An interesting article in an Italian newspaper last month talked about “All the American foods that we will never understand.” When you see the list, you will understand. The United States has a bad reputation with respect to food: the portions can be gigantic, and the cuisine can be heavy. In the eyes of Italians, too many American dishes are smothered in melted cheese, sauces, and garlic. A lot seems to be fried.Too often the American version of pizza, pasta, and lasagna bear little similarity to the Mediterranean specialties.
This newspaper article was inspired by a new dessert in New York City. It’s called “Nutelasagna,” and has layers of sweet lasagna interlaced with cream, Nutella, and marshmallows. Robicelli’s Bakery concocted it for Christmas 2014. A small piece probably has thousands of calories! This dessert is totally in line with our reputation, but I must admit that it does seem delicious…perhaps worth a quick trip to the Big Apple.
Many Americans who are health conscious avoid fried foods and too many carbohydrates. Many prefer fruit, fish, and vegetables. Jacopo, the pianist from Verona who periodically lives with us, made an interesting comparison between the United States and Italy. He observed that Americans dress in a more casual and simple way, but we experiment with foods in interesting ways. Italians tend to dress in more fashionable ways, but they tend to remain very faithful to their family recipes.
For the newspaper article, some Italian friends got together to list those American foods that they found bizarre…even indecent. Here is the list. Please add yours!
• “Cheese Whiz,” a spreadable, synthetic cheese. The comment of one Italian who tasted it: “It tastes like plastic and cancer.”
• Grits, a dish that consists of corn grains. It is typical of Southern cooking and is prepared like a porridge. “Totally tasteless.”
• “Velveeta” cheese. Similar to “Cheese Whiz,” but not spreadable. Plastic.
• “Hershey’s” chocolate. An American classic, but quite boring compared to the rich chocolates of Europe.
• “Red Vines:” A base of liquorice with a strawberry taste. The Italians say, “You try it with great expections, but then it tastes like soap.”
• Root beer floats: A drink with vanilla ice cream, syrup and bubbly water. They have an overly sweet taste. When the bubbles meet the ice cream, it is the dream of every child and the nightmare of every dietician.
• “Pop-Tarts:” Sort of rectangular biscuits, that remind one of English short bread. They are stuffed with jam of every type and the outside is covered in icing. Some Americans eat this stuff for breakfast every morning.
• Snow Cones: A type of crushed ice, but it is nothing like what you see in Sicily. Here the minced ice comes with very sweet fruit syrup
• Beef Jerky: pieces of dessicated meat. It is a snack that has the consistency of old shoe leather.
• Corn Dogs: A sausage—more or less—covered in a thick corn mush, fried in boiling oil and eaten on a stick. They have no redeeming graces.
• Biscuits and Gravy. A dish originally from the south, it is a type of sandwich plate served with a roasted meat sauce and eaten for breakfast.
• Cereals for breakfast: They have all these colors and some even have marshmallows. It’s amazing that more children in America aren’t obese.
The list continues but I will stop here. What foods would you add? Spam? Cotton candy? Gabriella, my Italian teacher, added Salad Dressings. She thinks that they reduce a beautiful salad into a greenish, unhealthy blob: “Give me a beautiful mixed salad with the traditional salt, olive oil, and either wine vinegar or Balsamic vinegar.”