The power of food as history and memory…

amatrciana torino turin earthquakeAbove: over the weekend in Turin, 7,000 servings of Amatriciana raised nearly €50,000 for victims of last week’s earthquake in central Italy (image via the popular Italian food blog Scatti di Gusto).

A couple of Italian food blogs (here and here) have posted about celebrity chef Antonino Cannavacciuolo’s op-ed on the front page of La Repubblica today.

There’s no link available online to non-subscribers but I wanted to post an excerpted translation of the piece. Like my Italian colleagues, I was moved by Cannavacciuolo’s take on the power of food and the way Amatriciana has become a symbol of recovery and hope in the wake of last week’s tragedy.

“Disasters destroy communities and they also destroy their symbols,” he wrote.

    They cause schools, hospitals, hotels, and churches to crumble. And once again, the earthquake that struck central Italy seems to have destroyed almost everything.
    But one symbol, however seemingly simple, has been spared: food.
    Today, Amatriciana, a dish that takes its name from one of the towns struck by the seismic event, sends a very powerful message.
    We all know that food is part of our daily lives. But it’s not just nourishment. It’s also history and memory.
    And that’s exactly what Amatriciana is: a simple dish of the people that carries forward the history of those who created it and the traditions of an ancient rural cuisine.

I was also really moved by my friend (and neo-Houstonian) Jeff Kralik’s post today, “Headed to Italy with a Heavy Heart.”

Before he left for a trip to Italy yesterday, he made his family an Amatriciana, which his sons devoured “with aplomb.”

Jeff’s planning to give blood during his stay.

As banal as it may sound to some, the legacy of a place and people lives on through an otherwise simple dish made from the humblest of ingredients. It’s the power of food as history and memory to inspire us…

One thought on “The power of food as history and memory…

  1. Your post is heartbreaking yet encouraging… while food itself is tangible — the stories, people, and the place it represents are the intangible elements that elevate food from mere sustenance. Food as symbolism that cannot be erased and as a vehicle of hope is such a beautiful concept, and I’m so glad to have finally read someone put it that way… thank you. The simple truth that food keeps traditions alive is true whether on a familial level or when speaking of an entire population’s heritage. The fundraising efforts through Amatriciana are akin to the campaign with Risotto Cacio Pepe after the 2012 earthquakes… leave it to the Italians to express solidarity and ignite hope through food. My personal parallel to the power of Amatriciana, are the dishes I cook from taste recollection that keep my father’s memory very much alive. And that indeed gives me hope. I loved Italy since I was a little girl, notwithstanding I’d never been at the time, solely from my experiences with its cuisine via my dad. All of my father’s anecdotes of his summers in Piemonte and university days in Milan revolved around memories of food, taste, and the people who partook in these experiences. I’ve taken his stories, the flavours I grew up with (interpretations of Northern Italian cuisine)… and that is what has translated into not only a professional pursuit, but also a core part of my identity. Again, thank you for yet another beautiful post.

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