Diventare cucina tipica: i prodotti del Nuovo Mondo sulla tavola italiana
Canup, Elise Bernadette
While most people are aware of the extent to which the discovery of the Americas changed world history, few consider the impact of New World flora and fauna on the eating habits of the Old World. Even Italy, which held no colonies or influence across the Atlantic, was radically changed at this basic level by the new plant and animal species discovered thousands of miles away. While dishes such as pizza margherita and gnocchi al pomodoro may seem as essentially Italian as Michelangelo's David and the Coliseum, they are much later arrivals on the scene. What Italians today consider cucina tipica, or traditional cuisine, has not been around as long as one might expect. A huge influence on Italian gastronomy, the Colombian Exchange introduced Italians to a myriad of possible new food products, dramatically altering their cuisine. With a focus on five ingredients of North and South American origin - the turkey, maize, potatoes, tomatoes, and peppers- this paper examines to what extent and under what circumstances Italians came to adopt New World species into their cooking. The article takes into consideration primary sources as far ranging as renaissance paintings, nineteenth century medical texts, and contemporary political propaganda to trace the incorporation of these new plants into the Italian kitchen. These documents help us to understand which species prospered in the land south of the Alps and which were rejected, as well as to appreciate the political, social, and cultural circumstances which favored or impeded their adoption. The transformation of these ingredients from exotic curiosities into everyday foodstuffs reveals the extent to which cooking and eating are dynamic fields that change in response to larger social and historical phenomena.
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