Agriculture,  Ancient Foods,  Ancient Grains,  Culinary History,  Europe,  Farming,  Food History,  Health,  History,  Produce,  Tourism,  Travel

Italy ~ The Land of Olive Oil and Wine

Italy. From the Dolomite mountains in the north, to the waterways of Venice and the hills of Tuscany, Italy is a place that captures the imagination and is full of history. And its culinary history is incredibly amazing and reads like a storybook of history too. I’m excited to take a snapshot look at it this month! 

When most people think of Italy, Rome immediately comes to mind. Rome has been an important center of commerce and trade since very ancient times. This boot-shaped country sticking into the Mediterranean Sea, ruled and influenced the ancient world. If Rome needed grain, then every country it ruled sent grain. Though the cuisine of ancient Italy was influenced by what was local and nearby, it was also influenced by the other cultures that Rome conquered. 

Italian food is characterized by being fresh and healthy. Mediterranean diet, anyone? Loads of fish and whole grains are eaten in the form of bread and pasta often with cheese or butter. Meat options include lamb, pork and beef. Herbs, citrus and vegetables like garlic, tomatoes, onions and leeks are abundant. Spices are favored and sweets are often full of honey, dried fruit and nuts just like in ancient times.

Olive oil has always played a huge part in Italian cuisine. It is the most commonly used cooking oil in Italy and Italian olive oil is considered some of the best in the world. Ancient olive presses have been found all over the country. Olive oil was used for more than cooking too. It was used medicinally, for cleaning and even for bathing. Olive oil is one of the healthiest fats that humans can consume. Maybe that is why the small islands of Sardinia in Italy have one of the largest numbers of centenarians in the world?

Wine has also played a long and important role in Italian cuisine. Some of the earliest wines were created in the Mediterranean. Like olive oil, wine was used for more than enjoyment in ancient Rome as it was also used medicinally and in religious practices. Wines can vary from red to white to rose and a world all its own belongs to the cultivation of wine. Italy is still the world’s largest producer of wine producing nearly 50% of the wines enjoyed around the world.

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