Paris Hotels Articles

April 6, 2010

What is your favorite ethnic style of food and why?

There’s something about Italian food that makes me want to salivate like Pavlov’s dogs. Maybe it’s the rich combination of flavors or that I grew up on it. It could be that it evokes fond memories of dining in the Italian Alps or that it reminds me of my nonna’s family.

I grew up in a muliethnic household. My dad was German, English, Scottish ,Welsh and Irish, and came from the Midwest. His paternal grandmother lent her fried chicken and slicker dumpling recipes to the family table. These were good but still nothing to really get goosebumps over (although her cobbler recipe is still one to die for). My mother came from a Swabian and Bavarian German father and a Piedmontese Italian mother. Now there’s where the good eating starts. Yes I do love making and eating my Bavarian great grandmother’s noodles and eggs and spaeztles. Yet it is my nonna and my bisnonna ’s(great grandmother’s) dishes that make me swoon. Before it joined Italy in 1846 Piedmont was a separate kingdom influenced in all manners and ways by France’s Provence region. The foods are very similar, redolent of onion and various spices. There’s stuffed onions, full of leftover meat and raisins along with red wine vinegar. These are comfort foods to me although they’re considered top quality by gourmands around the world. Another favorite is polenta with brown gravy. Most of my Italian cousins make this dish with venison because Piedmont has some of the best game in all of Europe. There’s also nothing like refried polenta with soft boiled eggs on top. My American cousins and I love this to pieces. It’s so good to mush the yolk in the salted and peppered polenta mash and then gobble it down.

Another family favorite and passion is risotto or just risot as we say it. There’s something about the creaminess of this special Italian rice that’s comforting. I love Milanese style where saffron is added. I literally could eat a whole pot of one and I actually have (I’m sorry to admit). My mom usually makes it for my birthday dinner but I sometimes get an asparagus version at my favorite restaurant in Manhattan’s West Village. I’ve yet to try rice pudding made with arborio rice. I hear it’s good. However the purist in me says that this type of grain is better as a dinner.

We also had homemade gnocchis too. These potato dumplings are a special childhood memory to me. I used to snitch them, off the table when they were drying, Still there’s nothing like the taste of a cooked one , dripping with homemade tomato sauce. Both are good foils to the other in taste and in texture. Another childhood favorite that I carried with me to adulthood is spaghetti. We still cooked it even though it was a “Southern” dish and looked down upon by my nonna and her sisters. I can’t resist any kind of pasta, whether I make it or my mom does. I even love it out.

I guess being part Piedmontese makes me love Italian food so well. Yet it’s also tasty too. After all this is the food that French cuisine is based on thanks to Catherine de Medici marrying French king. She brought the best of Italian food to Paris. is there any reason why?

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