"The recovery of peasant foods has overturned symbols and meanings: the 'poor' foods of the past have become the mark of new wealth." (Let the Meatballs Rest, p. 14)
"Because history is often called in as the guarantor of our identity, our 'traditions,' our 'roots,' it is the duty of the historian to point out that history teaches us exactly the opposite. It shows us that alimentary traditions never remain the same but change with time, becoming modified as they come into contact with other traditions. Identities, traditions invent themselves, in the literal sense of the word: they find themselves, they construct themselves." (p. 157)
"'Whatever can be fried is good to eat,' assures a proverb common in various regions of Italy." (p. 49)
Let the Meatballs Rest and Other Stories about Food and Culture by Massimo Montanari is a highly amusing book that combines observations about Italian and sometimes other food cultures with lots of diverse historical facts. He begins with a story about meatballs:
"We were making meatballs in the kitchen one evening: boiled beef, cooked cardoons, parmesan, bread crumbs, two eggs, salt, pepper. Once the mixture was done, we shaped the meatballs and arranged them neatly on a plate. At that point, Marina advised: 'Now, before cooking them, let us leave them to rest for a few hours. That way they firm up and get thoroughly blended.'
"It occurred to me that letting meatballs rest is much like what happens in our minds when we work out an idea. Ideas are the result of experiences, encounters, reflections, suggestions: many 'ingredients' that come together and then turn into a new thought. Before that can happen, it is useful to let those ingredients rest, to give them time to settle, to become blended, to firm up. The resting of meatballs is like the resting of thoughts. After a while, they turn out better." (p. ix)
As it happened, after reading Montanari's very amusing thoughts and ideas all day, I was cooking meatballs for dinner -- and I did indeed let them rest!
|My meatballs, resting in the refrigerator.|
|A dish of rested, then cooked meatballs|
with separately-made vegetables and gravy.
"I have always been diffident about any pretension of codification, standardization, uniformity: the 'true' recipe for meat sauce, the 'true dimensions for tagliatelle,' the 'true filling for tortellini.... There is too much ambiguity in that terrible adjective true that would brand as false any variation, any inventiveness, any departure from the rule." (p. 40)