Originally Posted by KYHeirloomer
There are so many snobby beliefs in the food world that make no sense - no cheese on fish, no cappuccino after lunch, no coffee but espresso, pasta and rice only as a first course,
Interesting point, Siduri.
I wonder, though, where do with draw the line between snobery, on one hand, and a "rule" that's become part of a culinary structure, on the other?
Take that matter of no cheese with seafood. That's so firmly embedded in Italian cuisine that it's like pulling teeth to change it. So it's part of the cuisine, which you either accept or not. Yet, when it becomes a straight jacket, as it does to folks like Scott Conant, it certainly reflects a level of snobbery. You know, the "I'm an expert on Italian food, and the Italians never mix cheese and seafood (which, btw, isn't 100% correct, anyway), and therefore anyone who does is wrong" school.
But your basic thesis is righ on the money. Individual preferences may be different. But you can't say that one is right and the other wrong---except as part of a greater context.
I think there's a way of looking at traditional foods that would say that you can't call it an italian meal if you have salad as a first course with a "dressing" and pasta as a side dish; or a first course of pasta and a second course of pizza. You can't call "pasta primavera" (just to mention something people were doing in the 80s i think) an italian pasta dish. It's a little like spelling the name of the dish wrong, pene all'arabiata (which by the way, would be censored in italian since it would be hugely vulgar) is wrong, don;t spell it that way, yeah spelling foreign words is hard, so no stigma, but if someone points it out on your menu, you change it. .
But it's another thing is to say that if italians don;t put cheese on fish, it is WRONG to put cheese on fish. (Apart from the fact that there are indeed cheese-fish dishes here - notably in sicilian cuisine, maybe others). Or since italians like dark tuna that's the only tuna that is good.
What is that called that separates the in folks from the out folks? A shibboleth? (I seem to remember some biblical story about this sort of password?) Many people are so insecure they must at all costs be in the IN group, and use these little details to lift themselves out of the crowd of culinary infidels - "I know this so i'm better."
I've lived in rome for over 30 years. The food is good, but you know, i;m really SICK of eating always the same things when i go out - every dish is always done the same way, little experimentation, so many rules. I love the creativity of cooking. Yes, I had a truly wonderful neapolitan pasta dish with little squid the other day. The quality of each of the maybe four ingredients in it was tops, and the dish was great. There's something to be said about this sort of simplicity and emphasis on the quality of the ingredients. But to tell you the truth, I would be much more inclined to eat something completely new next time i went out to eat. I can make that dish just as easily at home. Teach me something new!
Also, in the case of tuna, many people will just not try the dark meat and taste it with a prejudice if they do, so they can't really compare. I think that is a different story. Taste them both, then sure, if you like the white, go for it. I'd be an idiot to object. It's better FOR ME but that doesn;t mean Better in absolute, which can;t exist in taste.
As for tradition and culinary structure, these are academic questions that don;t interest me, really. I taste with my tongue, my nose, somewhat with my eyes, occasionally with my ears (a wonderful sizzle, perhaps) but not with my brain. I can see where these may be of interest and I can understand it on a scholarly or sociological level, but for me, food is for the body.