Risotto all’italiana

Being in Italy, nel paese del buon cibo, how could I not write about food? Italian cuisine is well known as one of the best ones worldwide. But it is not only about the food itself, but also about the whole attitude towards it. Eating is not just something you do to survive, it is art here in Italy.

I remember this one time when I wanted to cook risotto alla zucca with my Italian flat mates. So we started to cut the vegetables and prepare the bouillon together. By the time I wanted to add the water to the onion and rice (I usually just add it and stir afterwards, if there is needed more, I just add some more), my flat mates were looking at me in disbelief. “You can’t add all of the water right now, Laura! You have to add just a little bit, give it a stir and wait; add a little bit more and so on…” I was looking at them, thinking they were actually joking.

They were not. So we were slowly (very slowly) cooking this risotto, with constant stirring and waiting, pouring once in a while a little bit of water. And did you know (I didn’t at least), the pepper is to be added only at the very end of the cooking process, because it takes all the taste away if it is added to early. Well, you can imagine that after two long hours, we could finally eat this risotto alla zucca (which was delicious by the way). So I learnt that here in Italy, there are some unofficial rules on how to cook which are to be respected (if you’re not keen on having some severe arguments).

Since then, I avoid telling them how Swiss people actually prepare a Carbonara, not even mentioning Pizza Hawaii. What is a little bit missing here in Italy is the culture of breakfast / having a Brunch. You usually find Brioches or a little biscuit and coffee, but the nice dark Swiss bread is hard to find. On the other hand, you can be sure to find the best coffee everywhere. And I mean everywhere. In a little café which may appear a little run-down, you can still find amazing coffee. In general, a lot of attention is paid to food. You normally take the time to prepare a good lunch and you enjoy eating in company with family and friends. It reflects the Italian sense of community, family and hospitality. Not seldom are there friends coming over for dinner. There is always enough space for everybody who wants to join. In my opinion, this important value of community of the Italians is one reason why they struggle personally a lot with the current COVID situation.

In Italy, life in general takes place about 2 hours later than in Switzerland. You would have lunch around 1 or 2pm, dinner around 8 or 9pm. As I don’t really follow a typical “Swiss daily routine” back home, this didn’t change my daily life a lot and I actually really like this Mediterranean life style. I appreciate the passion and enthusiasm about how Italians treat the whole culinary tradition a lot. A lot seems to be about tradition: every Italian could tell you a story about a specific recipe. They kind of “celebrate” this tradition, the cooking and the prepared meals. And this is a characteristic I would like to bring back home, to celebrate a good Brunch, a well prepared Cappuccino with foam on top, a Lasagna prepared with love or a freshly baked bread just coming out of the oven. Let’s celebrate these small things, which in the end are the important things of our daily life.

Laura Sennhauser

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