DEBATE: When it Comes to Food, Which is Better, Tradition or Innovation?
Living in Italy has us pondering why their pizza is so damn good.
Time for another one of our newsletter debates, and since we’re living in Italy now, I figured we could hash out something we’ve been talking about a lot lately.
Is it better to be traditional or innovative?
Obviously, “traditional or innovative” isn’t an “either/or” question. No one would argue that we should be completely one or the other.
It’s a spectrum, and there are pros and cons to both approaches.
It also depends on the topic. Traveling the world has definitely shifted my thinking on the concept of “family.”
But I wanted to talk specifically about food.
Here in Italy, when it comes to food, the emphasis is on “traditional.” You see the same dishes over and over, and things seem to be done the way they’ve always been done.
Which make sense, since this country is the birthplace of pasta, pizza, Parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese, lasagna, risotto, tortellini, bruschetta, calzones, pesto, polenta, gnocchi, gelato, cappuccino, espresso, focaccia, minestrone, macaroons, limoncello, and (arguably) red wine.
And trust me, this is just a partial list!
Italy is resting on some serious food laurels. Hey, they even pioneered the concept of “laurels” — both wearing them on your head and eating them in the form of bay leaves.
I still remember the first time we lived in Italy, how upset an Italian friend was because she’d recently been to a dinner party where they served tiramisu made with whipped cream, not mascarpone. “That was not tiramisu!” she sniffed.
At the time, I thought, “Oh, Lord, you would not like living in America.”
With no innovation, food never changes or improves. All these foods and recipes that Italians are so proud of, they never would have happened at all if, years ago, someone hadn’t said, “Hey, why don’t wrap this pasta around cheese, boil it, and call it something like — oh, I don’t know — ravioli?”
But with too much innovation, you end up with, well, Pumpkin Spice Anything. Or, as the Italians are very fond of saying, the abomination that is pineapple on pizza.
I’m already on record as saying that food is way better outside of America (the only exceptions are foods cooked by recent immigrants and some regional or cultural specialties, like some kinds of soul food, IMHO).
But the best food on planet Earth? You could probably make a case for Japan or Thailand. And the French would say, “French.” But the real answer is, of course, Italy.
Food here in Italy is waaaaaaaaay better than in America. Like, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay better.
So I guess when it comes to food, Italy shows there’s a pretty clear winner in the “innovation or traditional” food argument. Traditional.
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