By: Felicia LaLomia, ISDA Contributor
I love food. Anyone who knows me, knows that.
In fact, my whole family loves food so much, when we go out to eat or cook on the weekends, we do something we call “dining.”
When most people cook or order in or eat out, they go through the motions. Everyone orders and eats what they want. It’s simple, quick, and meant to nourish the body from hunger.
But when my family is “dining,” it’s a whole different experience. We do what waitstaff (not so fondly) call “camping out.” We set up shop. We take our time. We leisurely look at the menu. We order one course at a time and often stay at the restaurant for four or five hours. (I’m sure my fellow paesani can relate.)
If we are cooking at home, we start eating around the early afternoon and don’t stop until nine or ten at night, pausing every hour or so to cook, prepare and devour the next course. We enjoy, we share, we laugh, we eat and we drink. The experience is about more than just hunger; it’s about traditions that have been passed down through generations, from the old country to the new.
As I go through this crazy ride of life, I have started to observe that some people do not see food the way most Italian-Americans see it. Food is not loved or appreciated or enjoyed, but treated as an inconvenience, a necessary stop in the day, like the need to fuel up your car. People don’t always share the same connection we have with food, forever in search of the perfect bite—the most glorious combination of ingredients that dance around so gracefully in the mouth, it makes you say “oh my God.”
My recent trip to Sicily was certainly a full-out love affair with all things Italian, and that includes the food. But it was also an eye opener, that what my family does with “dining” is an integral part of other countries’ cultures. Like in Sicily, “dining” is the norm not the exception.
It can be most easily observed by going into a restaurant. Open up the menu and see a breakdown of courses: Antipasto, Primo, Secondo, Dessert. Four full courses meant to be ordered as such. And it’s a lot of food. So much so, it covers two meals: lunch and dinner.
I understand our culture. We live in a society that values a fast-paced work life and a go-go-go mentality.
And the culture of our food reflects that. But every once in a while, remind your friends to eat like an Italian. Encourage them to plan their day around food instead of planning food around their day. Take them on a food tour. Share a new recipe. Teach others on what we grew up knowing: to enjoy every bite, because after all, these coveted dishes and recipes nourish more than the body—they nourish the soul.