So much so that Italian is the only cuisine competing in demand with the mighty Chinese? Though the world has had an ancient affair with the Italian cuisine; there is something more about it that has gripped our generation with its savoury notes and fancy names. Let’s find out!
I was introduced to a whole new world when I came across Gregory David Roberts quote in his novel Shantaram “The Indians are the Italians of Asia. There is so much Italian in the Indians, and so much Indian in the Italians.” And as I experienced with time I realized how true it is. The Indians and the Italians are very similar in everything basic about life – attitude towards religion, love for music, poetic language and yes of course food. We like our tables to bulge under the variety of food; we are passionate about our gravies & sauces; we take offence if the guests don’t ask for second or third helpings and we swear on our herbs & spices. Well, so do the Italians.
To begin with, Italian cuisine is characterized by its simplicity, with many dishes having only four to eight ingredients. Italian cooks rely chiefly on the quality & freshness of the ingredients rather than on an elaborate preparation, making it one of the world’s healthiest diets. Cheese and wine are a major part of the cuisine, with many variations. Coffee, specifically espresso, has become indispensible. Similar to our staple diet of rice and wheat, Italians have their rice and pasta. More so, Italian food also has a particularly wide range of vegetarian options.
You would be surprised to know that the Italian cuisine is highly influenced by ancient Greek, Roman, Jewish and Arab cuisines, among a few others with several variations due to regional influences in Italy itself. I know you would not believe me if I were to tell you that a dish which may be a speciality of Northern most Italy might be unheard of in the Tuscan region. That dear ladies, tell us we can experiment all we want with the cuisine!
Meals in Italy are seen as a time to spend with family and friends instead of an act of immediate sustenance; very similar to what we practice in India. During holidays, family feasts can last for hours. A traditional Italian menu can be very elaborate and may include 3-4 courses namely the Aperitivo – a drink meant to enhance the appetite; Antipasto- the appetizer; Primi - the first course; Secondo – the second course; the side dish; cheese and fruits – the first dessert; Dolce – cakes or cookies and last but not the least an Italian cup of Coffee!
Now-a-days, a lot of the ingredients used in Italian cuisine are locally manufactured and produced. Yes, few ingredients are difficult to be locally fetched and therefore are imported, but otherwise the Indian retails have everything one needs. You can easily find exotic veggies at The Sarojini Nagar Vegetable Market; Choti Sabji Mandi in West Delhi and the INA Market. For other ingredients you can visit the Le Marche – Sugar & Spice stores, 24*7 convenience outlets and Spencer’s stores across Delhi. Cheese lovers will find paradise at the Choudhary cheese shop near Lady Sri Ram College.
If you guys know of any other outlet that store authentic Italian Ingredients, please share with Womanistan via your comments. Feedbacks are highly anticipated. Till then stay tuned for my upcoming posts as I will take you for a culinary ride and a three course Italian meal! Ciao!