Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Marc Soucy on Wine Culture: How to Approach Small Food Part 1

HOW TO APPROACH SMALL FOOD  Part 1

Question:   Where Does This Dish Come From?


Take a Moment. Guess in Which Country I was Served This A Few Days Ago.


tick tock tick tock



The answer is:




Italy.




Yes. I just got back from a wonderful trip to the Veneto region of Italy, where several times I was served meals that consisted of small portions of very varied ingredients. These pictures are just some of them. 
Wine Culture is a major focus of mine, and this topic has come up many times during my travels and conversations with primarily my fellow Americans, about the nature of these small portions you get from certain European cuisines. I'd like to shed a little light on what this is all about, and invite others to chime in as well. Frankly, it's a topic that is often only whispered about, and rarely discussed that openly.

Well, let's do that.



This is PART 1:


I've written about the influence of the Roman Empire and of Italy on the wine world in the past (see here). One of the influences was the celebration of life, of the harvest, and of their success, through a sampling of the many dishes they could invent with the ingredients they had come to have access to.       Variety is the spice of life. 

La Dolce Vita. 

Instead of making a roast and a pile of root vegetables for a celebratory meal as was--and is--common in the more northern European countries, the Mediterranean countries followed the Roman model of smaller portions of more varied things. It reminded them, and does today, of just how good life can be. It reminds them of success.

Add to this the fact that mealtime is considered a major social gathering in these countries, and not a refueling stop, and you have the makings of a slow procession of small plates, each meant to be an experience on its own, and contributing to the whole event. They each stimulate conversation, stimulate the mind and body, and truly celebrate life in the region you are in, so to speak. The ingredients are usually from nearby--just as in the farm-to-table movement in today's America--and for this reason dictate a regional uniqueness to the food. For these reasons, it's not uncommon for a major meal to take several hours, something unthinkable to many Americans.

Indeed the dishes pictured above bear little resemblance to what most Americans picture when they think of "Italian food":

Italian American classic: Spaghetti and Meatballs
Delicious but not Authentically Italian
It is also important to this discussion to bring up two other countries:  France and Spain

France's cuisine has been in the forefront of fine dining for Americans going back over two centuries. Our Founding Fathers were in love with French cooking. There have been hiccups along the way, but largely, French cuisine has improved almost everyone else's expectations from their meals. (ref: Julia Child) The complex and laborious techniques used are the main source of this inspiration. True, French dining is also known for its more formal aspects, but in fact, it has a very informal and "comfort food" side to it as well. 

Spain's cuisine is most famous for their Tapas. And what are they? Small sharable plates that inspire a variety of experience, conversation, and well, FUN.  Sound familiar? Spanish cooking has enormous variety that exists within a definitely identifiable style and range of flavors. The communal aspect to the meal reinforces the social gathering function of eating together, and again, celebrates life and nature's bounty.   

There is so much to say about small food, a single blog article is insufficient. 
So, I'll continue this discussion in upcoming articles. 

Please stay tuned and Visit here again. 

 -- Marc Soucy, FWS CSW WSET
APICS  CPIM
Marc Wine Blog

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