If I have budget, I will do it. Unfortunately, I don't.
The only problem I see with Italy is everything in the Country is Italian. I see Italy as more of an old world approach to cooking.
I think I have to respectfully disagree with you on this one.
Italy's cuisine is a blend of traditions from all over the world from Arabic, Greek and North African influences in the South to Spanish and Eastern Europe in Central Italy to France, German and Austrian influences in Northern Italy.
Historically speaking, Italy, in particular Sicily and Southern Italy, served as one of the crossroads between Europe and Middle East. The Roman trade routes to the East went through Sicily all the way to present day Jordan, Iraq and Syria. Ancient inventory lists from Roman soldiers that occupied that region showed one of the food staples they used was a dried pasta-like food made from durum wheat that was grown in the Middle East. They would boil it in water and flavor it with whatever they had on hand such as spice and combine it with vegetables and meats such as mutton or lamb.
These records date back more than a thousand years before Marco Polo ever went to the China. The exact means of how pasta came to Italy is debated. Some say Arab travelers and traders brought it with them. Others say it was brought back to Italy by Roman soldiers. But, even if we assume for argument's sake that Marco Polo brought "noodles" back to Italy from Asia, its origins are not "Italian." Yet, we can't say the word "pasta" without associating it with Italian cuisine.
Other Arabic influences are seen in Italian cuisine as well. The concept of stuffing vegetables is patently Arabic. Durum wheat grown in Italy came from the Middle East.
Another example is the combination of nuts, fruits and sugar into delicious desserts is Arabic in origin. Point in fact, Sfoliattele, which is a Sicilian pastry typically filled with ricotta, candied orange peel and sometimes flavored with a bit of almond paste or some other type of pasted nuts, is decidedly Arabic in origin. Prior to the introduction of Arabic confections to Sicily, freshly pressed wine juice and honey were the sweeteners of choice.
Then we have Central and Northern Italy. Naples, for example, was one of Italy's busiest ports and one of the most conquered cities in all of Europe. The Kingdom of Naples has had French, Spanish, Croatian, Serbian and Austrian kings sit on its throne. Likewise, other Italian city states such as Milan and Venice also had a number of foreign rulers. To this day, the diverse ethnic influences from these foreign rulers can still be seen in Italian cuisine in these regions.
How about tomatoes? They didn't come to Europe until after the New World was discovered in the late 15th century. Even then, tomatoes would not find their way into mainstream Italian cuisine for at least another century or so. But, when they finally did, it shaped the face of Italian cuisine that we know today. When we think of "Salsa di Pomodoro," we think "Italian" even though Italians probably weren't the first to make a sauce from tomatoes.
Ever make stuffed tomatoes? That dish is the essence of Arabic and Western cuisine coming together on one plate.
How about Eggplant? Who doesn't like Eggplant Parmesan? Eggplant came from India and was introduced to Italy and the rest of Europe by Arabic travelers.
How about Bolognese? That didn't originate in Italy. While no one knows for sure where it came from, the leading theory is that it originated somewhere in the Eastern Germany/Slavik corridor of Europe. Yet, when someone mentions Pasta Bolognese, they instantly think "Italian."
How about meatballs? There's a long standing debate over where meatballs originated. Some say Sweden. Some say Italy. Others say France. But, when someone says "meatballs" we instantly think Italian, unless, of course, someone says "Swedish meatballs" and then we think of little brown balls soaked in a rich brown mushroom gravy.
How about the distinct similarities between the Italian tradition of "La Cucina Povera" and the French Peasant tradition? Is it a mere coincidence that Cassoulet and Cacciatore share such close similarities?
How about Beef Bourguignon? Braising meat in red wine? Is that Italian or French? The answer to that depends on which side of the Alps you're standing on when you ask that question.
Then there are the Spanish, German, Eastern European, Greek, North African and Portuguese influences that I won't get into here.
While its definitely not my purpose to impugn French cuisine in any way, my purpose here is to bring into relief the often overlooked importance and value of Italian cuisine and its rich and diverse history and influences.
Writing something like this is what happens when you have too much espresso. Did I mention that the concept of drinking a small cup of intensely strong coffee is also Arabic??
Thanks for indulging me.
See that's funny, I always thought of Bolognese as having French influence. After all Bolognese is a ragù, and the word ragù comes from ragoût, a classic French stew dish: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ragù#HistoryHow about Bolognese? That didn't originate in Italy. While no one knows for sure where it came from, the leading theory is that it originated somewhere in the Eastern Germany/Slavik corridor of Europe. Yet, when someone mentions Pasta Bolognese, they instantly think "Italian."
I'm not following you here... what similarities exactly?Is it a mere coincidence that Cassoulet and Cacciatore share such close similarities?