1970, our American-Italian table, continues… “Neophilia vs. Neophobia”

It is during the first five years that children basically accept what is given to them, and after age five, their environment begins to control their habits. It is in this environment that a child in an Italian or French family learns to use all of his senses, as parents encourage  him to taste a little of everything served at the table, working his way to becoming a neophile, a lover of the new and  unfamiliar. It is the food neophile who by experiencing a variety of ingredients and combinations of flavors learns to accept and perhaps even seek out new flavors. There should be no great distinction between adult and children’s food besides portion size unless for medical reasons.

Jason learned to enjoy chicken feet with his paternal grandfather and now ready to have  his children experience this specialty.

Jason learned to enjoy chicken feet with his paternal grandfather and now ready to have his children experience this specialty after a few hours of cooking and spicing.

 

Cleaning vegetables with grandpa.

Cleaning vegetables with grandpa.

Grandkids cutting vegetables.

Grandkids cutting vegetables.

When kids prepare genuine foods they tend to eat more of them.

When kids prepare genuine foods they tend to eat more of them.

 

Grandkids love their vegetables especially when they prepare them.

Grandkids love their vegetables especially when they prepare them.

 

 

 

All from grandma's organic garden.

All from grandma’s organic garden.

 

Picking them to can for the winter.

Picking them to can for the winter.

Lots of work but worth the time for quality canned tomatoes.

Lots of work but worth the time for quality canned tomatoes.

Some we roasted in the wood burning oven for pasta sauce.

Some we roasted in the wood burning oven for pasta sauce.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wow wish we didn't pick so many cherry tomatoes.

Wow wish we didn’t pick so many cherry tomatoes.

So many so hung some for a later use.

So many so hung some for a later use.

 

Others we baked in our wood burning oven for a special  pasta sauce, It was worth picking.

Others we baked in our wood burning oven for a special pasta sauce, It was worth picking.

 

Many of my American friends are neophobes, not exposed to variety, having a fear of the new and set in their ways as to what they will and will not eat. There is now a movement to experience the new as a culinary treat by the trend-setting upwardly mobile class. Since eating is based on habit and tradition, certain tastes and pleasures have not been stored in memory and it is difficult for them to enjoy new flavor experiences.  A neophile rarely loses the tastes and smells registered in childhood and as an adult is able to recollect those tastes and smells and experience them all over again. Our foreign friends who often express their love of tripe comment that it is the chewiness of the item that they love. Serving tripe, the lining of the cow’s stomach to Americans may be met with rejection due to the unfamiliar texture.  The difference is only an experience stored in memory. It is up to parents to help their children develop taste buds and educate the palate by giving them new experiences.

 

Food culture must begin at an early age. Michelle at 3 months old.

Food culture must begin at an early age. Michelle at 3 months old. She continues to love quality bread.

Michelle enjoying convivio at age 3 months old.

Michelle enjoying convivio at age 3 months old and continues to enjoy time at the table.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Italian and French families, these food pleasures begin in their youth. Food is tradition. Tastes and smells experienced in one’s childhood are recalled in adult life. Taste may be physically sensed on the tongue and palate, but after it is cultivated, it becomes a memory. If a baby is fed a bland diet and never experiences flavorful foods, it will be deprived of one of the greatest pleasures of life. Healthy habits formed and nurtured until a child reaches age ten often last a lifetime.

Coming from Argentina, Jorge knows well how to barbecue as well as how to roast a whole animal, He always has the kids give him a hand, marinating the meat, controlling the barbecue and of course relishing the meat down to the bone while enjoying convivio  with family and friends.

Advantage on the farm, you can eat with your hands, down to the bone.

Advantage on the farm, you can eat with your hands, down to the bone.

Love grandpa's Easter lamb,

Love grandpa’s roasted lamb.

Roasted in the wood burning oven.

Roasted in the wood burning oven.

 No meat left on this bone.

No meat left on this bone.

Love the meat around the bone.

Love the meat around the bone.

I  am saddened to see how in today’s hurried lifestyle, the pleasure of eating, the time at the table and the tastes and smells coming from a mother’s kitchen are often not experienced in youth. As Julie Child said once to me at a culinary meeting in San Diego, “In our society there is a fear of food that brings about the fear of pleasure.”  She noted that in France, as in Italy, there were no menus for children. What is its purpose other than to provide the child with a less expensive meal—a meal which was in fact, less nourishing and usually containing something breaded, salty and fried. Not being exposed to better foods, it is no wonder that they often continue to please their palates in adult life based on their food experiences in childhood. As adults, after learning about nutrition and the importance of eating genuine food, it is still often very hard for people to change. As noted earlier, eating right is like learning a language; the best and easiest way is total immersion in childhood, with the parents setting a good example.

Julia and Lucy

Julia and Lucy

Next week, children having fun in the kitchen.

 

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OOPS!!! This week’s blog took off without picture captions!!!

OOPS!!!   This week’s blog took off without picture captions that would help  demonstrate  next week’s blog of neophilia versus neophobia .  Children raised with food culture, experiencing new foods  and  helping with food preparation are more likely to enjoy these experiences  in their adult life.

1. 1978 our children cleaning fish with their dad on a Sunday afternoon

1978 our children cleaning fish with their dad on a Sunday afternoon

2. Thirty years later, their children  cleaning fish with their dad and the children's grandpa on a Sunday afternoon

 Thirty years later, their children cleaning fish with their dad and the children’s grandpa on a Sunday afternoon

3. Children helped bake a  whole fish in the oven, ummm good

Children helped bake a whole fish in the oven, ummm good

4. Comparing the size of  heads.

Comparing the size of heads.

5. Cleaning mussels, for a great seafood pasta sauce

Cleaning mussels, for a great seafood pasta sauce

6. Laila and Bo buying fish they will clean and cook

Laila and Bo buying fish they will clean and cook

7. fresh this morning and now on the grill

Fresh this morning and now on the grill

8.1. preparing as grandpa taught our  mom

Preparing as grandpa taught our mom

8.2. ready for the barbecue

Ready for the barbecue

9.1. The kids bought, and cleaned the fish, now to enjoy the dish

The kids bought, and cleaned the fish, now to enjoy the dish

10. Laila sucki;ng the fish out of the shell

Laila sucking the meat out of the shell.

11. Raised with food culture, children learn early to  enjoy  snails,

Raised with food culture, children learn early to enjoy snails,

12. Grandma Lucy with Dante and Luca enjoying fried smelts.

Grandma Lucy with Dante and Luca enjoying fried smelts.

13. The kids ate it all from head to tail

The kids ate it all from head to tail

14. Dante and Luca will always love clams,storied food  memories

 Dante and Luca will always love clams, storied food memories

15. Yes, Dante ate them all and calls it his favorite food.

 Yes, Dante ate them all and calls it his favorite food.

16. Ok grandma says we should never deprive ourselves of occassional treats, especially when parents are not around.

Ok grandma says we should never deprive ourselves of occassional treats, especially when parents are not around.

Next Wednesday’s blog, neophobias versus neophilias.

The 70s: My American-Italian Table —New York, New York

“Food is not only taste, but also atmosphere. Food is about family and friends.”

Living on the salary of a medical resident required a very stringent food budget. It was not difficult for my husband and I. We  never felt  deprived having been raised on a diverse  diet eating nutritiously and economically. Although born thousands of miles apart, we  were both raised on similar cuisines highlighted by the importance of the table and appreciation of genuine foods. This is what we wished to teach our children by having them experience with us a world of foods that may not be popular for most, but nourishing as well as able to meet our budget. We also agreed that children whenever possible should help prepare different foods, see how dishes are made  to be able to enjoy fully the genuine dish along with an enriched table experience. Children raised with  food culture are more appreciative of quality and are more apt to seek this quality in their adult life. They also would be less likely to seek foods prepared out of the home when they can eat nutritiously and economically at home.

1. 1978 our children cleaning fish with their dad on a Sunday afternoon 2 Thirty years later, their children  cleaning fish with their dad and the children's grandpa on a Sunday afternoon 3 Children helped bake a  whole fish in the oven, ummm good 4 comparing the size of  heads. 5  Cleaning mussels, for a great seafood pasta sauce 6 Laila and Bo buying fish they will clean and cook 7 fresh this morning and now on the grill

When our first child was born in 1968, we were living in a studio apartment in New York City. Jorge had received a residency in plastic surgery at New York University Medical Center. I nursed for six months and then proceeded to give Michelle small pureed samples of our table food.  Reading baby food labels and discovered that the baby food industry was basically adding salt and sugar to baby food. So I followed my mother’s way of doing things and made my own baby food.

8- 1 preparing as grandpa taught our  mom 8 -2ready for the barbecue 9 The kids bought, and cleaned the fish, now to enjoy the dish 10 Laila sucki;ng the fish out of the shell 11 Raised with food culture, children learn early to  enjoy  snails, 12 Grandma Lucy with Dante and Luca enjoying fried smelts. 13 The kids ate it all up heads and tails. 14 Dante and Luca will always love clams,storied food  memories 15 Yes, Dante ate them all and calls it his favorite food.

Michelle’s first solid food was mashed bananas which was great while traveling through Europe by car. Bananas were followed by mashed sardines, nourishment that fit well into our budget. For less than nine cents a can at the time, we could get four jumbo Portuguese sardines, in either a tomato or mustard base. This was one canned item my mother did buy, provided she could see the whole sardine from head to tail. Years later, as a mother herself Michelle, who still loves sardines, asked me how I managed to get her to eat them as an infant, considering that she was unsuccessful with her daughter Laila. I reminded her that when she was six months old she had no options. She ate what we ate and watched our excitement as we made a big thing out of each new addition to her diet.

16. Ok grandma says we should never deprive ourselves of occassional treats, especially when parents are not around.

 

 

 

Coffee bean roasting – Artisan of the month

In the early nineties, when I met the Slittis (see blog on chocolate making) I like most of the locals knew and appreciated the wonderful skills of Andrea’s father, Luciano Slitti, as a prominent coffee bean roaster and maker of custom coffee blends. Few knew that behind the scenes in the eighties, Luciano’s oldest son Andrea began specializing in  making chocolates. At the same time his youngest son, Daniele began to take over in specializing and in perfecting his father’s skills in roasting coffee beans and making coffee. Our cooking classes at the time had the advantage of seeing the production of both operations in action at the Slitti Café.

 

Danielle showing the two different beans and percentage used in their blends

Daniele showing the two different beans and percentage used in their blends

 

Daniele, in our coffee bean toasting class, explained the two most popular kinds of beans, Arabica and the Robusta. The Slitti family favors the Arabica, which grows in high altitudes is less resistant to disease and has more complex flavors. A good coffee bean roaster must take into consideration: where the bean comes from, its soil, environment where it was  harvested, the processing  method, geographical climate, altitude and characteristics of the plant. Poor growing conditions, cultivation or harvest of the product can strip beans of their quality. Most people are very familiar with similar important factors and conditions necessary when making quality olive oil. To be considered is  every aspect, the type of olive, its environment, climate, altitude, growing characteristics, how and when it was harvested and treated.

Coffee 2 Coffee1

The first thing a coffee roaster takes into consideration is the quality of the bean. There are many varieties of raw coffee beans to select from. It is the skill of the trusted roaster that ultimately determines the aroma, taste, body and roast of the finished product.  The bean before roasting has little inherent flavor. It begins its journey to coffee making with the simple heat stage when the bean absorbs heat, gives off excess water in the form of steam, and its dull green color begins to gain a yellowish tone. The coffee bean has great similarity to the olive, a bitter fruit before pressing, which releases its bitterness once it comes into contact with water and begins its journey towards becoming a great product.

The skill of the coffee grinder, like the skill of the olive presser, is important.  They determine how to grind or press their product to its best advantage. Coffee, for many in America, is an afterthought, a generic commodity rather than a gastronomic event just as olive oil for many is nothing other than oil to cook with or dress a salad. For Italians, coffee is their national beverage and olive oil is their national fruit.

Every Italian seems to have their favorite bar in the neighborhood that makes what they consider to be the best coffee, requiring a lush consistent reddish brown cream, with the flavor and aroma balanced to be able to note the freshly roasted coffee been. For them, that one shot of espresso is not so much a stimulant but represents an experience.

I did not understand for a long time but since living in Italy I have learned to appreciate and understand the Italian’s national beverage. I never understood the countless variables involved in mastering and brewing a perfect coffee or cappuccino. Countless times when out with my Italian friends, I failed to understand how they could leave a cup of cappuccino after the first sip and politely leave the premise so that the coffee maker would get the unspoken message.

Most italians can  tell just by looking at the coffee in the cup and the brownish cream topping that it should have, how well it was made. If it lacked the expected aroma they may leave  espresso untouched and suggest we go elsewhere. For fifteen years, I have seen our employee  leave our house every day to go for his cappuccino or morning coffee at a particular bar passing at least twenty other locations along the way. (blog on the Re of Cappuccino). This is typical of most Italians who appreciate and understand the making of a good espresso and cappuccino.

Coffee 7