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Carciofi a la Giuda

November 12, 2008

Being in Rome has given me some new perspective on the food situation in the United States. They say that the Jewish food of Rome is the oldest and most authentic, because it has stretched back so many thousands of years. Carciofa a la Giuda (Jewish style Artichokes) is a must-eat dish in Rome and is served in almost every food establishment. What is interesting about Roman Jewish cuisine is that it was born in the Ghetto, and is some of the simplest Italian fare that there is.

Street food in the Ghetto was a necessity. Many people did not even have kitchens, and would have to buy their food from the streets. Most of the food was fried, and just seasoned with salt and lemon.

It almost makes perfect sense right now to see how being strapped to the bare necessities brings out what is really important for nutrition and what is really convenient for preparation, in order to produce a real traditional recipe. I would not go so far to say that the present-day situation in the United States could ever be compared to the misery of life in the Jewish ghetto, where people were only let out between from dawn to dusk, but there is something to be learned from the example.

Lately there has been so much hype in the US about the economic crisis. Newspapers and magazines want to publish stories on “how to eat on a budget”. It seems almost ludicrous to me to look at the way we sensationalize the situation, but never really get down to the bottom of it. Americans are so used to eating whatever they want whenever they want, that we do not come close to having an equivalent to Carciofi a la Giuda. “Experts” say eat locally and seasonally- well that seems obvious to me. We should have been doing that all along. Everywhere else in the world (before the influence of the SAD-Standard American Diet), people eat locally and seasonally because it is the only way to eat. There is nothing else available. Why should we pat ourselves on the back for that concept? It has to be more than that. We cannot try and “invent” a real traditional Fillinyourregionorcity dish; that is superficial and gross.

It will be interesting to see how we come out of this, what foods become important to us, and what we become famous for. If hamburgers and fries symbolize our domination of modern convenience, what will symbolize our economic collapse?


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