Spaghetti carbonara, an American invention – 03/31/2023 – Cozinha Bruta
Alberto Grandi is a slightly different Italian.
Italians, as is well known, have a somewhat rigid view of applying their own gastronomic traditions. And they manifest this vision in a uniquely dramatic way.
If someone breaks spaghetti in half before putting it to cook, an Italian might threaten to slit his wrists.
Italians act as if Italian cuisine were a compendium of ancestral and immutable dogmas, any transgression being a heinous crime.
Hence the noise caused by the interview that Alberto Grandi, an Italian, gave to the Italian reporter Marianna Giusti in the English newspaper Financial Times.
Grandi became famous precisely for challenging his country’s gastronomic tradition. Lecturer in the history of food at the University of Parma, he maintains that the untouchable pillars of Italian cuisine are, in many cases, marketing, opportunistic and relatively recent inventions.
Among the theses embraced by the “professore”, one causes particular tension with the foodie community: carbonara pasta would have been created in the post-war period, with supplies from the American troops occupying Rome.
This version is not exactly new. When the gringo military took over Italy at the end of World War II, they took the breakfast ranch with them.
Yes, bacon and eggs. Not fresh eggs, but freeze-dried, powdered eggs. And that, mixed with spaghetti, would have turned into carbonara.
The presumed American origin for carbonara is a searing stab at Italian gastronomic purism. Because, they say nowadays, carbonara is only authentic if it is made with guanciale – salted and cured meat from the pork jowls, a typical product of Lazio and Umbria.
How to go on living with the discovery that the original recipe used bacon? How do you hold your head high when you know that Italian recipes from the 1950s called for ham or even mushrooms?
According to Grandi, guanciale only appeared on the scene in carbonara around 1990 – as well as the dogmatic recipe prepared only with it, eggs, pecorino cheese and black pepper.
The academician’s interview, mamma mia, had strong repercussions in Italy. Grandi, by messing with what shouldn’t be messed with, demonstrates paranoia. “They hate me here,” he told the FT reporter at the restaurant where they both dined.
Maybe it’s not just paranoia. Marianna Giusti herself, author of the interview, feels usurped from the identity she cherished throughout her existence. She can feel the thump in the title of the English text: “Everything I, an Italian, thought I knew about Italian cuisine was wrong”.
Is it certain and liquid that pasta carbonara was born from American bacon? No way. Tracing the exact origin of a recipe comes up against the fact that everyday life is not recorded in books.
In fact, it doesn’t matter whether carbonara is American or dates back to the Etruscans. But try saying something like that to an Italian other than Professor Alberto Grandi.
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