Cheese without milk?

The European Union asked the Italian government to eliminate a law of 1974 which prohibits the bel paese to make cheese and yogurts formaggiwith powdered milk something that in other European countries instead is quite the norm. For Italians this would mean a cheapening of their milk products, and they are fighting this provision. The rationale behind this, for the EU, is that having free circulation of products among all European countries would not allow other nations (Germany, Poland e Lithuania, for example), to compete on the Italian local markets. Italy has one of the strictest laws in terms of preservation of the quality “Made in Italy” for cheeses, like mozzarella, for example. This would also effect other products with denominations like PDO (protected designation of origin) and PGI (protected geographical indication) that certify that the cheese is made in a certain territory and its qualities depend of the peculiar terrain of its origin. Such Italian products that have these marks are: Ricotta Romana, Provolone, Parmigiano Reggiano, Ragusano and Raschera cheese, etc. For a complete list you can consult the link created by the Italian Department of Agriculture. We will see who will prevail in the months to come.

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Space Food

The European Space agency assigned to the Italian company, ARGOTEC, the production of food for the International Space Station. In absence of gravity many wonder how to food tastes, some report that its flavor does not change much, but others compared it to having a cold, basically tasteless. One of the objectives of space food production is to provide functional food which is also a good source of nutrients, so rich in fibers, with lots of fruit and vegetables. We remember space food being squashed into cubes or into purees forms which was not very tasty or inviting. Food must also last without refrigeration, similar the conditions for food created for military personnel.

ARGOTEC chef, Stefano Polato, stated in a recespace food 2nt interview, that technology innovation helped especially with conservation techniques and in making food more individualized. A recent client and tester of space food has been Samantha Cristoforetti, the first Italian astronaut to travel in space. For example, for the first time space saw the “invasion” of Italian cuisine, from Lasagne al forno, Risotto al pesto to Tiramisù and even Caponata; other astronauts received food relative to their own taste and traditions.

Space stations serve as important environments to see how food functions in microgravity since these conditions make food spoil (age) faster. Another important rule set forth by this lab is to produce food that does not crumble since these small particles can get into machines and interfere with fight functionality. In fact, food space does not contain much salt and instead algae and spices are used instead.  Salt and pepper exist on board the space station but only in liquid form.

If you ever watched a video, astronauts consume their meals standing and anchor themselves to a table– via a hook attached to their feet. Utensils are also attached to a table with Velcro. It is quite surprising to see that astronaut food can even be bought on  on amazon. (Dessert on space video)

Twitter: @argotec_it

Twitter: @astrosamantha

Food as art in Arcimboldo’s paintings



Warhol, The Last Supper
Warhol, The Last Supper

July 11th was the birthday of a prominent Italian Mannerist painter of the 16th century, Giuseppe Arcimboldo, who is best known as the artist who included fruits, nuts, fish and vegetables into his paintings. His images are best seen up close where you can discern all of the details and the objects assembled. Many critics of his time thought that he was a bit peculiar but later scholarship has pointed out that this collages were a common feature of his time, the Renaissance, which cherished riddles and playfulness. His painting philosophy was to create grotesque and surreal paintings to show how illogical and wild human nature really is.  Last year in June, I traveled to Brescia and visited the exhibition, “Food in Art” which showcased many artistic endeavors from painting to photos to sculptures that belong to world artists of the caliber of Warhol (Campbell’s Soup Cans), De Chirico (Composizione di frutta con testa classica) and Guttuso (Vucciria di Palermo) among others.


Bringing something to the table….

denise-familyToday is first day of this blog. Recently I was told that I should not discuss or, let alone, teach a course on food studies (which I am currently doing) since this is not my doctorate field of specialization. I was very surprised to hear this from fellow academics who I thought would be more open minded since they acquired critical thinking skills during their training. Food is by definition an interdisciplinary field for academic inquiry. One can discuss food from a myriad of angles: art, culture, history, literature, immigration, statistics, sociology, etc. and not only  from a simple nutritional/dietetic stance. I do not need a degree in nutrition to write or talk about food, since I am qualified to do it by simply the fact that I consume food several times a day. I cook and I purchase food weekly, and these simple acts force me to make decisions everyday, and by doing so I have educated myself in the process.  However, what really qualifies me to speak about food is the fact that I’m Italian. Not a good reason ? Well, most Italians know a thing or two about food since food culture is embedded in us since the day we are born. We do mostly everything around food, and our identity is tightly connected to foods in a variety of ways.

Without any formal training I am a pretty good cook since I grew up seeing my aunt and grandmother prepare fresh pasta (mainly tortellini and lasagne) by hand and bring home the most fresh ingredients. I saw how much care they took to prepare fresh foods every day and cook them with a variety of ingredients and spices, like saffron, for example. My aunt, Renata made a great risotto alla milanese, my favorite food when I was younger. I have seen the care and passion for fresh ingredients and for eating meals together. I have learned the importance of eating slowly and with friends. I knew about the Mediterranean diet and, before ten, that extra virgin olive oil is a good type of fat (MUFAs). I also saw that we ate smaller portions, compared to Americans, even though, at the time, I didn’t know what it meant.

In addition, I was recently reminded by Michael Pollan that even though he doesn’t have a scientific background, he feels qualified, as he puts it, “to take people on this journey and offer any kind of advice”. He continues on by saying that the lack of a formal training “was actually a strength. I brought a very open mind, and I think I could see it freshly. I had spent a lot of time writing articles and books tracing the food chain, and showing people where their food came from, how it was produced, following meals all the way back to the farm. (source:

So, I feel that this will be the intellectual base for this blog. I will write about the food from different angles and hope to come up with some helpful tips and interesting stories for readers. After all, I hope I will be able to bring something to the table.


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