I never thought I would still be getting my hand slapped at the table at 23 years old. It happened. In Italy.
Italians take their food seriously! There are rules to Italian cooking and eating that need to be followed. I’ve learned the hard way so you don’t have to:
How to Eat Cold Cuts in Italy
In University, I signed up to be an exchange buddy to some exchange students from Italy. I was assigned to a very kind, Italian gentleman from Parma. We stayed in touch even after he left my University. When I had a chance to go to Italy for the first time in January 2009, I made an effort to go visit my old exchange buddy in Parma. We decided to meet up for an aperitivo. I was so excited to try real Parma ham and all the fresh cold cuts and cheeses that this famous city had to offer.
Out came the gorgeous, fresh cold cuts and cheeses presented on wooden platters accompanied by our spritz cocktails. As soon as the platters touched the table, everyone grabbed a fork and started digging in. My exchange buddy took the liberty of serving me a piece of every type of cold cut so I could try everything. On my plate, I found some prosciutto crudo, pancetta and lardo. Each cold cut contained increasingly more fat.
As a north american from the west coast, I was concerned about the amount of fat on my plate. I contemplated the obstacle at hand as I knew there was some tedious dissection to be done. I started with the prosciutto and started to separate the fat from the meat. It only took me a second to feel the sting on the back of my hand and the disgusted looks from the entire table. There may have been a gasp. I turned to my friend in shock and he immediately and sternly warned me:
“You either eat everything or you don’t eat at all!”
The scary part is that he told me that in Italian. I didn’t speak Italian at the time but I didn’t have to. I understood completely.
6 years later, I can proudly say that one of my favourite antipasti dishes is lardo con miele. That is 100% FAT, cured, thinly sliced and garnished with pearls of honey. It is a treat that melts in your mouth and takes you to paradise for a few seconds. Just in case you were wondering, my exchange buddy and I are still friends.
- aperitivo: Italian happy hour
- spritz: aperol, prosecco, sparkling water and a slice of orange
- prosciutto crudo: cured ham
- pancetta: cured pork belly
- lardo: cured pig fat
- antipasto: appetizer
If you’re curious as to how I was scolded in Italian after picking apart my prosciutto, here is the translation:
“O SI MANGIA TUTTO, O NON SI MANGIA!!”
Yes, the capitals are necessary.