Editor: Patrick Coyne
Each culture has traits regarding their dietary habits that are specific to the indigenous people and their regions. Italians are unique in that eating is a necessity to live, both literally and figuratively. It is a feast for the body and the soul. Dining is about comfort, love, and family. This is especially evident in the portrayal of Italians in cinema. Rarely does a movie with a predominantly Italian cast not have a scene in which food is the true star. Everything from Moonstruck to Everybody wants to be Italian stresses the importance of food to the Italian people and the true nourishment it provides.
Moonstruck stars Cher as a widow living with her perpetually bickering and intrusive parents, who decides it’s time to get married again, and accepts the proposal of a man she does not love. The plot thickens when she falls in love with her fiancees estranged brother, Ronnie. My father often cites this movie as one of his favorites because of how much the it reminds him of his Italian upbringing. The characters are finely nuanced Italian-Americans, rather than simplistic stereotypes. More importantly, food plays an integral role in the story. Ronnie, played by Nicholas Cage, works as a baker and the film reaches its climax in Cher’s kitchen. All the complicated romances, affairs, and grudges, reach their boiling point in the kitchen, which acts as the heart of the Italian household.
Beyond the more obvious, practical uses of the kitchen, films will use it and the subsequent dining room as a place for family. Grievances are aired, jokes are made at others expenses but the kitchen serves as a place of fulfillment. The family, while eating dinner will often times assume the role of the chorus in the plays of Ancient Rome. They represent the thoughts of the audience and act as a sounding board for the main character, discouraging(or adding to) their neuroses and concerns.
The physical act of cooking is often used as a metaphor that exemplifies that famous Italian passion. There’s a sensual nature to the way Italian food is prepared. A meticulous, yet heartfelt process that has been passed down through generations like a precious family heirloom.
The film Everyone wants to be Italian follows another lovelorn protagonist, as he navigates through complicated relationships and amusing mishaps, with his family serving as the peanut gallery. Despite the family’s occasionally misguided advice, it’s almost always given with good intentions. There’s a certain loyalty and trust that has been created through the act of the meal. The Italian dinner is a time of family where a true and unique bond is formed. The care and attention taken into preparing the meal, is equaled by the passion and respect shown towards each individual that forms the family.
The dining experience in an Italian household is something that not everyone is lucky enough to have seen first hand. The second best option is experiencing it on film. When it’s done correctly, it’s like having a chair at the head of the table.
For great recipes get your copy of the best selling book The Basic Art of Italian Cooking at http://www.marialiberati.com
Join me at The Basic Art of Italian Cooking by Maria Liberati tm cooking school and villa September 23-Oct 6th, 2009 for 6 nights 7 days of cooking classes, visits to vineyards and wine tastings, sightseeing and more, all while staying at the villa nestled in a small village in the hills of Umbria. All meals, ocoking classes ,sightseeing, transport to and from Rome-Fiumicino airport included. Limited to12 guests only. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for info and to register
Mangia Bene, Vivi Bene,