Thursday, September 21, 2006


I love Italian food. My mother is Italian, and I grew up eating Italian food on a regular basis along with many American staples such as meatloaf. Now here is the shocking part to most people. In all the time I lived with my parents, the only time I can remember having a PASTA dinner, was when we had company. Yes we had lasagna and spaghetti, but they would have been only part of dinner. We frequently ate pasta like most people ate potatoes. Fish stew with beans, and pork chops with fennel were two my favorite food's growing up. These would have been served with a big salad, more vegetables, and yes, crusty bread and lots of olive oil. Traditional foods have a soul satisfying effect that no modern convenience can match. Our ancestors, both recent and not so recent, knew how to eat for health and comfort. Prior to the 20th century, heart disease was a virtual unknown. T2 Diabetes has only in the past few years become a threat to anyone but the old and infirm. If we look back at the traditional foods of Italy, France, Germany, and every other country that sent it children to the American shores, we will find how we need to eat for our future. While the folks in each region adapted to the foods that were available and grew well, none of them ate a low fat diet. To make a gross over generalization, if we were to assign calories as percentages it would look something like 30C-30P-40F. Not a low fat or a low carb diet, but certainly less carbs then most eat today. There was no refined white flour ( except France in the 19th century), no partially hydrogenated fats, no red dye number 6 etc. Just real food. To make a concrete example, A sandwich with wonder bread, oscar meyer bologna, sliced velveeta, miracle whip, and a coke vs. whole grain sourdough bread, slow cooked pork, raw organic cheese, olive oil, and wine or beer. Which would you rather eat, and which do you think is better for you?

Fish Stew with Beans
Traditionally this would be made with Salt Cod, but I've used many different fish with success
1 lb firm white fish
2 cups Cooked Cannellini beans (can use canned if needed just rinse them well)
2 cups Diced Tomatoes (May used canned)
1 cup stock (may sub half with wine)
1 small onion chopped
2 cloves garlic chopped
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
thyme, orgeno,salt,pepper, and crushed red pepper to taste
Heat butter and oil in a heavy skillet on med heat. When oil is at temperature, add onions and red pepper and saute till onion is soft. Add garlic and cook for a minute then add stock, tomatoes, beans and seasonings. bring to a simmer. Place fish on top of stew and cover tightly. Cook till fish is done, it should fall apart. When serving, drizzle with olive oil, and a dash of fresh romano cheese.


Regina Wilshire said...

Before I had an opportunity to travel to Italy, I was treated to an authetic Italian meal experience in, of all places, Canada! While on vacation there, a friend of a friend's parents invited us to dinner - what a treat and what an eye-opener about how traditional Italian families really eat when they stick with the basics! I've never seen so much food in one meal - they packed away more calories and food than any of us did - much to our amazement - and none of them were overweight or obese!

If I remember correctly, the meal went something like this...

We started with a couple of options of meat dishes - a chicken cattiatore and something that was veal along with crusty bread and EVOO to dip it in. Then out came an antipasto dish with sliced meats and cheese. That was followed by two different pastas, followed by the main dinner entree (shocked yet?)of meats and two different vegetables and a bean dish, which was then followed by the salad....a break before dessert where all had some sambuca to "aid digestion" and then wine with fruit and cheese.

Now we were told they don't eat like that every night - but geez, it was an incredible spread and we were told the standard fare for entertaining and company....that was the first time I was told traditional Italian meals don't focus on pasta - that is was a small part of an entire meal, not the meal itself.

My travels in Italy confirmed that - rarely did I find anyone who centered their meals on pasta or polenta or other grains. These were part of the meals, but not the majority of calories or volume of food eaten.

K. Dill said...

Yup, that sounds like dinner at a family gathering. We only had "spaghetti and meatballs" when people who thought thats what Italian food was, came over for dinner, neighborhood pot lucks etc.