Notecard: The invention of food traditions

As an Italian living abroad, hearing a food expert say that our national cuisine, with its reputation for tradition and authenticity, is in fact based on lies feels like being let in on an unspeakable family secret that I’d always suspected. I’d always hated the hype around Italian food, whether it came from disturbingly keen foreign friends (like the New Yorker well-versed in niche regional Italian pasta recipes) or embarrassingly pedantic compatriots (such as my Neapolitan friend who refuses even to touch fresh tomatoes in the UK). I was amused, if perplexed, during the panic buying phase of the first Covid-19 lockdowns, to hear of Italian supermarket shelves being emptied of everything bar smooth penne, considered by Italians to be lower quality.
“It’s all about identity,” Grandi tells me between mouthfuls of osso buco bottoncini. He is a devotee of Eric Hobsbawm, the British Marxist historian who wrote about what he called the invention of tradition. “When a community finds itself deprived of its sense of identity, because of whatever historical shock or fracture with its past, it invents traditions to act as founding myths,” Grandi says.

from Everything I, an Italian, thought I knew about Italian food is wrong by Marianna Giusti via Financial Times

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