Transcript: Donna Gabaccia on Italian Cuisine | Oct 23, 2004

Donna Gabaccia stands behind a podium in a packed conference room. A banner on the podium reads “University of Toronto. Munk Centre for International Studies at Trinity College.”
Donna is in her sixties, with blond hair in a short bob. She’s wearing glasses and a black sweater.

She says WHEN RICK
ASKED ME TO TALK ABOUT ITALIAN
FOOD FOR A CONFERENCE ABOUT
AMERICAN POPULAR CULTURE, I
WANTED TO COME UP WITH A WAY TO
DO IT THAT BOTH PREPARED US FOR
THE PLEASURABLE EVENT THAT WE
ALL KNOW IS COMING, WHICH IS
THIS FOOD TASTING RECEPTION,

A caption appears on screen. It reads "Donna Gabaccia. University of Pittsburgh. The transatlantic creation of ‘Italian cuisine.’ University of Toronto. March 20, 2004."

Donna continues BUT THAT WILL
ALSO GIVE US AN OPPORTUNITY TO
THINK ABOUT AND CONTEMPLATE THE
FOUNDATIONAL ASSUMPTIONS, THE
BOUNDARIES AND THE BORDERS OF
THE FIELD OF STUDY WHICH IS OUR
ATTENTION HERE, WHICH IS
AMERICAN POPULAR CULTURE ITSELF.
AND HAVING TAUGHT, OFTEN UNDER
PROTEST, WORLD HISTORY ON AND
OFF FOR THE PAST SEVEN YEARS, I
DECIDED TO TACKLE THE MAKING OF
THIS PARTICULAR VERSION OF
ETHNIC POPULAR AND ITALIAN FOOD
WITHIN THE ATLANTIC.
NOT ONE PART
OF IT, BUT AS AN OCEAN OF
CONNECTIONS, THUS BROADENING
BOTH THE CHRONOLOGICAL AND THE
GEOGRAPHICAL LIMITS OF WHAT MOST
PEOPLE TAKE TO BE THE PROPER
TERRAIN OF AMERICAN POPULAR
CULTURE.
NOW I AM BY NO MEANS--
BY NO MEANS THE FIRST SCHOLAR TO
SUGGEST THAT ITALIAN FOOD IS AN
AMERICAN INVENTION.
BUT I MAY BE THE FIRST TO
PROPOSE THAT WE NEED TO EXAMINE
ITS CREATION AND IT'S EVOLUTION
OVER THE LONG TERM OF A VERY
GEOGRAPHICALLY LARGE HISTORY OF
THE ATLANTIC.
SO IN THE VERY LONG PAPER THAT I
WROTE, AND THAT I AM NOT GOING
TO READ, I DESCRIBE A NUMBER OF
KEY MOMENTS IN THIS ATLANTIC
HISTORY OF ITALIAN FOOD, AND I
BEGIN WITH THE SO-CALLED ERA OF
THE COLUMBIAN EXCHANGE, BETWEEN
1500 AND 1800.
I TALK ABOUT THE RISE OF ITALY'S
REGIONAL CULINARY CULTURES IN
THE EARLY 19th CENTURY, AND THEN
EXAMINE THE ERA OF THE MASS
MIGRATIONS BETWEEN 1870, AND
1930 THAT CARRIED ITALY'S
REGIONAL CULTURES OUT ACROSS THE
ALPS, ACTUALLY, AND INTO THE
ATLANTIC.
AND ALTHOUGH I DON'T EMPHASISE
THIS IN MY PAPER, I END AT THE
BEGINNING OF WHAT I REGARD AS
SORT OF THE FOURTH ACT OF THIS
LONG HISTORY OF ITALIAN FOOD IN
THE ATLANTIC, WHICH IS THE
EXPORT OF ITALIAN FOOD FROM THE
AMERICAS AROUND THE WORLD.
THROUGHOUT THE PAPER, MY FOCUS
IS ADAMANTLY ON THE COOKING POTS
AND THE CUSTOMS OF HUMBLE
PEOPLE, PEASANTS AND WORKERS AND
IMMIGRANTS.
AND I TRY, IN THE PAPER AT
LEAST, IN SOME DETAIL TO COMPARE
THEIR CHANGING FOOD WAYS BOTH
ACROSS TIME TO THE MIDDLE CLASS
EATERS OF BOTH ITALY AND
ESPECIALLY THE UNITED STATES, ON
BOTH SIDES OF THE ATLANTIC, IN
OTHER WORDS.
CLEARLY I CAN'T PRESENT ALL THIS
MATERIAL HERE, BUT THAT'S WHAT
LIES IN BACK OF MY PRESENTATION.
LET ME BEGIN WITH THE CREATION
OF ITALIAN FOOD WITHIN THIS
PERIOD OF TIME WE CALL THE
COLUMBIAN EXCHANGE.
WE ACTUALLY KNOW MORE ABOUT HOW
THE RESIDENTS OF ITALY ATE
BETWEEN THE YEARS OF 1200 AND
1500, THAN AT ANY LATER PERIOD
OF TIME, AND THAT'S PARTIALLY
BECAUSE THIS WAS ITALY'S MOMENT
IN WORLD HISTORY, ITS MOMENT OF
ECONOMIC AND CULTURAL INFLUENCE,
ESPECIALLY WITHIN EUROPE.
WE KNOW THAT IN THOSE EARLY
YEARS, PRIOR TO THE DISCOVERY OF
THE AMERICAS, ITALIANS STILL
DREW ON THE SO-CALLED CLASSICAL
MEDITERRANEAN CULINARY TRIANGLE
OF WINE, WHEAT AND OIL, BUT WE
ALSO KNOW THAT THE ECONOMIC RISE
OF ITALY'S URBAN ELITES HAD
ADDED PASTA, FORKS, MEATS AND
SALADS TO THE TABLES OF THE
MERCHANTS, AND THE BANKERS, THE
HUMANISTS AND THE CLERICS AND
THE ARTISTS OF TUSCANY, VENICE,
LOMBARDY, GENOA AND ROME.
OF COURSE THE TABLES OF THESE
ELITE ITALIANS PRIOR TO THE
COLUMBIAN EXCHANGE TELL US
RELATIVELY LITTLE ABOUT HOW
HUMBLE ITALIANS OF THIS PERIOD
WERE EATING, BUT IN THE
COUNTRYSIDE, WE KNOW THAT VERY
SIMPLE SOUP-LIKE POTAGES,
PORRIDGES, SOMETIMES CALLED
MINNESTRE MADE OF PULSES,
LEGUMES, GRAINS ALONG WITH
BREADS OF BOTH WHEAT AND THE SO-
CALLED SMALLER GRAINS MADE UP
THE CORE OF A VERY SOLID PEASANT
DIET, SUPPLEMENTED BY THEN SMALL
AMOUNTS OF CHEESE AND FISH AND
MEATS AND OLIVES AND OIL AND
NUTS, AND LARGER AMOUNTS OF A
WIDE VARIETY OF VEGETABLES,
DRIED AND FRESH FRUITS.
NOW THIS CUISINE WILL SOUND
FAMILIAR TO YOU, BECAUSE IT, OF
COURSE, MUCH RESEMBLES THE SEMI-
VEGETARIAN CUISINE THAT IS NOW
CELEBRATED AS A MEDITERRANEAN
DIET, AND WHICH IS RECOMMENDED
TO OVERWEIGHT EUROPEANS AND
AMERICANS WHO ARE THREATENED BY
HIGH CHOLESTEROL.
BUT, AND THIS IS AN IMPORTANT
POINT, IT WAS A DIET, THE DIET
OF ITALY'S POOR, WAS REGARDED
WITH CONSIDERABLE CONTEMPT BY
ITALY'S ELITES, PRETTY MUCH FROM
THE ROMAN TIMES INTO THE 20th
CENTURY, AND THAT'S A POINT TO
WHICH I WILL RETURN SEVERAL
TIMES.
NOW, SINCE SO MANY SCHOLARS,
INCLUDING, OCCASIONALLY, MYSELF,
HAVE PORTRAYED ITALY'S RESIDENTS
AS CULTURALLY CONSERVATIVE WHEN
IT COMES TO THE COOKING POT AND
TO MATTERS OF THE MOUTH, IT'S
WORTH EMPHASISING HOW
FUNDAMENTALLY THE DISCOVERY OF
THE AMERICAS AND THE EXCHANGE OF
GERMS, PLANTS, ANIMALS AND
POPULATIONS THAT FOLLOWED
COLUMBUS' VOYAGES, SUBSEQUENTLY
SHAPED ITALY'S EATING HABITS.
I HAVE TO ASK YOU TO IMAGINE
TODAY AN ITALY AND AN ITALIAN
CUISINE WITHOUT THE PRODUCTS
THAT IT GOT FROM THE AMERICAS.
WITHOUT TOMATOES, WITHOUT, AND
MY FAMILY'S FROM NORTHERN ITALY,
WITHOUT CORN, POLENTA, WITHOUT
PEPPERS, WITHOUT ZUCCHINI,
WITHOUT SQUASHES, WITHOUT THE
LITTLE CANNELLONI BEANS, WITHOUT
POTATOES, NO POTATO GNOCCHI.
THAT MAKES MY GENERAL POINT,
THAT THE IMPACT OF THE COLUMBIAN
EXCHANGE ON ITALY WAS, IF NOT
GREATER THAN IN OTHER PARTS OF
EUROPE, IT SIMPLY INTRODUCED--
IT CERTAINLY INTRODUCED INTO
ITALY A WIDER VARIETY OF
AMERICAN CROPS BECAME POPULAR IN
ITALY, THAN WE SEE IN OTHER
PARTS OF EUROPE.
TO SUMMARISE
THE COLUMBIAN EXCHANGE REALLY
QUICKLY, AND TO SIMPLIFY IT
CONSIDERABLY, ITALY ADOPTED THE
FOODSTUFFS OF THE AMERICAS
RELATIVELY LATE, DURING THE SO-
CALLED HUNGRY 18th CENTURY.
AND IT ADOPTED, AGAIN, AS I SAID, A
WIDER RANGE OF FOODSTUFFS THAN
WE SEE IN SOME OTHER PARTS OF
THE WORLD.
BUT WHILE HUNGER SURELY DROVE
THE PEASANTS WHO WERE THE
CUTTING EDGE IN ACCEPTING THESE
NEW PRODUCTS, RIGHT?
WE KNOW THAT IT WAS PEASANTS,
NOT WEALTHY PEOPLE WHO BEGAN THE
EXPERIMENTS WITH THESE NEW
AMERICAN CROPS.
EVEN IF THEY WERE DRIVEN BY
HUNGER, WE ALSO HAVE TO CONSIDER
HOW ITALY'S DISTINCTIVE
GEOPOLITICAL LOCATION EXPLAINS
THE ACCEPTANCE OF SO MANY OF
THESE NEW FOODS FROM THE
AMERICAS, AND TO UNDERSTAND THAT
GEOGRAPHICAL AND GEOPOLITICAL
LOCATION WITHIN THE ATLANTIC, WE
NEED TO REMEMBER THAT BETWEEN
1500 AND 1800, AS THE COLUMBIAN
EXCHANGE WAS GOING ON, ITALY WAS
LOSING ITS POSITION WITHIN THE
MEDITERRANEAN, OF ECONOMIC AND
CULTURAL PRIMACY, IT'S ALWAYS
CALLED BY ITALIANISTS.
WITH THE SHIFT FROM A EUROPEAN
WORLD ORGANISED AROUND CHANGES--
EXCHANGES AROUND THE
MEDITERRANEAN, TO A WORLD
DOMINATED BY CROSS-ATLANTIC
TRADE.
LARGE PARTS OF SOUTHERN ITALY
DURING THIS PERIOD OF TIME, ALSO
FELL UNDER THE DIRECT POLITICAL
RULE OF SPAIN, AS COLONIES.
SO ITALY, AND ESPECIALLY THE
SOUTHERN TERRITORIES OF ITALY
FROM NAPES SOUTH, LITERALLY
BECOME PART OF THE SPANISH
EMPIRE.
AND AT THE SAME TIME, ONE
INDEPENDENT CITY STATE IN THE
NORTH OF ITALY, GENOA, AND THE
AREA AROUND IT, LIGURIA,
CONTINUES TO PLAY, AS IT HAD
SINCE ACTUALLY THE EARLY YEARS
OF THE SECOND MILLENNIUM, A VERY
IMPORTANT PART IN ORGANISING THE
TRADE AND COMMERCE OF SPAIN, AS
SPAIN MOVES OUT INTO THE
ATLANTIC.
I MEAN JUST TO USE JUST A
SHORTHAND FOR THIS, CHRISTOPHER
COLUMBUS WAS FROM GENOA.
HE WAS A SEA CAPTAIN FOR SPAIN,
AND FOR THE NEXT 300 YEARS, THE
GENOESE ORGANISED MUCH OF TRADE
AND COMMERCE ACROSS THE ATLANTIC
FOR THE SPANISH EMPIRE.
IN SHORT, NOT ONLY WERE THE
RESIDENTS OF ITALY MORE NUMEROUS
AND INCREASINGLY HUNGRY IN THE
YEARS AFTER 1650, BUT THESE
REGIONS, THE SOUTH OF ITALY AND
GENOA WERE CLOSELY CONNECTED TO
THE AMERICAS THROUGH THE TRADE
ROUTES OF THE SPANISH EMPIRE.
WE MIGHT NOT BE ABLE TO TRACK
THE EXACT SHIPS THAT THESE FOODS
MOVED ON, WE DON'T KNOW EXACTLY
HOW TOMATOES ARRIVED, OR
POTATOES OR CORN OR SQUASH OR
BEANS OR CACTUS FRUITS, FIGGI
D'INDIA, IN ITALY BUT WE CAN BE
RELATIVELY SURE THAT THE
DIFFUSION OF SUCH A DIVERSITY OF
AMERICAN FOODSTUFFS REFLECTED
THE PARTICULAR PLACE OF GENOA,
LIGURIA AND SPAIN'S ITALIAN
TERRITORIES IN ITS FIRST
ATLANTIC EMPIRE.
AND BY THE 19th CENTURY, BY THE
EVE OF THE MASS MIGRATIONS,
THESE AMERICAN CROPS HAD SPREAD
WIDELY ENOUGH THROUGH THOSE
PARTICULAR TERRITORIES CONNECTED
TO SPAIN, TO BEGIN TO CREATE
REGIONALLY DISTINCTIVE
VARIATIONS ON SOME COMMON
POPULAR AND PEASANT CULINARY
THEMES.
AGAIN, NOT SO MUCH THE IMPACT ON
THE TABLES OF THE WEALTHY, BUT
IN THE KITCHENS OF THE POOR.
NOW AS BEST AS I KNOW, NO ONE
HAS EVER DUBBED THIS
TRANSFORMATION OF ITALY'S EATING
HABITS, THE AMERICANISATION OF
ITALIAN FOODWAYS, BUT THE
MATERIAL FOUNDATIONS FOR THE
TRANSFORMATION ITSELF, THE ROLE
PLAYED BY COMMERCE, THE ROLE
PLAYED BY MOBILE PEOPLE,
TRAVELLERS, MIGRANTS IF YOU WANT
TO CALL THEM THAT, IN LINKING
THE VEGETATIVE AND ANIMAL BOUNTY
OF THE AMERICAS TO THE
CREATIVITY OF HUMBLE COOKS IN
EUROPE IS A CONNECTION OF
INGREDIENTS THAT WE'RE GOING TO
SEE MORE THAN ONCE AS WE MOVE
THROUGH THE SUBSEQUENT
CENTURIES.
NOW, IN A VERY LARGE PIECE OF MY
PAPER, I EXAMINE THE FOODWAYS OF
ITALY'S PEASANTS AND URBAN
WORKERS ON THE EVE OF THE MASS
MIGRATIONS, AND THAT'S BASED
PRIMARILY ON A GOVERNMENTAL
SURVEY OF PEASANT LIFE IN THE
1870s, SUPPLEMENTED BY REPORTS
FROM TRAVELLERS AND FOLKLORISTS.
AND I'M GOING TO SPARE YOU MOST
OF THE DETAIL HERE, BUT SIMPLY
SAY THAT IN THESE REALLY RICH
SURVEYS OF WHAT IT IS EXACTLY
THAT ITALIAN--
HUMBLE ITALIANS ARE EATING IN
THE 1870s, WE CAN SEE HOW THE
COLUMBIAN EXCHANGE CONTRIBUTED
TO THE CREATION OF WHAT WE WOULD
THINK OF TODAY AS REGIONAL
ITALIAN COOKING, AND ESPECIALLY
DIFFERENTIATING THE MORE
AMERICAN FOODSTUFF BASED FOODS
OF THE SOUTH AND THE AREA AROUND
GENOA FROM OTHER PARTS OF ITALY.
WHAT DO WE
SEE IN THESE SURVEYS AT THE EVE
OF THE MASS MIGRATIONS?
FIRST, WE SEE THAT BY THE LATE
19th CENTURY, AMERICAN
FOODSTUFFS, ESPECIALLY CORN,
POTATOES AND BEANS WERE EATEN
RATHER WIDELY THROUGHOUT ITALY.
ALTHOUGH, AGAIN, MAINLY BY ITS POOREST
RESIDENTS.
WE ALSO SEE THAT CORN, WHICH WE
ASSOCIATE TODAY EXCLUSIVELY WITH
EATERS IN THE ITALIAN NORTH, WAS
IN FACT IN THE 1870s, EATEN IN
ALMOST EVERY CORNER OF ITALY,
BOTH AS CORN BREAD, WHICH, BY
THE WAY WAS SOMETIMES CALLED
PIZZA, AND IN THE FORM OF
POLENTA, OR CORN MEAL MUSH.
AS WE MIGHT EXPECT, THESE
SURVEYS ALSO SHOW US THAT THE
PEPPERS, THE TOMATOES, THE
SQUASH AND THE CACTUS FRUIT, THE
FIGGI D'INDIA, FIGS FROM THE
INDIES, HAD ENTERED PEASANT
DIETARIES, MAINLY IN EXACTLY THE
PLACES WE WOULD EXPECT, AROUND
GENOA AND IN THE SOUTHERN
REGIONS THAT HAD ONCE BEEN PART
OF THE SPANISH EMPIRE.
IT'S NOT THOSE EATING HABITS
HOWEVER, IRONICALLY, THAT BECOME
WHAT WE LATER KNOW AS ITALIAN
FOOD, IN THE AMERICAS.
CONTRARY TO POPULAR BELIEF,
PEASANTS IN ITALY WERE ALREADY
EATING PASTA, AND ALMOST
EVERYWHERE.
THEY DIDN'T USUALLY CALL IT
PASTA.
THEY CALLED IT HUNDREDS OF OTHER
THINGS, AND THEY DIDN'T EAT IT
EVERY DAY.
THEY MIGHT EAT IT ON SUNDAY, AND
THEY USUALLY THREW IT INTO THEIR
SOUP POTS AS A PORTION OF A
MINNESTRE.
BUT PASTA EATING WAS RELATIVELY
WELL ESTABLISHED AND WILL BECOME
AT LEAST A KEY INGREDIENT IN THE
FOODS SEEN AS ITALIAN AND
CREATED IN THE AMERICAS.
TOMATOES, AS WE'VE SEEN WERE
WIDELY CULTIVATED.
THEY WERE ALSO EATEN IN THOSE
AREAS OF ITALY INFLUENCED BY THE
SPANISH EMPIRE, BUT, AND HERE'S
THE KICK, PEASANT COOKS WERE
APPARENTLY NOT YET REGULARLY
PREPARING TOMATOES INTO SAUCES
OR MAKING CONSERVA, TOMATO PASTE
FOR THEIR OWN USE, NOR WERE THEY
SAUCING PASTA, NOR WHAT WE KNOW
TODAY AS PIZZA, WITH TOMATOES.
AND THERE'S A WHOLE SECTION OF
THE PAPER WHERE I POINT TO THE
FEW PLACES WHERE WE CAN FIND
TOMATO AND PASTA COMBINED, AND
THEY'RE NOT AT ALL WHERE WE
MIGHT HAVE EXPECTED TO FIND
THEM.
THEY'RE CERTAINLY -- SOME PLACE
LIKE ELBA FOR EXAMPLE, PEOPLE
WERE EATING POLENTA WITH TOMATO
SAUCE.
PIZZA, AT LEAST AS MODERN
ITALIANS KNOW IT, AND MACCARONI
WITH TOMATO SAUCES DON'T APPEAR
IN ITALY'S SURVEYS, THE
GOVERNMENT SURVEYS OF RURAL
EATING HABITS, IN PART BECAUSE
IT WAS PENNY CAPITALISTS IN THE
URBAN PIAZZAS OF NAPLES, WHICH
WAS ITALY'S LARGEST CITY, AND
NOT THE PEASANTRY, WHO FIRST
PREPARED THEM.
ACTUALLY, ALREADY IN THE 1790s,
VISITORS TO NAPLES FOUND MEN WHO
THEY DESCRIBED AS LOAFERS,
HANGING AROUND PUBLIC COOK SHOPS
IN NAPLES, AND THEY DESCRIBE
THEM AS INHALING MACCARONI -- OR
DIRECTLY FROM THE PLATE.
I MEAN THIS WAS A TOURIST
ATTRACTION, BUT THEY WERE QUITE
CLEAR THAT MACCARONI EATERS OF
NAPLES WAS EATING IT WITH GRATED
CHEESE, AND WITH GRATED CHEESE
ALONE.
FOR REASONS THAT I STILL NEED TO
PUZZLE OUT, TOMATOES CAME ONTO
THE TOP OF PIZZAS AND INTO
MACCARONI PLATES IN THE 1830s.
BUT THE MAJORITY OF PEASANTS AT
THAT POINT WERE NOT EATING IT.
THAT WAS KNOWN AS A SORT OF
NEAPOLITAN PECULIARITY, AND A
STREET FOOD THAT WAS ENORMOUSLY
POPULAR WITH THE LOWEST INCOME
OF CONSUMERS IN A LARGE TEEMING
ITALIAN CITY.
TOMATOES, SAUCE AND CONSERVA
THEN APPEARED RATHER RAPIDLY TO
SPREAD WITH MIGRANTS AROUND THE
WORLD, AND I'M GOING TO SAY A
FEW WORDS ABOUT THEIR SPREAD
NOW.
CLEARLY THE SPREAD OF MACCARONI
AND TOMATOES AND PIZZA IS
INFLUENCED BY THE MIGRATION OF
OVER 14 MILLION PEOPLE FROM
ITALY IN THE YEARS BETWEEN 1876
AND 1915, AND THAT'S A MIGRATION
THAT GOES NOT ONLY TO NORTH
AMERICA, BUT TO ARGENTINA AND
BRAZIL.
AND IF YOU WANT TO ASK ME ABOUT
IT IN THE DISCUSSION PERIOD, I
CAN TELL YOU HOW THE CREATION OF
ITALIAN FOOD IN ARGENTINA AND
BRAZIL DIFFER A LITTLE BIT FROM
THE CREATION OF ITALIAN FOOD IN
NORTH AMERICA, AND THE UNITED
STATES.
WHAT WE SEE IN THE MIGRATION OF
ITALIANS TO THE U.S. IN
PARTICULAR, BUT ALSO TO SOUTH
AMERICA, IS THE LEGACY OF THAT
PARTICULAR PLACE OF ITALY IN THE
SPANISH EMPIRE, IN SOME WAYS.
SINCE THE TRANSATLANTIC
MIGRATIONS FROM ITALY ARE
DOMINATED BY LIGURDIANS, PEOPLE
FROM GENOA AND PEOPLE FROM THE
FORMERLY SPANISH SOUTH, WHEREAS
ITALIANS FROM OTHER PARTS OF
ITALY, WHO ACTUALLY WERE THE
LARGEST GROUP OF MIGRANTS TENDED
TO GO EITHER TO NORTH AFRICA OR
ACROSS THE ALPS INTO OTHER
EUROPEAN COUNTRIES.
SO IN LOOKING AT THE CREATION OF
ITALIAN FOOD IN THE AMERICAS, WE
AGAIN BEGIN WITH THE GENOESE,
AND WITH THOSE FORMERLY SPANISH
TERRITORIES OF ITALY, THE SOUTH
OF ITALY.
NOT ONLY WERE THE GENOESE AND
THE LIGURIANS THE PIONEERS OF
THE MASS MIGRATIONS, LEAVING
ALREADY IN THE 1830s, '40s AND
'50s, THEY WERE ALSO THE
FOUNDERS OF THE KEY
IMPORT-EXPORT BUSINESSES THAT
WOULD PROVIDE THE FOODSTUFFS
FROM HOME FOR THE HUGE
POPULATIONS OF IMMIGRANT EATERS
IN THE UNITED STATES.
THEY WERE ALSO, NOTABLY, THE
FOUNDERS OF MOST ITALIAN--
EARLY ITALIAN RESTAURANTS IN
BOTH NORTH AND SOUTH AMERICA.
AND THEIR
OPPORTUNITIES FOR TURNING A BUCK
OR A REAL, OR A PESO, WERE VERY
SUBSTANTIAL WHEN FACED WITH UP
TO 14 MILLION NEW--
WELL 10 MILLION NEW CONSUMERS IN THE
YEARS AROUND THE TURN OF THE
CENTURY.
THERE WERE NO AMERICAN OLIVE
TREES, THERE WERE NO MORE THAN A
HANDFUL OF MACCARONI FACTORIES,
THERE WERE NO NATIVE PRODUCERS
OF ITALIAN STYLE CHEESES OR
GROWERS OF ITALIAN VEGETABLES
SUCH AS BROCCOLI OR PLUM
TOMATOES, ETC, ETC, ETC.
IMMIGRANT EATERS, WE ALL KNOW,
SEEK FAMILIAR FOODS.
WE ALSO KNOW THAT IN THE UNITED
STATES, ITALIAN IMMIGRANTS WERE
LOATH TO ADOPT CANNED FOODS
PREPARED IN THE U.S., AND THEY
ALMOST COMPLETELY AVOIDED THE
MASS PRODUCED BREAD THAT
AMERICAN BAKERS WERE BEGINNING
TO TURN OUT.
BUT, AND HERE'S AN IMPORTANT
POINT, THEIR WILLINGNESS TO
PURCHASE CANNED TOMATOES,
FACTORY PRODUCED DRIED PASTA AND
OILS IN CANS COMING FROM ITALY,
REVEAL ANOTHER SIDE OF THEIR
CONSUMPTION CHOICES.
AND THE PILES, IF YOU LOOK AT
IMMIGRANT GROCERY STORES FROM
THIS PERIOD, YOU ALWAYS SEE THE
CANS PILED UP.
THE PILES OF CANNED TOMATOES AND
OIL IN CANS, AND BAGS OF PASTA
STACKED IN IMMIGRANT GROCERY
STORES IN NORTH AND SOUTH
AMERICA, WERE PRODUCTS OF A
MINOR INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION IN
FOOD PROCESSING THAT I WOULD
LOVE TO KNOW MORE ABOUT, THAT
OCCURRED MAINLY IN NAPLES, AND
TO A MUCH LESSER EXTENT, IN
PALERMO AND GENOA IN THE YEARS
AROUND 1900.
BY 1900 THERE WERE 10,000
WORKERS WORKING FOR JUST ONE
PASTA MANUFACTORY IN NAPLES AND
IN BOTH PARMA, GENOA, SICILY AND
NAPLES, BUSINESSMEN WERE
MANUFACTURING PASTA SPECIFICALLY
FOR EXPORT TO THE U.S., WITH A
SPECIFIC BRAND NAME FOR THOSE
ITALIAN AMERICAN CONSUMERS.
WE KNOW CONSIDERABLY LESS ABOUT
THESE INDUSTRIES, ESPECIALLY THE
CANNING OF OIL, AND WE'VE GOT
SOME VERY FUNNY STORIES THAT
SUGGEST THAT THESE EARLY EFFORTS
AT CANNING OIL, ESPECIALLY,
OFTEN WENT AWRY.
NOW THERE'S A STORY OF PIZZA
THAT I CAN TELL HERE, BUT
BECAUSE I'M RUNNING OUT OF TIME,
I'LL FOCUS ON WHAT HAPPENS TO
PASTA, AND HOW A VERY EMBLEMATIC
FOOD OF ITALIAN AND AMERICAN
EATERS, SPAGHETTI WITH
MEATBALLS, COMES TO BE CREATED.
THE AMERICAN CREATION PAR
EXCELLENCE OF ITALIAN FOOD IN
THE EARLY YEARS OF THE CENTURY,
WAS NOT PIZZA IN FACT, WHICH
COMES IN RATHER BELATEDLY, BUT
SPAGHETTI WITH MEAT BALLS.
NO DISH MORE SYMBOLISED ITALIAN
IMMIGRANT CUISINE IN THE UNITED
STATES THAN IT DID.
THERE ARE ACTUALLY CALABRIAN
ROOTS FOR MEAT BALLS, ALTHOUGH
THEY HAD NEVER BEEN SERVED
EITHER WITH PASTA OR TOMATO
SAUCE IN ITALY.
BUT THERE'S EARLY, ACTUALLY LATE
18th CENTURY, AND EARLY 19th
CENTURY DESCRIPTIONS OF THEM.
AND BY THE 1930s, WE KNOW, THAT
THIS PRODUCT OF CALABRIA HAD
BEEN ADDED TO PASTA PLATES AND
SAUCED WITH TOMATOES, AND THAT
ALL ITALIAN AMERICANS,
REGARDLESS OF BACKGROUND, WERE
EATING IT.
AND FOR ME, WHO IS QUITE
INTERESTED IN THE REGIONAL
DIMENSIONS OF THIS STORY, WHAT
IS QUITE STRIKING IS THAT THE
FOODWAYS OF NAPLES AND ITS
UPLAND REGIONS, CALABRIA AND
BASLICATTA, HAVE A MUCH GREATER
IMPACT ON THE MAKING OF ITALIAN
FOOD IN AMERICA THAN THE
NUMERICALLY LARGER GROUP OF
SICILIANS THAT I HAVE SPENT A
FAIR AMOUNT OF MY LIFE STUDYING.
WE DON'T EAT PASTA CON LESARDE
THE WAY WE EAT SPAGHETTI WITH
MEATBALLS.
IN FACT I CHALLENGE ANY OF YOU
WHO AREN'T OF SICILIAN DESCENT
TO DESCRIBE WHAT THAT IS.
THAT POPULAR AMERICAN DISH AND
THE SPREAD OF PEPPERS AND SAUCES
AND THE COMBINATION OF MEAT AND
PAST WITH SAUCE GOES BACK ACROSS
THE ATLANTIC IN THE OPPOSITE
DIRECTION VERY EASILY, AND BY A
SECOND GOVERNMENTAL SURVEY OF
THE YEARS AROUND 1910, WE FIND
ITALIANS EATING IT EVERYWHERE.
WORLD WAR I CHANGES THIS
PICTURE.
WE SEE THE VERY RAPID DROP OFF
OF EXPORTS FROM ITALY, AND UNDER
THE SUBSEQUENT FASCIST ERA OF
COURSE, I MEAN, MUSSOLINI
DECLARED THAT HE NEVER ATE
SPAGHETTI.
HE NEVER ATE PASTA, AND HE WANTS
TO PREVENT THE EXPORT OF ALL
WHEATEN PRODUCTS ABROAD.
AND IN RESPONSE, OF COURSE, THE
AMERICAN PRODUCTION OF ALL THESE
PRODUCTS, OF OIL, BUT ESPECIALLY
OF CANNED TOMATOES -- PLUM
TOMATOES ARE INTRODUCED INTO THE
UNITED STATES IN THE 1920s, BY
THE 1930s, ARGENTINA IS A MAJOR
EXPORTER OF ITALIAN CHEESE, AND
THE UNITED STATES IS EXPORTING
PASTA ABROAD.
SETTING THE STAGE OF COURSE, FOR
THE FINAL STORY OF THIS, WHICH
IS THE EXPORT OF ITALIAN FOOD,
AS PIZZA HUT AND A NUMBER OF
OTHER PRODUCTS, FROM THE
AMERICAS TO THE WIDER WORLD, BUT
I DON'T HAVE TIME TO TELL THAT
ONE, SO I'LL STOP HERE.
THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

[Applause]

Watch: Donna Gabaccia on Italian Cuisine