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SATURDAY DINING OUT

Published April 10, 2013 by Tony

SATURDAY NIGHT IN NAPLES and NEW YORK

Standard of living and lifestyle have influenced and still influence the way how people spend their weekend. If we take as a reference two medium families, one from Naples and another from New York, both formed by working parents, with one or more adult children, probably in a month the Neapolitan parents spend one Saturday or Sunday to dine out, while the New Yorker parents spend three. For New Yorkers the Saturday “evening dining out” was, until recently, an obligation, especially for couples with both engaged in work. Due to the popular demand, in order to go to a restaurant or pizzeria in New York, a Saturday evening reservation even was necessary. Where the New Yorker didn’t go out to dinner, as an alternative there always was a dinner party hosted by some friends at their home or in a pub. A lifestyle difficult to eradicate, even in view of the fact that wives were not inclined to spend weekend at home, between cooking and dishes.
Aside from this substantial cultural difference, there was another of economic nature, because an average Neapolitan family certainly did not have the same economic opportunity of the overseas peers.
Although a normal dinner in a normal restaurant in the Neapolitan hinterland costs less than the one in a similar restaurant in New York, the average Neapolitan family culturally is more “conservative” and traditionalist, with wives, who, although involved in work, have not lost their  “housewives” identity, preferring to stay at home during the weekend.  In Naples, there has never been a “dining party” culture, and instead of Saturday dining out, if anything, the custom of a Sunday lunch away from home has always been more in vogue. But occasionally and not as a weekly habit. The Neapolitan wife has always been very attached to the house and the children and  weekend is just a chance to spend more time at home with family, and attend to all those household chores that she has not been able to do during the week.
Our habits have not changed much over the years. The economic situation has led, if anything, to renounce to some Sunday lunch at the restaurant and be thriftier in foodstuffs purchase.

Americans, instead, after a hard week spent at work, look forward to weekends, planning in advance for them.  For many weekend means going out with friends or relatives, outdoor activities or watching a game in a stadium.
In the past, one of the largest changes in American eating habits was the increasing reliance on food eaten away from home (FAFH). FAFH increased from 33% of total food expenditures in 1970 to 47% by 2003. Most of this is at table service and fast food restaurants.
Much of the growth is attributed to the rising value of household time, especially as induced by more female labor force participation, and rising household incomes.
As a 2009 Zagat Survey showed, eating out was a way of life for many Americans, with 50% of all meals prepared outside the home. In short, restaurants became the family kitchen for the busy two-career families. According to Zagat Survey CEO Tim Zagat, “Americans are still eating out in restaurants, they are just making smarter choices.”

Recently, the economic downturn, occasional jobs and financial turmoil in America have made it difficult for people to find enough money to afford their “dining out” habit.
Lately, Americans are making family dinner more often than dine out, a trend that slowly took root before the recession. Mostly, they’re cooking with and eating a narrow range of foods — and relying, to some extent, on prepared, frozen, and canned items to feed their families quickly and economically. “It’s very boring. That’s the sad truth,” says Harry Balzer, chief food industry analyst for the NPD Group, a national market research company. “For the most part, we’re looking for what’s the eaesiest way out of this, what’s the cheapest way out of this.” Balzer said, the number of restaurant meals an American family eats — dine-in or takeout — has been flat, at just under 200 a year, correlating to plateaus of both women in the workforce and household incomes.

Even the New York Times supported the thesis of the “end of the dinner party” because people do not have more money, time and wish to do so.  Someone else says that beyond the crisis there is a lack of good manners and savoir faire, with people no longer able to have a conversation and that’s why lately “finger food” and “standing up” are preferred to dinner party.

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TOMATO IN SALAD

Published March 10, 2013 by Tony

A SIDE DISH

It may seem superfluous if not useless to give a recipe for a simple “tomato salad”, but I cannot know if overseas we prepare them the same way we usually do here.
The tomato salad recipe that I am going to show you is simple, but if you do not know it I guarantee you that this recipe will make you appreciate this vegetable as never before.
This salad is a good side dish and an accompaniment to many meat or fish dishes, as well as a tasty starter.
You can choose any type of tomatoes, even if the larger and pulpy ones are better. Generally two or three tomatoes are sufficient for 2-3 people. About oil, do not be stingy in the amount!

Ingredients

Tomatoes (Better Boy, Heirloom, Beefsteak, Brandywine, Plum, etc.)
Olive oil to taste
Less than half white Onion
Salt to taste
A few pinches of Oregano (this is a necessary ingredient)

Preparation

Wash the tomatoes and cut them into thin slices in a small container.
Add the onion in small slices
Add salt, oregano and then the oil.
Turn gently and serve.

A tip for you, soak a slice of bread in the juice and taste it …. yummy

Tomato in salad

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Chinese Penis Fish

Published March 2, 2013 by Tony

EDIBLE WORMS

Urechis unicinctus

Apart from a very small worm that grows in a famous Sardinia cheese, called “Casu Marzu“, and that some eats with the cheese, I had never heard of other edible worms, at least in Western culture. It is known that in Asian and Eastern countries anything is eaten, including insects and larvae, but to know that in Korea they eat some giant worms, well… those images have particularly disgusted me. Although the thought of eating worms and insect larvae is rather shocking for many of you, I guess!
The worm, to which I refer, belongs to a species that lives mainly in the Yellow and China Sea, and its scientific name is Urechis unicinctus, a species of marine spoon worm.

It is widely referred to as the fat innkeeper worm or the penis fish that lives in burrows in sand and mud.

Why penis fish? Well… look at the pictures and you’ll understand!
The spoon worms or Echiura, are a small group of marine animals similar in size and habit.
This spoon worm is commonly eaten raw with salt and sesame oil in Korea and in parts of Japan. It is also used for fishing bait.
In Chinese cuisine the worm is stir-fried with vegetables, or dried and powdered to be used as a savory taste enhancer. In particular, the worm is considered an important ingredient in Shandong cuisine and is used in numerous recipes.

Looking at its pictures, it looks soft and tender and the given “penis” name truly suits it!
By hearsay, people prefer to eat it raw because the heat would make it inconsistent.
How about… do you want to taste it?
And how do you prefer it, into small pieces or put it all in your mouth……

Chinese Penis Fish

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SANDWICH WITH TUNA

Published September 24, 2012 by Tony

EASY-TO-MAKE SANDWICHES

About food, I want to show you the sandwich I ate today. I suppose you Americans, who may never get over your obsession with amazing hamburgers and fully stuffed, could turn up your noses in front of a so simple recipe. Often, especially for artisanal sandwiches worth to choose few ingredients to taste the full flavor of the selected ones. In any case, I challenge you to try this new one, in view of the fact that it is easy to prepare and with ingredients we usually already have at home, also if we Italians usually use the loaf to make sandwiches.

INGREDIENTS

1 canned tuna (better if in olive oil, nearly 2 oz per can).

2 or 3 mature cherry tomatoes.

Wash the tomatoes and open the sandwich then pouring the tuna with a bit of its oil, add the tomatoes mashing or cutting them on the tuna. Close the sandwich and eat……….. yummy!

POPE’s DIET

Published June 4, 2012 by Tony

What does Benedict XVI eat?

What are his favorite foods?

As native of Bavaria, Joseph Ratzinger should have been eating sausages and sauerkraut and instead he turned out to be just a new discovery for us. As son of a female cook, Joseph has always been a lover of simple dishes, well cooked. They say he likes the Kaiserschmarren, a kind of crepes cut into strips, much loved in South Tyrol and in High Bavaria, but he likes citrus fruits too, which he appreciates the juice and mandarin ice cream. The oranges seem to be his passion, so much so that in the restaurants where he went when a Cardinal, the waiters still remember him for his ordering, and so he was captured with a cup full of orange juice in a documentary aired on History Channel.
From the Holy See, we learn that Ratzinger has breakfast with coffee and milk, bread, butter and jam, sometimes he accepts donuts or cookies that visitors give him as gift. Lunch and dinner are prepared by the so-called “guardian angels”, laywomen who deal with his private apartments, while the kitchen is in the hands of two Apulians.  Loredana who does the shopping at the Vatican supermarket and furnishes the fresh vegetables harvested by the Castel Gandolfo gardens. Carmela who is in the kitchen and cooks the cakes more loved by the Pope: strudels, pies, and tiramisu of fruits. Under the guidance of nutritionists and such cooks, the diet could not be different from the Mediterranean one, with plenty of pasta and chicken.
Ratzinger also likes “spaghetti carbonara”. In fact, for many years, when still a cardinal, he ate every day in a nice “eating house”, a stone’s throw from its old Roman house, as the owner of that restaurant say, adding that he also favors the traditional Neapolitan dishes. The “Neapolitan pastiera” never is missing on his table on Easter Sunday. When Ratzinger was a guest of the Archbishop of Naples, the Sisters of the Neapolitan Curia prepared him “spaghetti with clams“, scallops or roast chicken with potatoes, besides the mozzarella. He prefers to drink water or the orange drink Fanta. Anyway, although he loves very much Roman and Neapolitan cuisine, Benedict XVI did not give up his Bavarian origins.
At Christmas, at the Pope’s table were served Knödel, the weiss sausage with sweet mustard and lebkuchen, the typical Bavarian gingerbread. Leaving the walls of St. Peter, when the Pope is on a mission, he must experience the local recipes, like pasta with pesto when in Genoa, or as the weissbier tasted for his birthday in the recent trip to Germany. “Sobriety and no fish” are his only directives, by a cousine “good but simple”.