Pomodoro crisis

Above: Tracie P and I have been thoroughly enjoying Chef Esteban’s housemade Tagliatelle with tomato sauce and housemade ricotta at Vino Vino in Austin. I think that Esteban could go a little lighter on the heat in the sauce (my only lament) but this is Texas after all.

Although Italy’s recently installed agricultural minister Giancarlo Galan (from Padua) claims there’s no crisis in the Italian wine industry (see his comments in our post today at VinoWire via Mr. Franco Ziliani’s blog), he is planning to convene a “task force” to address Italy’s tomato crisis — yes, tomato crisis.

The issue is not the sale of tomatoes in Italy (go figure) but rather fraud and counterfeit of Italian-grown tomatoes. The so-called “agropiracy” vehemently battled by Galan’s predecessor Luca Zaia.

Contemplating the Italian tomato crisis as I drank my tea early this morning, Aldo Cazzullo’s 2009 L’Italia di noantri. Come siamo diventati tutti meridionali (The Italy We [Southerners] Remember: How We All Became Southerners, Mondadori) came to mind.*

In it, he writes: Today, “Italians all eat the same things. Two generations ago in Piedmont, they used meat or butter to dress their food. Today, tomato is found in every sauce… The tomato has become a national symbol. If an Italian has a spot on his shirt, it’s a tomato spot.” (p. 43)

Leaving the racist and separatist (and even futurist) implications aside, I do think it’s interesting to note (probably to the surprise of many) that tomatoes were not widely consumed in Italy until the 1960s. I found hard proof of this when I researched my post on the origins of the name puttanesca.

There’s much to be said on this topic but, alas, my work duties call… I’ll leave you today with one of my all-time favorite scenes by one of my all-time favorite Italian actors, Alberto Sordi, in Un americano a Roma (An American in Rome, 1954). In the scene, he plays an Italian-American who claims that the food in America is better and better for you, drinking milk instead of wine. But in the end, you can imagine what happens. Note that the “macaroni” are NOT dressed with tomato. The year is 1954.

* The title of the book plays on the fact that the Roman inflection noantri for the first person plural has been commonly absorbed by the northern dialects (in the Piedmontese of the author’s grandparents, he writes, the first person plural was nuiautri).