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edited August 2011 in Italian

Un aspetto fondamentale dell’identità italiana è la cucina. Durante questo percorso attraverso la lingua e la civiltà italiana, scopriremo che parlare di “cucina” non significa solo parlare della preparazione dei cibi, ma anche di un modo specifico di mangiare, dei rituali della tavola, e persino dei comportamenti e congetture legati al cibo e al consumo.

A fundamental aspect of Italian identity is “la cucina” (cuisine). As we will see in our journey together through Italian language and civilization, when we talk about “cucina” we do not mean only recipe preparations but a way of eating, the rituals of the table, and even expected behaviors and assumptions regarding foods and consumption.


  • L’ordine delle portate

    The order in which dishes are served at the table varies from country to country, from culture to culture. In Italian, we call this particular system “l’ordine delle portate”—which for some people is a matter of life or death... In truth, most Italians follow a more relaxed and informal format when eating at home with family and friends.

    The etiquette requires the following order:
    -Un primo (or due primi at some formal events)
    -Un secondo (or due secondi at some formal events)
    -Un contorno
    -Formaggi—a possible variant, but not an obligatory dish

    Most Americans find it awkward to be served their salad after the main course in Italy. While Italians often laugh when, in America, they are served all courses lumped together at once on one dish (except for dessert). “Paese che vai, usanza che trovi”—it’s the Italian way of expressing openness to the various customs you encounter as you travel the world: roughly translated the sentence means “for each country you visit, you’ll find a different tradition.” Easier said than done (è più facile a dirsi che a farsi), since often Italians abroad do complain and expect things to be done the way they are used to. (My uncle is an excellent case in point: he can’t get over the fact that in many Anglo-Saxon countries he is served coffee throughout his meal! A crime, in his culinary book. Each family has its difficult uncle, I guess.) 

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