A series of anecdotes with or without any connection to the running of a restaurant.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Pardonnez mon Italien....

You may know that I am very busy at the moment getting our Tapas Bar finished for opening hopefully around the 25th January. So, I haven't had time to write anything. However, I have cheated and this is the very second posting I made on my blog back in August. I never got a comment but, as it is still topical, I am sure it will stir up a little discussion.

There is a rumour going about in Italy that only genuine Italian restaurants ought to be called Italian restaurants...
I agree, because anyone who tells us that we run Italian restaurants will get a earful. We run Mediterranean restaurants!
"Neither of my restaurants has ever pretended to call itself Italian!"
Yes, we serve pastas and pizzas in one but so what?

When I was a kid back in Algeria, my mother cooked some of the best pasta dishes I have ever tasted. Did she say we were having Italian food for lunch? No, sir! For her, it was just food.

Just try any pub, restaurant or greasy spoon caff anywhere in Britain or even the world for that matter, you will invariably find a couple of pasta dishes on the menu. Are they all trying to be Italian? No, sir!

I think there is more to this Italian idea than meets the eye. Their main aim is to try and encourage restaurants to buy genuine Italian produce before they can call themselves Italian. That way they are bound to increase their exports of Parma ham, Parmesan and Mozzarella...

I am certain that our Gordon Ramsay won't mind changing his name to Giordano Ramsio just because he happens to have crab ravioli on his menu.

I have to admit that this is a tremendously cunning plan and I congratulate the Italians for coming up with it first, before the Chinese, French, Indians, Thai, Greeks, Spaniards, etc...

However, the fact remains that there is nothing whatsoever wrong with making Lasagna using British pasta, a stir-fry using Spanish onions or a Balti using French cauliflower.Anyone who says they can taste the difference is either an expert or an expert fibber!

Come on, let's be honest! Who is then that knicked noodles from the Chinese and called them Spaghetti? Do you know??? Moi, je le sais! Et vous?

I hope that the Spanish won't be upset that I am opening a Tapas Bar and calling it Casa del Mar...


Blogger annie said...

Too true Cream. Also I think anybody running a restaurant in Britain would be in real trouble if they claim to offer British cuisine, knowing how highly our food is regarded (ahem) by the world in general, even the natives. Fish a la chips, anybody?

PS - good luck with the opening.

14/1/06 7:54 PM  
Blogger Wendy said...

So who nicked the noodles from the Chinese?

I agree you can't taste the difference between local ingredients and the 'real' thing...for most things. But what about stuff like balsamic vinegar and olive oil etc etc..what do you say?

14/1/06 8:56 PM  
Blogger Wendy said...

BTW - I mean - when did pasta become an Italian staple? And why.

14/1/06 8:58 PM  
Blogger ValGalArt said...

so you can only call it italian in italy or if you are italian? where do they draw the line? hope all is well in the world of food, cream!

15/1/06 1:10 AM  
Blogger Viking054 said...

What if you're half Italian?

Oh well, doesn't matter to me where it comes from. As long as it tastes right! I grew up on my (100% Italian) grandma's pasta, so I can be a little picky :)

15/1/06 4:19 AM  
Blogger euro-trac said...

Hi.. I've been wanting to read your blog a bit better before leaving a comment.
I love tapas, wish you lived nearer to me!
Good luck with the opening and your bar looks great!
As for grits.. you won't be needing them!? They're horrible porridgey things that for some reason are put on the same plate as your egg and bacon breakfast in the Southern States. They seem to be quite proud of them! I much prefer one or two small Spanish dishes and a glass of Cava myself!:-)

15/1/06 12:10 PM  
Blogger euro-trac said...

Oooops! I've just read back what I said. I didn't actually mean I wanted Cava for breakfast! (Well not everyday anyway....)

15/1/06 3:29 PM  
Blogger cream said...

Annie, I like that! Fish a la chips! Thanks for wish!

Wendy, I believe it was Marco Polo. He pinched a root and started growing his own spaghetti trees when he arrived back to Italy:)
I'm not sure when Pasta become staple food in Italy. If you know, please tell us!

Val, all is well in the world of food! It's the Euro politicians who try to put in their grain of salt!

Viking, if you're half Italian you're only allowed to cook half-portions!
That's it really! "As long as it tastes right" I couldn't care who did the cooking!

Thanks for the return visit, Trac. I am sure that London and Greewich have their fair share of Tapas Bars! They're only now catching on up the North-East!
Cava for breakfast and why not?
I finished my last mirror this afternoon! Will post photos when it's all cleaned up!

15/1/06 7:05 PM  
Blogger Caroline said...

Hi Cream - hope the mirrors are coming along well - will you be posting pictures soon?

15/1/06 9:10 PM  
Blogger DCveR said...

As long as you don't pretend to have a Portuguese restaurant you're ok! ;)

15/1/06 9:29 PM  
Blogger cream said...

Caro, I'll have to clean them first!

DC, if I did open a Portuguese restaurant, I wouldn't pretend... I would do it right.

After all, the Arabs who occupied the southern parts of Portugal from the early 8th Century AD had a huge effect on Portuguese cooking, not only in the types of foods grown and eaten, but also on the preparation of foods. They introduced new irrigation methods which turned otherwise barren areas into agricultural land enabling fresh and new produce (such as almond trees, figs and citrus) to be grown. They also introduced new ingredients such as rice and spices and at least one cooking technique which still features in Southern Portuguese cuisine today, namely the Cataplana.
I just copied and pasted this for a laugh from a cookery website!

But seriously, Food is Food and, as Viking rightly says, as long as it tastes tight, who cares who's slaving over a hot stove?

15/1/06 10:37 PM  
Blogger Hayden said...

I feel so lucky right now, reading this - sitting in Northern CA, with wonderful goat cheese, olive oil, balsamic vinegars, every imaginable fresh mediterannean vegatable - all locally grown and/or painstakingly handmade. Our goat cheese producers apprenticed in France, from Italy we imported the olive, olive oil and balsamic vinegar makers themselves - they grow and make and we enjoy. Over the last 10 years we've even learned many (a long way from all) of the secrets of good Italian bread. We don't even try to typify food by country much - we assume the techniques are well-traveled. (and of course the seafood is available as well!)

we have a huge void: anchovies visit here, but no one understands them as an integral part of the human food supply. We must import, and have trouble finding the good ones, the salt cured.

16/1/06 12:09 AM  
Blogger DCveR said...

That arab influence thingy left out one big detail: arab hygiene, that influence remains until today, though it was most notorious some centuries ago, while the rest of Europe reeked.

The problem sometimes is to have the ingredients taste the same as the ones grown here. Sometimes even exported ones taste different on account of preserving and cooling. As for who is slaving behind the stove, even here sometimes the cook is not Portuguese.:D

16/1/06 8:56 AM  
Blogger cream said...

Hayden, you're very lucky that you can get all sorts of fresh produce on the doorstep!
In supermarkets most vegetables may look as pretty as pictures but taste nothing like the real thing!
I am happy that you find the lack of anchovies a huge void. I love them too, but they aren't very popular in the UK!

DC, I am glad that there is another good thing the Arabs did! They do get such bad press nowadays.
The whole of the Med including Portugal is blessed with wonderfully tasty produce!
Nothing like a fresh tomato sliced in half seasoned with a pinch of sea salt, freshly ground pepper and a couple leaves of basil! Ahhhhh!

16/1/06 11:07 PM  
Blogger Brian the Mennonite said...

More food blogging from the perfect source. Ships...Chips?
I'll have one of those tomatos you just described in the previous response to a comment. There's nothing like the common thread of the enjoyment of well thought out food. Yours is a food-art blog.

17/1/06 12:03 AM  
Blogger Hayden said...

Cream, I left an important response to your comment on my blog. If I'd been clever I'd have emailed it, but I'm not and I didn't.


18/1/06 2:29 AM  
Blogger iluvnyc said...

that's so true!!... i never really think of it :D

but oh well... i love food... and trying out new food is always in my agenda. noodle? spaghetti? tapas? fish and chips? bring it on... :D as long as it tastes good and won't make me run to the bathroom or ER after that, that's cool with me :D

18/1/06 12:50 PM  
Blogger Guyana-Gyal said...

I'm a bit slow here, Cream...there's quibbling about who can call a restaurant Italian...or whatever...?

Lots of good wishes on your opening of your SPANISH[?] Casa del Mar :-)

18/1/06 4:31 PM  
Blogger Janet said...

Opening day approaches...Yay!!! I am so happy for you, and hope that everything goes smoothly!

20/1/06 1:24 PM  

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