This morning on the radio the dj was talking about a survey that claims Italians no longer sit down to a full multiple course meal daily. Is this possible? Are we talking about Italy?
The basic traditional meal is typically at least this:
1. First course (pasta, rice or soup)
2. Second course (meat or cheese)
3. Side dish (salad, cooked or raw vegetables)
On special occasions (like Sunday lunch, a birthday or a holiday) you would add an appetizer, possibly a cheese course, fruit and dessert. Here in Puglia you wouldn't want to forget to start off the whole meal with a course of locally fished raw mollusks: mussels, oysters, clams, limpets, etc.
I am surprised to hear that this tradition is fading away and have to wonder where the people who were surveyed live. Not in Puglia, not in the Puglia I know, anyway. Here, eating is a tradition, the number one way of socializing, and almost a competitive sport. Yes, competitive.
The women, but not only, lots of men I know love to cook, try to outdo each other with their version of traditional recipes. When eating with friends, more is always better. People bring so much food that you would think a small army was being provisioned. And yet, somehow, at the end of lunch, it's always all gone...
People who don't eat everything, like me, are viewed with suspicion. What do you mean you don't want any more? What? You didn't like it? What do you mean you're full? There's always room for more. Even the quantity of consumption becomes competitive.
My husband and sons and I eat lunch together every day. Lunch for us is of the basic three course variety: first course, second course and side dish. If one of these elements is missing, my older son in particular gets rather upset...well, he is a growing 14 year old. He has a fair excuse.
All the people I know eat this way. Together, sitting down at the table, set with a tablecloth. Seems like a pity to lose such a pleasant tradition.