What sort of a relationship do you have with food? Are mealtimes moments that you look forward to, or do you simply eat to live?
With today’s information overload on what we should and shouldn’t eat, it sometimes seems easier to pop food into the ‘necessary evil’ box.
Eating has become something that needs to be done as quickly and efficiently as possible – which seems rather a shame when you consider how much food can enrich our lives.
Take a moment to ponder the Italians’ relationship with food, and you will soon realise that it doesn’t need to be this way.
Throughout our years of leading walking holidays in Italy, we’ve learnt so much about ourselves and what’s important to us simply by looking, listening, and definitely tasting! Over the years, we’ve realised just how much food can enhance our lives and the lives of those around us.
Italians are fortunate that, to a greater or lesser extent, they enjoy four distinct seasons. Of course, temperatures are milder in the south in winter, but by and large, there are four different types of weather. Consequently, most Italians tend to mainly eat what’s in season.
This, in turn, brings along a delightful sense of anticipation. It can be wonderfully uplifting to know that the months of April and May herald the fresh flavours of artichokes, asparagus, and fava beans and, as you walk, the scent of wild fennel and garlic.
Later in the year, when summer moves into autumn, rather than dreading the thought of the winter months, we find ourselves embracing the rich colours and flavours, feasting on plump parcels of ravioli di zucca (pumpkin ravioli) and chestnuts.
Italians also tend to be in tune with the provenance of their food, while for many of us, in our supermarket-dependent lives, it’s so easy to overlook this.
Of course, where we live has a huge bearing on what we are able to source locally while, where possible, Italians adopt a ‘zero kilometres’ food policy.
So, in Tuscany, dishes are prepared with Tuscan olive oil; in Sardinia, wild thyme, rosemary, and myrtle are used to flavour suckling pig and farm-raised lamb.
Taking time to chat to local growers and producers can give a brilliant insight into the passion and dedication involved and have a profound effect on our relationship with food.
What could possibly taste better than a risotto with locally caught perch, accompanied by a view over Lake Maggiore! For the ultimate sensory experience, you can even try foraging for your own food and getting your hands dirty on a truffle hunt in Piedmont!
Memory is also intrinsically wrapped up with food. Do you have a favourite childhood food memory? Tastes we recall from childhood are bound up with memories that may involve multiple emotions and senses, and this naturally continues into adulthood.
You won’t be alone in thinking that fresh fish and seafood is best enjoyed with the taste of salt on your lips, the sound of sea in your ears and, of course, a sea view!
Similarly, set off on a hike in Italy’s high peaks and green pastures, and the chances are that photos will evoke the taste of creamy mountain cheeses and the smell of wild herbs.
Meals aren’t, of course, just about the food. Sharing food, conversation, and laughter with friends, family, or a like-minded group will make your meal equally memorable.
Multiple factors shape Italy’s gastronomic landscape, including its history, geography, and climate, all of which contribute to a strong regional focus.
We love the fact that some dishes can be specific not just to a region but to a particular village, with recipes or shapes of pasta passed down by women from generation to generation.
This naturally produces a wonderful sense of local pride and community. Ask any Italian which region of Italy has the best food and the answer will invariably be their own!
A walking holiday in Italy can certainly change our gastronomic outlook, but what can we do in our everyday lives in the meantime to make what we eat a positive and joyful experience?
What’s your favourite childhood food memory? Do you have any recipes that have been passed down through generations? How much of what you eat is in season and produced locally? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
Tags Healthy Eating