What I learned about eating in Italy
Sharing what a recent trip to Italy taught me about meals, food, portion sizes and what it means to truly enjoy your food.
One of my favorite parts about traveling is, of course, the food.
Growing up, we weren’t the most adventurous family when it came to eating. We typically ate the same foods, but I still learned about lot of eating and health from my mom.
However, in high school my eating habits changed a bit. I think I can trace it back to when I got my own job (i.e. paycheck) and starting dating my boyfriend (now husband!) Dan. We loved going out to nice restaurants on the weekends. That slowly evolved into trying new foods, which eventually evolved from eating at a french restaurant in the city to actually eating in France.
Last month, we fulfilled our dream of going to the Tuscany Region of Italy together.
It was a trip beyond our expectations! Of course the food and wine were amazing, but I learned so much about the idea of “eating” from the people of Italy.
Eating in Italy
Italy is full of amazing tasting food. That is no surprise. However, the people of Italy view food as so much more.
- Eating is a celebration and shared with friends and family
- There is no rushing, it’s meant to be enjoyed and savored
- No matter the time of day, meals take between 1-3 hours
- Many dishes revolve around pasta, but the pasta is often made in-house, from scratch
- The special changes nightly, dependent upon the fresh catch of the day
- Produce is usually sourced locally
- They let the food and ingredients speak for itself. Salad isn’t drowning in ranch, it’s lightly dressed with amazing olive oil and fresh lemon. Pasta is often served with fresh tomatoes, a bit of parmesan cheese, fresh cracked pepper and olive oil.
- Dinner is typically 3 courses: appetizer, entree, dessert
- Appetizers are typically fresh salads drizzled with olive oil or steamed fish with fresh herbs and flavors. Nothing fried, breaded, dripping in cheese, etc.
- Entrees are the main course and nothing but the main course. No sides, additions, or extras. Just the main course in all it’s delicious, indulgent glory.
- Entree portion sizes are appropriate – about 1 cup of pasta, a 5 oz steak. Enough to delight your taste buds without leaving you busting the button on your pants.
- Desserts are rich, decadent and delicious but small and often shared
- There wasn’t a lot of snacking going on in Italy
- People ate breakfast, lunch and dinner but rarely anything in between
- Even at the beach we went to, the people there socialized, maybe had a cocktail and swam. No one had a bag full of chips, candy, or other junk food.
- People in Italy walk everywhere. The cities we went to were compact enough that you could walk and still see everything
- One of my favorite things to do was walk home after a long, leisurely dinner. It was so much nicer to move around than just get in a car and drive back home like we do here
- At the beach, everyone swam. Everyone. Babies, kids, moms, dads, even grandpa and grandmas. That’s just what you do when you are at the beach.
- If you ask anyone for directions, they automatically tell you how many blocks you have to walk. It’s just assumed that your mode of transportation is walking.
I love a culture that’s passionate about food.
The people we met in Italy loved to talk, live, cook and eat amazing food.
Teaching My Children about Food & Culture
Meals were shared and celebrated. Children grow up learning about cooking and food at a young age. I can’t wait to bring my kids next time and get them started learning about other countries and cuisine thru travel. In the meantime, I absolutely love the idea behind the blog Wanderspice. They are exposing their little ones to different cultures and food but while at home! Making recipes from around the world in their very own kitchen…there pictures and recipes are stunning!
Have you ever been to Italy? I highly recommend a trip and can’t wait to go back myself!