1. No one seems to care about breakfast
There are few things to be found at the italian breakfast table. At least not at the ones I sat at. Maybe it’s because italian dinners tend to be very late and very rich but the chocolate croissant and espresso you can order for 3 euros in every train-station cafe? I’m afraid that’s a myth. The reality tastes a lot more like…Rice crackers. Rice crackers with Tahini and honey, rice crackers with homemade jam, rice crackers with hazelnut chocolate-spread. Sometimes there is leftover tiramisu. Sometimes there are cookies which are to be dipped into coffee. I knew one very proud Tuscan man, scrawny and muscular, who had the habit of drowning five palm-sized sugar-coated butter biscuits in a bowl of milk and called it a morning. La Dolce Vita.
2. Coffee is a science
It really is and I am not claiming that I’ve unraveled the entire mystery but here are a couple of unspoken rules. For one, Cappuccino is not to be enjoyed after eleven. For whatever reason. One Italian literally told me ones that he considers milk and coffee to be a weird combination in general.
Instead espresso is the way to go. And if you feel like having a little milk foam on top of your coffee ordering an espresso macchiato is what’s going to get you the least amount of raised eyebrows.
3. So is pasta
Italians eat a lot of pasta. Obviously. And I love pasta. I ate pasta I made myself. I ate pasta with tomato passata I harvested the tomatoes for. Pasta drenched in olive oil I harvested the olives for. I love pasta but the Italians love it more. In fact, the average italian eats a good 100 grams of pasta a day (that’s an actual statistic) and of course there are certain rules which ought to be obeyed. I’ll make it short:
- Always salt the water
- Never salt the pasta
- Pasta with egg is not to be eaten with Carbonara Sauce (it’s to heavy)
- Tagliatelle are exclusively for Ragout
- For a lady, it’s more appropriate to eat 90 grams of pasta instead of 100
- Pasta is to be eaten with a fork and only with a fork
4. Eat seasonal, eat simple
One Italian once told me: “I don’t eat tomatoes after August anymore, they are too acidic”. I don’t even think my taste buds are acquired enough to differentiate supermarket tomatoes from the ones that fight for their life in our garden, let alone how much sun they’ve enjoyed throughout the year. But quality is important in Italy and I think it’s because the famous cucina italiana is in essence very simple. Beautifully simple. How about a Bruschetta for example? All you need are five ingredients. Sun-ripened juicy tomatoes, aromatic basil, olive oil, freshly baked sourdough bread and garlic. Toast the bread, rub it with a garlic clove, chop the tomatoes, drench everything in olive oil and garnish with a basil leave. Or how about Pizza? With freshly made dough, kneaded to perfection, spread out thinly. Topped with tomato passata, basil and the mildest mozzarella di bufala you’ve ever had. Easy.
5. Eating is a social occasion
I love how holy lunch and dinner hours are. Everyone drops whatever they are doing to come together and eat. During lunch hours no one calls- not even those people who try to talk to you about insurances or customer reviews. There are usually several different dishes spread out over the table. Even if it is just some hurriedly dressed up green beans accompanying the pasta. Dinners drag on into the night until the children collapse onto the labs of their parents, mouth wide open, sleeping. Warm. Just the thought of all this makes me feel warm inside. La Dolce Vita is a simple one.