I have a very interesting—and embarrassingly limited—comprehension of the Italian language. Yes, I’ve taken classes. I’ve had a tutor. I’ve even attended l’Universita per Stranieri in Perugia for a summer.
It’s not that I don’t know a whole lotta verbs and how to conjugate many of them. It’s that my vocabulary is heavy on food words. Ponderously heavy.
I go to markets. I read the signs. I see where things come from. After a few years of living in Italy my food-word vocabulary has skyrocketed. I didn’t even try to learn. It just happened.
But today I thought of another way to learn the important words in Italian. You can watch TV, of course, but why not watch somebody explain a recipe? I mean, it’s perfect; some guy dressed up like a real chef points to a toe of garlic and spouts, “aglio” and wham! It occurs to you that garlic is aglio in the Italian Language. And you also know not to pronouce that “g” like you would in English.
As far as I’m concerned, the best way to learn nouns is to see a picture and then listen to someone pronounce the word. No English words are slaughtered in such a practice. Your mind is always firmly planted in the Italian space.
You know what got me to thinking about this? ItalianFoodNet. You load the site and—wham!—the recipe of the week starts playing and a guy describes in slow, well-spoken Italiano a dish that looks (and sounds) delicious. If you switch to the English side of the site, the vid will still be in Italian, but there will be subtitles. Try it first without subtitles if you know a little Italian. Following along is easy.
This week’s recipe is for “Italian Hamburgers.” Don’t get me wrong, they look great—but the chef seems to have put a whole lotta stuff on those simple hamburgers. The first time I saw it I’m thinking something along the lines of “gee, when we Americans hear of an Italian pasta sauce, we can’t wait to gussy it up will all manner of new ingredients until that simple recipe turns into something unrecognizably bastardized. Do the Italians do the same with American food icons like the hamburger?”
You want una cialda di parmigiano with that burger, Bud?