Saturday, November 27

Travel book “Con gusto”: A culinary trip to Italy – trip

Antipasti, minestrone, spaghetti, tiramisu and finally either a full-bodied espresso or an aromatic digestif. For many, the Italians around the corner have become an indispensable part of everyday culinary life. Hardly any other kitchen has made such an impact in this country as the Italian one.

For a long time, the Mediterranean cuisine of the Apennine peninsula was considered inedible and even harmful to health. In his book “Con gusto” the literary scholar and author Dieter Richter takes his audience on a culinary tour of Italy through the past centuries. He first describes the extremely hesitant to become familiar with the foreign taste of the south, which travelers to Italy met with a lot of skepticism or even rigorous rejection for a long time. Numerous travel reports, diaries and letters from Italian enthusiasts who traveled the country on a grand tour for aesthetic studies and personal development, testify to a gastronomically divided Europe. Despite their openness to Italian art, literature, and music, most Renaissance travelers found it difficult to enjoy the local cuisine.

The widespread disregard was reflected in confused ideas: The Neapolitans could only eat the “long worm” of macaroni pasta because of an anatomically very wide throat. The sheer size of the pizza flatbread threatens to suffocate. The Germans, used to butter and lard, complained that the “bad smelling” and “indigestible” olive oil contaminated and spoiled the dishes. Travelers stood up to the spurned oil kitchen by gathering for a “sausage potato breakfast” or the “sandwich company”.

The lemon men from the south brought a new taste to the Alps

It took a long time before the notorious gastro-nationalism gave way to an openness and curiosity about Italian cuisine. The migratory movement from south to north, some of which is still ongoing today, made a major contribution to this. It brought with it a cultural expansion from the 17th century, the Italian-inspired lifestyle gradually found acceptance in numerous trading centers and residences in Central Europe. Nuremberg, for example, established itself as the center of orangery culture. The turn to sour and sweet delicacies of the south is closely linked to the “bitter orange caterers” and “lemon men”. The traveling traders from Italy offered their fruits for sale and brought a new flavor to Central European cuisine with the sweet bitter. Suddenly citrus fruits were in demand, confectioners, confectioners and cooks experimented with the newly acquired ingredients.

“Con gusto” also tells of the spread of the street food culture that once lived in the alleys of Naples. The popular convivial sitting outside in front of restaurants and cafés as well as buying food in the streets was once considered a violation of morality by travelers to Italy. A touch of Italy came to Germany at the end of the 19th century with today’s most popular street food: ice cream, which early travelers to Italy disrespectfully described as refreshment for the common man.

The fact that ice cream has established itself as a mass product on German roads also had to do with a migration movement: Wandering ice cream men, who mainly came from the Dolomite valleys, were on the move with their handcarts in German cities with the gelato. In the years after the Second World War, ice cream parlors shot up – a novelty in German gastro culture in the midst of the long-established inns and pubs.

The history of integrating someone else’s taste into one’s own is far from over. Dieter Richter also talks about searching for and finding national identity, which is closely related to the – changeable – culinary art of a country. “Con gusto” is a delicious book that takes a refreshing, anecdotal, enjoyable, educational foray through kitchens and pantries. It invites you to table at the local favorite Italian, in one of the quaint pizzerias in the alleys of Naples or in a stylish café in Rome.

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