Food That Rots - People Who Enjoy Life Too Much

Each time I come to Italy for an extended period, I find it more and more difficult to leave.

In some ways, it’s the general attitude Italians have around here, one that evidently the KLM folks don’t cotton well to

They enjoy life too much and excessively use cell phones during meetings.

Quite the invective.

But really, it’s the cuisine. Or rather, it’s the fact that Italians have retained the sense to embrace the cultural authority and information packed into a traditional cuisine. This authority comes from the process of discovery and retention of information by everyday people concerned with turning commonly available raw materials into spirit-raising nourishment, rather than by huge corporations funding weird science in order to increase profits on their food-like products.

Michael Pollan describes the process in Don’t eat Anything That Doesn’t Rot

There’s an enormous amount of wisdom contained in a cuisine. And, you know, we privilege scientific information and authority in this country, but, of course, there’s cultural authority and information, too. And whoever figured out that olive oil and tomatoes was a really great combination was actually, we’re now learning, onto something scientifically. If you want to use that nutrient vocabulary, the lycopene in the tomato, which we think is the good thing, is basically made available to your body through the olive oil. So there was a wisdom in those combinations. And you see it throughout.

My home country, without a unified cuisine, has embraced the mega-corporation as its Food God and collectively kneels before the “science” its money buys.

So when I get on that airplane to fly home, I will look at the ingredients on my little packet of “Italian Salad Dressing” to discover that the bulk of it is made up of high-fructose corn syrup. That’s when I know my stint in a sane country is over.

Most Italians, of course, wouldn’t consider putting such crap on their salads. But in the US, cost is the (only) thing. Even real sugar is too expensive to put in industrial salad dressing. Corn, however, is subsidized by the very political party that touts its imagined dedication to markets unencumbered by such welfare. (The dole, of course, is paid for though our taxes.) So in it goes because it’s cheap (we’ve already paid for the bulk of it) and it increases profit. High-fructose corn syrup also offers an added “benefit”: it provides tooth-rotting viscosity to something that shouldn’t be sweet in the first place. And viscosity allows the crap to lie on your tongue longer, reducing the need for expensive additions like herbs and good oil.

How very, very, cheap it is. How very, very awful it is.

I eat well here in Italy. I put olive oil and a tiny bit of wine vinegar on my salad, both good for you. I know where my food comes from; even my favorite inexpensive restaurant here in the Lunigiana knows in which stream its trout once frolicked. I feel good when I’m here. I don’t have to worry about genetically modified food hiding in unlabeled packages.

Call me a heathen, then, for looking to the past all the time. You won’t get far. I just don’t care any more. I know what’s good to eat. I just listen to my body. Unlike industrialists and politicians, it doesn’t lie to me.



Food That Rots - People Who Enjoy Life Too Much originally appeared on WanderingItaly.com , updated: Apr 12, 2008 © .

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