Italian food is synonymous with the nation’s culture and most Europeans are familiar with what they understand Italian food to be – even if that view is heavily weighted towards pizza and pasta, topped off with some delicious gelato.
Authenticity of food is, however, a hot topic. Fierce debate rages in some circles about whether it matters, and whether it is essential to attempt to preserve that sense of national cuisine authenticity or allow it to naturally evolve and take in new influences over time.
A Smaller World
Globalisation means, of course, that the world gets ever smaller, and our appreciation of cuisines changes and evolves as new ingredients are incorporated, innovative recipes are tested and an increasingly international ‘fusion’ of flavours evolves. Just look at locations – high end national cuisine restaurants are often located abroad and run by ‘foreign’ nationals. You are as likely to find an Italian restaurant in Dublin as you are in Milan!
Just as likely too is that this Italian restaurant in Dublin will offer incredible cuisine and a deep understanding of what makes authentic Italian cooking. In a restaurant like this you would expect vegetables to be lightly blanched and at their freshest, served with the freshest of mozzarella, the sweetest of sun-dried tomatoes, with rich olive oil, enlivening basil and complex balsamic vinegars.
Purists vs Experimentalists
Purists may argue that certain Italian pastas or meats should never be mixed with a certain sauce – but how much do the tried and tested methods apply in the modern culinary landscape? Rules and regulations may offer history and context, but some argue it’s more important that we try new things and create fresh recipes that represent our changing view and experience of the world. Does it matter if Worcestershire sauce makes its way into a rich tomato dish, or if the Insalate Caprese incorporates some edible flowers as a quirky twist?
Whatever your view, the fact is the world will change, and our experience of cuisines with it. That’s not to say that the original classics and understandings of a cuisine should be lost, but experimentation and evolution are a natural process, and our love and appreciation of fine food changes with them. After all, nothing brings people together in conversation, idea sharing and companionship more than food.