Sunday, October 7, 2007

A Primer on Italian Meals

Figuring what my first "real" post should be is proving to be a bit perplexing, so I think I'll begin with a quick overview of how meals are structured in Italy.

Breakfast ("colazione"), is very simple in Italy and usually consists of some sort of starch (bread or a pastry) and some source of caffeine (coffee with milk or capuccino). Often, it is more convenient to purchase breakfast in a bar, where the coffee and pastries are almost guaranteed to be delicious. Where I live, my roommate and I each receive one white roll, which we spread with butter or jam (or, lately, "crema alle nocciole", better known as Nutella) and wash it all down with a cup of coffee or black tea (I'm beginning to think I should switch to coffee, since good tea in Italy is hard to come by). This, of course, isn't really a stick-to-your-ribs meal, so I usually supplement my breakfast with a piece of fruit.

The Ubiquitous Nutella

Lunch ("pranzo") used to be the main meal of the day in Italy, when everyone would come home from work or school and enjoy a leisurely meal together. Nowadays, many Italians take a light lunch in the form of a sandwich or salad, much like we do in the US. My host family, however, still eats a large midday meal around 1:00 in the afternoon, complete with a pasta dish (primo piatto), a meat dish (secondo piatto), and a vegetable or side dish (contorno).

Dinner in Italy is consumed considerably later than in the US, so an afternoon snack ("merenda" or "spuntino") around 4:00 is almost necessary. This is especially true for young children, who, like me, favor bread or bananas with Nutella.

Finally, dinner ("cena") is eaten around 8:00 (perhaps later but usually not earlier). For Italians who make lunch their main meal, like my host family, dinner is generally very light - perhaps a bit of meat or other protein, a vegetable side dish or salad, and fresh fruit for dessert (dolci). I, on the other hand, have class all day and tend to eat lunch on the go. When it comes to dinner, though, Linda prepares a veritable feast, complete with primo piatto, secondo, contorno, and dolci. The following photos are gathered from some of my first meals with Linda and her husband, Sergio.

Penne with a subtly spicy tomato sauce and green olives

Pan-fried pork chops with rosemary, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar

Potatoes sauteed with olive oil and seasoned with plenty of salt and rosemary

Late-summer Italian fruit: pesce, prugne, e uve

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