Alexa Baczak


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Copyright © 2023 by Mason Crest, an imprint of National Highlights, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. Printed in the United States of America First printing 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 ISBN (hardback) 978-1-4222-4680-1 ISBN (series) 978-1-4222-4675-7 ISBN (ebook) 978-1-4222-7139-1 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Baczak, Alexa, author. Title: Italian / Alexa Baczak. Description: Hollywood, FL : Mason Crest, [2023] | Series: Customs, culture & cuisine | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2022006718 | ISBN 9781422246801 (hardback) | ISBN 9781422271391 (ebook) Subjects: LCSH: Food habits—Italy—Juvenile literature. | Cooking, Italian—Juvenile literature. | Cooking—Italy—Juvenile literature. |

Italy—Social life and customs—Juvenile literature. Classification: LCC GT2853.I8 C325 2023 | DDC 394.1/20945—dc23/eng/20220228 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2022006718 Developed and Produced by Crafted Content, LLC (www.craftedcontentllc.com) Cover and Interior Design by Torque Advertising + Design Publisher’s Note: Websites listed in this book were active at the time of publication. The publisher is not responsible for websites that have changed their address or discontinued operation since the date of publication. The publisher reviews and updates the websites each time the book is reprinted.

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K E Y I C O N S T O L O O K F O R : Sidebars: This boxed material within the main text allows readers to build knowledge, gain insights, explore possibilities, and broaden their perspectives by weaving together additional information to provide realistic and holistic perspectives. Educational Videos: Readers can view videos by scanning our QR codes, providing them with additional educational content to supplement the text. Examples include news coverage, moments in history, speeches, iconic sports moments, and much more! Glossary of Key Terms: This back-of-the-book glossary contains terminology used throughout this book. Words found here increase the reader’s ability to read and comprehend higher-level books and articles in this field. Research Project: Readers are pointed toward an area of further inquiry that relates to each book and encourages deeper research and analysis. Introduction:............................................................ 6 Chapter 1: The South. .............................................. 9 Chapter 2: The North. ............................................ 23 Chapter 3: South-Central Italy................................ 35 Chapter 4: North-Central Italy. ............................... 49 Chapter 5: Italian Food in America........................... 63 Research Project. ................................................... 74 Glossary of Key Terms. ............................................ 75 Further Reading. ..................................................... 76 Internet Resources.................................................. 77 Index. .................................................................... 78 Author’s Biography & Credits................................... 80 contents

introduction Italian cuisine is a staple in many parts of the world. Many of the most popular foods in the United States, such as pizza and spaghetti, originated in Italy. Whether dining at a high-end Italian restaurant, or at home eating a pasta dish with family, Italian cuisine is a popular and well-known choice. Italy’s cuisine was created through a rich history that includes the Roman Empire. Many of the dishes began as an experimental fusion of many different flavors. It was about making do with what was available, and it varied widely from region to region and even town to town. There are Italian dishes that originated in certain regions of the country that can’t be found anywhere else in the world or even in other parts of Italy. Many Italian foods that are familiar to Americans come from the south of the country, like pasta and pizza. In the north, there is less usage of tomatoes and pasta and more rice and expensive ingredients. The two ends of the country have a variety of dishes that are very different from each other. In order to grasp the locations of the various cultures and regions, one must consider the country’s famous resemblance to footwear. If Italy is the shape of a boot, Southern Italy stretches from the heel to the toe and the ankle area. Slightly above the ankle is considered the South Central. The North Central is located more in the calf area, with the top of the boot boasting The North region. Furthermore, the eastern coastline is next to the Adriatic Sea, the sole of the boot lies along the Ionian Sea, and the western coastline looks out into the Ligurian and Tyrrhenian Seas. The regions containing the diverse Italian cuisines are:  The South: Sicily, Calabria, Basilicata, Puglia, Campania— characterized by bold flavors and fragrant herbs such as basil and oregano; also plenty of tomato, citrus and olive oil.  The North: Piemonte, Valle D’Aosta, Lombardy, Trentino



Alto Adige, Friuli Venezia Giulia—heavier reliance on butter over oil, and rice over pasta; also uses polenta and cream sauces.  South-Central: Molise, Lazio, Abruzzo, Marche, Sardinia— fresh seasonal ingredients are abundant and simply-prepared; black pepper, bitter greens and strong cheeses are prevalent.  North-Central: Tuscany, Umbria, Liguria, Emilia-Romagna, Veneto—here the food is simple, never

smothered in heavy sauce, and olive oil is featured in soups, stews and on salads.

Italy is a large country affected by several different climates—continental in the north, cold and wintry in the mountainous areas, windy in the central regions, and mild and warm along the Mediterranean coast. The chapters ahead will explore how climate, geography, and a rich and flourishing history affect the



different cuisines of Italy and how Italian food impacts America today.







INGREDIENTS: burrata, eggplant, saffron, cabbage, fava beans, escarole, tomatoes, garlic, olives, and anchovies

The South chapter

One ordinary morning in 79 CE, in a small town in what is now Southern Italy, bakers went to their shops and merchants started to put out their colorful array of fruits, vegetables, jewelry, and other goods. In an instant, the ground began to rumble. Those outside saw a thick cloud of smoke erupting from the top of the nearby mountain. For many in the city of Pompeii, it was already too late to run, and unfortunately, only a few survived. In fact, the day Mount Vesuvius destroyed Pompeii still ranks as one of the top ten deadliest volcanic eruptions in human history. The city lay under a thick layer of volcanic ash for hundreds of years, with everything in Pompeii perfectly preserved. The eruption of Mount Vesuvius was significant, not only as one of history’s great tragedies, but because it also demonstrated that volcanic ash was critical in maintaining the fertility of the soil, adding nutrients such as potassium and magnesium. All the diversity in Southern Italy’s cuisine is because of the fresh ingredients that can be grown in the region due to the nutrient-rich soil. Crops that grow around the volcano are renowned for their bitter taste, and they don’t grow anywhere else. This is because of the potash (potassium-based salts) in the soil. Friarielli cabbages are an example of a crop that is exceptionally rare, existing due to the soil and specific climate conditions.


The ruins of the ancient city of Pompeii, destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE.

The Origins of Southern Italian Cuisine Southern Italy has never been a particularly wealthy region. Instead, it’s always had a more agricultural working-class population. The dishes we attribute to Southern Italy were usually created by mothers finding new ways to feed their kids. A great example of this is sanguinaccio , a unique way of adding chocolate ingredients to pig’s blood in an effort to cover up the taste. This pudding-like concoction is sometimes used as a topping on meat—a trick to get kids to eat more protein. Many famous dishes have origins that trace back to specific chefs. That isn’t the case in Southern Italy. The most famous dishes



were created by regular people trying to make do with what they had. That’s part of why Southern Italian dishes are so inspirational to other communities. They are uncomplicated to prepare but imaginative in the process. While the expressiveness of chefs is certainly to be admired, it’s important to also appreciate the natural inspiration in ordinary people. There is, however, a staple crop in Italian food that didn’t originate in Italy. It didn’t even come from Europe, but rather, the Americas. Initially cultivated for centuries by Indigenous farmers (such as the Aztecs) in Mexico, the tomato was brought to Europe by Spanish conquistadors, and it quickly spread to what we now know as Southern Italy. Since then, Southern Italian farmers have cultivated several new kinds of tomatoes, and cooks at all levels have fully embraced them in their cuisine.

Sanguinaccio is the product of combining pig’s blood and chocolate.

Chapter 1: The South


Naples Naples is one of the oldest continuously inhabited human settlements in Europe, with roots in the Neolithic Era around 2000 BCE. There are certainly older sites, but most were eventually abandoned. Naples is a rare exception. It became a colony of Greece in the 8 th century BCE before it was refounded as “Neopolis.” In 327 CE, Naples joined the Roman Empire and was one of the cities affected by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Even though the surrounding cities were severely damaged or destroyed, Naples was left standing.

Tomatoes are not native to Italy, but are a staple ingredient of Italian cooking.

The city would become part of Spain and then part of the Holy Roman Empire before it was finally brought into the Kingdom of Italy in 1860. Today, it is the home of around one million people and the official home of pizza. Naples has more to offer than just pizza and pasta. Street food is important in the city, and sidewalk vendors can be found selling local favorites such as veal snout, pig feet, and pastries. In homes and restaurants, foods like stuffed fried escarole (a thick cabbage with a bitter taste) can be found. This vegetable is stuffed with ingredients like garlic, olives, anchovies, and cheese before it is fried.



Pig’s feet are a favorite snack on the streets of Naples.

Pizza Like many Italian dishes, pizza was created by everyday people. Its ingredients were simple and inexpensive. Pizza started its popularity as street food sometime before the 1500s, and to this day, it is common to see people eating slices on the sidewalks of Naples. Pizza isn’t a particularly complicated food to make, so similar dishes have been made by adding random toppings to bread. The legend of the first modern pizza involves Raffaele Esposito, a chef who in 1889 decided to make a special dish for Queen Margherita, which she loved so much, he named his creation after her. A Pizza Margherita is the standard in Naples, consisting of dough topped with mozzarella, tomato, and basil. After 1889, pizza became more popular and spread outside of Italy. It has inspired dishes not only in the United States but in India, Mexico, China, and many more locations.

Chapter 1: The South


Today, Naples throws an annual festival known as Napoli Pizza Village to celebrate its famous dish, which is one of the biggest events in the country. Cheese Please Naples is located in the Campania region, which is famous for its burrata (a soft mixture of cheese curds and cream formed to make a

ball) and buffalo mozzarella (made with the milk of a local buffalo). Buffalo’s milk has lower levels of carotene, making it lighter on the stomach.


Naples is famous worldwide for its pizza, but in Italy, it is also well known for its coffee and cafés. Coffee is a symbol of warmth and life to Neapolitans. In fact, a practice evolved during World War II where someone with extra money would order their coffee and one “ caffè sospeso ” or one coffee “on hold.” So, anyone who wanted a coffee but couldn’t afford one could go to a café and ask if there were any caffé sopesos. When the answer was yes, they would be served their coffee. This fell out of practice over the decades. Italy was the first country outside of Asia to be economically devastated by the global coronavirus pandemic in early 2020. So, in a testament to how Italian people treasure tradition and look out for each other, coffees were again put “on hold” in their cafés. Not only that, but entire meals were also bought and reserved for others. Due to social media, the practice ended up spreading beyond Naples. This is a beautiful example of how food is a form of cultural communication. A way of saying, “I’ve got you.”



In Naples, pizza has been the ultimate street food in one form or another for more than 500 years.

Chapter 1: The South


Campania is also the home of spaghetti and several other types of pasta. It is the part of Southern Italy that benefits the most from the ash of Mount Vesuvius. Sicily Low-income places tend to have higher crime rates and lower life expectancies. However, they also tend to have intense familial and community bonds. Sicily is no exception. Sicilians enjoy having get togethers which involve preparing and eating many Italian dishes. Large feasts are also important in Sicilian culture as festivals are regularly thrown in the streets.

Lemons grow near Taormina Beach on the island of Sicily. Citrus fruits are an important part of Sicilian cuisine.



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