Saturday, 9 November 2013

My Top 10 Issues with Italian Eating Habits

I know that over the past few weeks I've been giving us Brits (and Americans) a bit of a hard time with my top 10 lists so this week I decided that it was time to pick on the Italians for a change. They may have arguably the best cuisine in the world but, when it comes to food, like all nations, Italians are not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. So here are my top 10 issues with Italian eating habits.

1. Italian food is the be all and end all
It may be a bit of a stereotype but there is some truth to it! For some Italians, it doesn't matter how good a dish is, if it hasn't been a part of the Italian diet for at least 100 years then there will always be something about it which doesn't quite cut the mustard.

2. Desserts
I’m probably going to get into a bit of trouble for saying this but I think Italian desserts are really quite uninspiring! Yes a good panna cotta is nice, and tiramisu is OK I suppose, but for a nation of foodies is that really the best they have to offer? Give me a sticky toffee pudding any day of the week!

3. Cookery shows
Can you believe that in Italy they’ve translated Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson and James Martin’s TV shows into Italian? I can! It’s because, like a lot of Italian TV, most of their cookery shows are really quite clich├ęd and outdated!

4. Spicy foods
My boyfriend’s father, like many Italians I know, won’t eat anything with any spices in. No cumin, coriander, turmeric, cardamom, nothing! I could maybe understand an aversion to chilli powder but what’s so offensive about cumin!?

5. Supermarkets
Don’t get me wrong, maybe this isn’t entirely bad, but being from the UK, I’m used to the luxury of being able to find any ingredient I need at any time of the year. It can be really frustrating in Italy when I head to the supermarket for something specific and 50% of the time can’t find it because they “haven’t got it in that week”. Apart from pasta that is. They always have pasta…

6. The primo-secondo thing
Almost every restaurant in Italy follows the primo and secondo rule, even Chinese and Indian restaurants. First they bring you your rice or noodles and, when you’ve finished, they bring the meat! Most of the time when I ask for my fried rice and chicken in cashew nuts to be brought at the same time they look at me as if I’ve got two heads! What is that all about?!

7. Foreign food
I couldn’t believe my eyes the first time my boyfriend took me to an Indian restaurant in Pisa and the Italian family on the table next to me, obviously first time customers, were holding up their plates and sniffing the food like gone-off milk. Bizarre!

8. Italianisation
There may be a bit of a pattern may be emerging here but any food which is not of Italian origin is often ‘translated’ so Chinese noodles become ‘spaghetti’, a British pie is a ‘savoury cake’, any rice dish is a ‘risotto’ and so on. Some Italians seem incapable of accepting new terms for new foods since, naturally, they are all simply adaptations of the Italian original!

9. Beer

They may have Peroni, but a lot of Italians have quite a limited experience when it comes to beer. I’ve tried many times to explain that British ale is really quite different from their fizzy lager but they don’t seem to get it. They don’t have cider either, which is a shame. Although my liver is all the better for it!

10. Gravy
You can take the girl out of the north but you can’t take the north out of the girl! I know I’m a saddo but it really upsets me when I cook a roast dinner for Italians and they refer to my gravy as a ‘sauce’! It’s not a sauce, it’s gravy, for a northern girl like me, they are two entirely different things!

I love Italians and Italian food more than anyone I know but I do think that some need to open their eyes a little to the other great foods available to them. Of course this doesn’t apply to all Italians; my Italian boyfriend is probably one of the most adventurous, open minded eaters I’ve ever met and would quite happily eat a different cuisine every night if it were up to him! I do think that things in Italy are changing and that the younger generations are increasingly opening their minds to foreign food but they've still got quite a way to go…


  1. Beth, love reading your comments re "Italian" food habits. Very interesting! I am with you. Italian desserts are very uninspiring, but that is the same with a lot of other cultures. I've never eaten a Chinese dessert I enjoyed either. The British are the best in my opinion, followed by the French, and North American's combine the best of all dessert cultures in a bit of an orgasmic overload of indulgence. Gravy is gravy and sauce is sauce, and never the twain shall meet! xxoo

    1. Thanks Marie! I think British desserts are my favourite too! Probably because I've got a very sweet tooth!

  2. Italian cuisine is my absolute favourite, and I could happily eat nothing else. I agree with you about the desserts, but as I can take or leave them in general anyway, it isn't an issue for me.
    Tell me, do you eat chips and gravy? I know this is a Northern delicacy, as I come from there myself, LOL.
    I found you via Marie's FB page.

    1. Hi Tracey, thanks for getting in touch. Unfortunately since I moved to Italy I've stopped eating a lot of Northern delicacies, chips and gravy included, although I was always more of a chips and mushy peas fan myself!

  3. That is so funny about the primo/secondo order of courses being followed in Chinese and Indian restaurants! And I totally agree about the desserts. ;)

    1. Thanks Carly! It's nice to know that I'm not the only one!

  4. I can see your point on most of these and they did make me smile :)

  5. ps This month's Pasta Please challenge is mushrooms, if you can manage to get an entry in by the 28th.

    1. Thanks Jacqueline, I'll get my thinking cap on and try and post a dish over the weekend!

  6. Your blog is amazing! An Italian living in the UK...and sometimes I think I should do the same...!!