"Peasant Food"

Paul Morrone |

Recently I wrote about my Italian obsession with food and received many comments from people. That is awesome for several reasons.

1-It is always rewarding to know that people are actually reading what is being written.

2-Many people shared their similar circumstances regarding the Italian food obsession issue.

3-People take the time to comment about their own experiences.

4-This food obsession is far bigger than just me and is way beyond being Italian.

To continue with the food concept, I often think about how so many fabulous dishes have very similar ingredients and the recipes are very simple to make. In many cases the ingredients are very inexpensive and the meals are very hardy and feed large numbers of people. These characteristics have historically referred to these types of dishes as “peasant food”.

Now I am as Italian as they come so please do not be offended by the peasant food comment. Let me explain. Take pasta for instance. I referred to the numerous types of pasta in my prior writing so I will not duplicate that now. The point is, pick your pasta of preference, some tomato sauce, a little parmesan cheese, a basil leaf on top and you have a meal. Add a loaf of bread for dipping in the sauce and you have that much heartier of a meal. Of course some wine would not hurt. The peasant food reference stems from living off the land and making due with what you had. Usually the pasta and bread was home-made, the tomato sauce was made from the tomatoes, garlic and spices from the garden. And the wine, well there is always wine somewhere. What makes these dishes more expensive is when you introduce the various types of fish, pork, veal and beef.

Another familiar Italian peasant food is pane cotto. The ingredients are basically Italian bread, escarole, cannellini beans, oil, garlic, spices, pepper and parmesan cheese. Bake this in a casserole dish and you have a nice hearty meal. Don’t forget the wine. Even some of the ingredients of the pane cotto recipe are ingredients for other dishes such as the escarole and cannellini beans. This combination makes a heck of a soup when you mix them with some chicken broth. Another item I enjoyed as a kid was fried zucchini flowers….something you rarely see on a menu but when I do see them I always order.

What I always loved growing up was watching my mom throw a dinner together for a family of five even when there was “nothing in the house to eat”. We never went hungry in my house but I do appreciate the peasant food mentality. I still do and will continue to eat peasant food and enjoy it now as much as ever. Mangia, mangia!

Until the Next Tom’s Take…