Changes of the alimentary habits from the '50s to today
At the end of the war, after the bombardments, the hunger and the rationing of the groceries, the Italian economy slowly starts to recover itself. With the reconstruction, it begins in fact to spread among all the social classes a new comfort that will reach, then, the highest levels among the end of the '50s and the first '60s.
Italians can feed themselves better, following a more varied diet, and meat starts to be on workers’ tables. At the beginning of the '50s the Italians’ way of feeding was, however , essentially based on "poor" foods. It is a decade of changes and great novelties for the Italian people: the TV is born in 1954, mass motorization starts with the throwing on the market of the FIAT "Six hundred" in 1955, witnessing a revolution of the consumptions and looking at the USA and its life style.
But without giving up to one’s own Italian nature and to pasta. As it testified by the famous scene of the film " An American in Rome" ('54) where Alberto Sordi, also madly in love with the States, during dinner doesn't resist to the temptation to throw himself on an Italian big plate of spaghetti with a good glass of red wine. Instead in the episodes of Vittorio De Sica’s film "The gold in Naples" Sofia Loren in "credit Pizzas" plays the role of a pizzaiola that sells credit pizzas "to eight" (payable after eight days).
The Italian dietary model, although with different characteristics in each region, still keeps in this decade a series of elements common to all the geographical areas: the centrality of the house in the eating rite to which the whole family participate at fixed times and the division of the meal in three courses, a first dish, a second dish and the fruit.
It is the decade of the "economic miracle" where the black hunger is by now a memory and the objects of the desire are not anymore the white bread, quality pasta, fish or roast chicken but the durable goods, cars, motorbikes, tvs, refrigerators.
Besides, the modernization of the society and the spreading of the new culture of consumptions determine the increasing development of the production and marketing of alimentary products of industrial origin. The first supermarkets open reducing so the regional differences and giving the start to the process of homologation of consumptions.
The type of diet doesn't mark anymore the differences among the social classes: all buy everything. Canned food are still seen with a lot of distrust and only the 5% of the consumers make "closed box." purchases.
As it regards the use of the tomato and the vegetables, we can speak of a true boom, for citrus fruit, fresh fruit, milk, cheeses, diary products. Seeds oil appears on our tables even if olive oil replaces entirely lard and almost entirely butter, in the daily kitchen.
The new decade opens with the world crisis of the economy, marked by the inconvertibility of the dollar, provoking in Italy the so-called "austerity" period, with Sundays afoot and a general reduction of the consumptions.
In America, after studies carried on the mortality of the Americans owed to the high frequency of cardiovascular diseases, researches in this field sustain the benefits of a diet based on pasta, fish, vegetables, cheeses, olive oil and wine typical of the South Italy known as Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet conquers USA and it not only encourages the consumption of pasta in the United States but also in Europe and in the same Italy.
At the end of the '70s while in USA the pleasure of the food "made in Italy" increases and in Japan there is a boom of Italian restaurants, in Italy we witness the opening of steak houses and the first fast-food restaurants in pure American style.
Despite the austerity it is easy to understand how the food habits of Italians are changing compared to twenty years ago. The diet becomes much richer and the consumption of meat becomes the most important voice of a family food budget.
This decade is characterized by the desire of genuine foods and we assists to new modifications of the food habits of Italians. The diminution of the number of their children for every family participates in the increase of the economic possibilities, a lot of times the mother also works, and more money is made and that is used for the needs of a limited number of people.
Among the consumers the desire of having products of excellence made with high quality stuff becomes a great market demand. There is, in short, the desire of a return to "natural" products (those of the old times) that will increase in the '90s.
In this decade there is a certain reaction to the standardization process of consumptions and a new fragmentation of the alimentary styles takes place that doesn't refer anymore to the geographical regional realities but to the consumers’ socio-cultural components. New alimentary imported models are born (exotic, macrobiotic, natural, dietary, Anglo-Saxon) while new way of food consumption become popular (business cafeterias, restaurants, fast food, snack cafe).
In the years '90s Italians food habits change also influenced by the increasing number of one-parent families and of singles.
In the great urban areas we witness the loss of the "rite" of the meal of midday, with the reunited family around the table, sacrificed more and more to the logic of working schedules that allow the worker only short lunch-break, devoted to a fast snack.
Those are years marked out by a sensitive increase of the dynamism of the social life and of eating out. There is a great demand of ready meals to be brought to the table and consequently the spreading of “take away” food from rosticcerie and restaurants.
The market gives a big help; in the field of the ready food, there is a great variety of food that require less and less cooking and/or serving times: from the ready sauces to pastas to be put in a frying pan or microwaves, to the frozen pizzas, ready in few minutes. However people very often dine out and it is by now a rule to celebrate personal or family events at a restaurant. In fact the reception or party at the restaurant has taken the place of the great lunches with a lot of courses that up to a few decades ago were prepared at home.
The years 2000
At the beginning of the XXI century the meal is more and more a chance to be together, but it has to be a quality fast meal, too. Even women that don't work devote less and less time to the preparation of the food, preferring to employ the time saved doing different things.
A greater attention and a renewed interest toward diet have contributed to modify the food habits of Italians.
The concept of a healthy and correct diet has become a common goal of people who want to prevent the rising of pathologies linked to a bad alimentary diet and of those who want to be in shape keeping a perfect body in line with the beauty canons of the moment.
There is a diffused practice, supported by nutritionists, of having a single pasta-based dish accompanied by a salad perfect for those who work and that gives to the organism all what it needs.
As for food, almost all the existing alimentary products in commerce are affordable, for all pockets, and this freedom of purchasing means more attention to the quality of the products and a preference for natural food that satisfy both the taste and the discovered interest for healthy , genuine food.
Hungarian eating habits
The spice that most think of when talking about the culinary of Hungary is paprika (red pepper) which has been cultivated and refined over the past 2 thousand years in this region. Needless to say it is one of the most important ingredient of many of the dishes. A part of the "base" for soups and stews. Dishes with predominance of paprika are called "paprikas", served with sour cream sauces for fish, fowl and veal dishes. Note: the paprika used is very rarely the hot spicy type. For those that desire this, usually add their own from a locally made hot paste Eros Pista (it will blow your socks off).
Hungarian Goulash -> http://www.budapest.com/recipes/goulash.htm
(Gulyás), as the most famous of Hungarian culinary creations, uses much of this spice and is delivered in the form of a rich soup/stew type dish, containing onions and small potatoes.
Chicken Paprikas -> http://www.budapest.com/recipes/Chicken-Paprikas-with-galuska.htm
It is a soup favored by most natives, with large chunks of fish in a semi-hot (spicy) soup. Well worth trying in a restaurant, to indulge in real local cooking. Sometimes prepared in a very nostalgic "nomad" way, in a large kiln pot, hung on a tripod over an open fire. Another great preparation is Hal Paprikas which has a batter that contains lots of the red gold (paprika). It usually includes at least 3 kinds of fish when served, catfish, carp or another local variety. Layered on top of noodles or a typical local pasta Turos Csusza (cottage cheese mixed with noodles).
Onions are also a very common ingredient, diced and slightly browned in oil adding a delicious flavor to many dishes. Or served sliced on grilled meats and salads. Fresh spring onions (looks like grass) is also very popular on sandwiches and creamy spreads. Parsley is also a common and well liked ingredient as are bay leafs, caraway seeds, tarragon and marjoram used in many recipes. Rarer spices such as saffron and ginger discovered along the way during the great migrations also are a part of some of the special dishes. Sour cream is an integral part of the Hungarian cooking in the sauces and soups and even desserts. The oils used are mainly sunflower seed oil but pumpkin seed oil is also found in the preparations.
Goulash is probably one of the most "tried" and attempted dish prepared outside the country and just about any meat stew with paprika is commonly referred to as Goulash. However, it goes deeper then this if you truly wish to prepare this dish the authentic flavorful way. While the real stew has several forms, such as gulyas, porkolt or tokany, it does require the special processes, "in proper order" to be administered. Goulash is soup with onions, paprika and cubed potatoes and noodles. Porkolt is a ragout with meat and minced onions in a thick smooth sauce. Finally, Tokany, while similar, using strips of meat contains more vegetables in it's thick sauce. Such as mushrooms, small potatoes, peas, carrots and other vegetables, naturally in a creamy sour cream sauce. Flour is usually avoided in these stews as a thickener.
Due to the fact that Hungary has a lot of waterways and lakes, fish is also on top of the list of favorites from soups to stews. Probably the best known and one of the tastiest is lake Balaton pike-perch (fogas) which can weigh as much as 20 lbs (10 kg). Best eaten fresh, found at most restaurants around the lake Balaton. Another favorite is sturgeon (tok) from the river Tisza, known for it's great taste and lack of small bones. River trout is also available in Hungary and can be found fresh, in live fish tanks in larger hypermarkets. Easily distinguished by its black spots and silver body. Carp, found in many varieties, is also popular.
is also a common traditional food. With "pig slaughter" taking place in most rural family households traditionally in November or December, as a family affair. The products produced at these family pig slaughters provided meat (mostly in the smoked state) that lasts through the rest of the cold winter ahead and even into the summer. Sausages come in several varieties and consistencies (usually the Pick brand in stores is the best). Blood sausage; prepared with pigs blood (diluted with milk), pork, bacon black pepper and marjoram. Liver sausage; made with pig liver, lemon, garlic and marjoram. These are usually the "cooking" kind where you brown the sausage in lard or oil before serving with rice or potatoes. The other type of sausage is the smoked sausage made with paprika and other secret spices according to tradition and can be eaten on a sandwich.
Yet another is the Winter Salami (teli szalami), which is thicker and more aromatic.
Holiday cooking especially Christmas and New Year usually is highlighted with a roast of suckling pig. Crisp and golden, with an apple in it's mouth. Served with vinegary red cabbage as a main side dish, naturally with potatoes and many different kinds of steamed vegetables. Hungarian tradition prescribes this roast pig feast at New Year's day to bring good luck for the coming year. Stuffed cabbage with sour cream and a thick soup of cabbage with "cooked-in" potatoes with breaded veal slices on the side are also common. Hungarian Carnival doughnuts (fank) are a favored dessert this time of year, served piping hot with powdered sugar sprinkle and fruit jams. The winter drinks inlclude Hot wines, prepared in a large pot with tropical fruits and a mixture of wines, cinnamon and other sweet spices.
A traditional Easter meal is smoked ham
Harvest time foods inherently include fresh ripe fall fruits. Roasted chestnuts and walnuts, sold in parks and street corners in the cities. "New vine" (musth) a taste of the freshly pressed grapes which rapidly develop into containing a slight amount of alcohol. So beware...
Portugal eating habits
The age of discovery was propelled by the desire for exotic spices and ever since Vasco da Gama discovered the sea route to India at the turn of the sixteenth century, they have proved to be very popular in Portuguese cuisine.
Peri-peri, a Brazilian spice transplanted to the former African colonies is used to flavour chicken and shrimp. Curry spices from Goa are common seasonings. These spices are typically used very sparingly, adding subtle flavor and depth to dishes.
Staple foods in the Portuguese diet include fish, chicken, vegetables and fruits. Pork, goat, partridge, quail and rabbit are typical meats in Portugal. Famous specialties are sardinhas assadas (charcoal-grilled sardines), pastéis de bacalhau (cod fishcakes) and caldo verde (a soup of cabbage and potatoes). Codfish is prepared in many ways, and it is usually served as the most typical Portuguese dish. Sweets are very popular, and wine is often consumed with meals.
Bacalhau, salted cod, is the Portuguese fish and said to be the basis for some 365 recipes, one for each day of the year. Two dishes are particularly notable. Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá, essentially a casserole of cod, potatoes and onion, is an Oporto speciality and considered perhaps Portugal's greatest bacalhau recipe.
There are plenty of options for the meat-lover too. Espetada, grilled skewers of beef with garlic, is popular, as is suckling pig (leitão). Cozido à portuguesa, a one-dish meal of beef, pork, sausage and vegetables, reflects the resourcefulness of traditional cooking.
A rather more unusual combination is the pork and clams of porco à alentejana (pork Alentejo-style). Pork is also cooked with mussels na cataplana, with the wok-like cataplana sealing in the flavours.
Broiled chicken (frango grelhado), seasoned with peri-peri, garlic, and/or olive oil, is one of the few things that has made its mark outside Portugal, where it can be found in cities with a large Portuguese population. The highly aromatic peri-peri chicken is often served in specialist restaurants.
Soups constitute an integral part of traditional cooking, with all manner of vegetables, fish and meat used to create a variety of soups, stews and chowders.
Caldo verde (literally green broth), made from a soup of kale-like cabbage thickened with potato and containing a slice of salpicão or chouriço sausage, originated from the northern province of Minho but is now considered a national dish.
Along with canja de galinha (chicken broth), caldo verde is a filling, comforting and ubiquitous favorite. For the more adventurous, caldeirada de lulas à madeirense (squid stew Madeira-style) features a characteristically Portuguese combination of seafood, curry and ginger.
Another typical dish is the açorda where vegetables or shellfish are added to thick rustic bread to create a 'dry' soup.
One of Portugal's best-kept culinary secrets is its vast and distinctive range of desserts, cakes and pastries. They make large use of figs, honey, cinnamon, coconot that show a Moorish cooking influence .The most famous sweets, however, are the rich egg-yolk and sugar-based cakes, influenced by Moorish cooking and perfected by Guimerães nuns in the sixteenth century.
For a uniquely Portuguese experience, the visitor should head for a pasteleria (or confeitaria), where the many varieties of cakes and other confections, as well as savory delicacies like bolinhas de bacalhau, cod balls, are served.