The Fantastic Four of the Mediterranean meal
Nestled in the balmy climes of the Mediterranean, Italy has a rich heritage in world history. From the Caesars to Da Vinci to the Godfather trilogy *shady reference*, the vibrancy of culture is exploding. The food habits of Italia are also formed from the diversity of ethnic and geographic influences.
With the mushrooming of ristorantes and shows like MasterChef, the pasta, pizza, risotto and tiramisu are household names for a delicious meal nowadays. These recipes support a lot of experimentation and they have undergone many local revisions to suit the taste buds of the world.
Pasta is a simple and healthy part of a Mediterranean diet. Traditionally made from durum wheat flour and water, the dough is then shaped into different forms and dried. Pasta comes in different shapes and sizes to enable the use of a wide variety of sauces and bases. It is a very versatile dish, hence the popularity. The humble pasta has inspired people around the word so much so that there is a movement called Pastafarianism which venerates The Flying Spaghetti Monster, a satirical dig on mainstream religion and opposes the teaching of creationism and intelligent design in primary schools.
If food went viral, then it would be called Pizzatitis. The pizza is yet another Italian export prone to a bazillion experiments in preparing style and tastes.
The typical pizza is a round, flat bread with tomato sauce and cheese, baked with a host of spices and garnish. Pizza can be roughly categorized into two types- the Neapolitan, which has a thick base with relatively even crust, and the Roman, a thin and crusty pizza.
Despite the pizza being acknowledged as trademark Italia, it has its origins in Greek and Middle Eastern unleavened flat breads. The modern pizza was probably born in Naples in the 18th or early 19th century. The relevance of pizza in today’s world is overwhelming. The addictive flavours and ease of preparation-cum-consumption make the pizza an all-time favourite for any meal of the day! In the US, pizza is glorified as part of cultural heritage with the celebration of the National Pizza Month in October, every year.
October and pizza sounds just right. Along with Oktoberfest!
When you are going the whole way in the general four-course scheme of an Italian meal, the risotto is a primo (first course). The risotto is a homely dish, made of short-grained white rice which is slow cooked with a broth of meat, fish or vegetable. The end result is a melt-in-the-mouth spoonful of creamy rice with the homogeneous flavour of the broth.
You know food that lifts you up? ‘Tiramisu’ means exactly that in Italian! This exquisite dessert dish is Italy’s answer to foodgasm. Made with soft cake ‘ladyfingers’, coffee, whipped cream, eggs, cocoa and a special type of cheese called mascarpone, the tiramisu is a sublime manna for the soul. The creamy concoction of flavour, aroma and aesthetics can truly lift you up. Tiramisu makes you want to stay down guiltlessly. And get lifted up again!
“And that’s what makes a tiramisu! Oh, did I forget to mention you need an enlightened chef?”