THEME OF THE YEAR FOR 2017
Cheese in regional culinary traditions
The Franco Marenghi Study Centre has chosen the yearly theme for 2017, approved by the President’s Council: “Cheeses in regional culinary traditions”. Its purpose is to highlight an ingredient which is abundant in Italy and is an essential or important element in various traditional regional recipes, but can also be used innovatively. This will be the theme of the Food Culture Library’s third volume as well as the presentations and menu of the annual ecumenical dinner, which will gather all Academicians in Italy and worldwide around the same virtual table on the 19th of October.
The themes of previous years
2016 The Cuisine of Reuse
One of the primary objectives of The Milan Charter, an outgrowth of Expo 2015, was to educate the entire world to “consume only the as much food as is necessary, assuring that food is eaten when fresh, and making sure that leftovers are preserved in such a way that they do not deteriorate.” The theme chosen by the “Franco Marenghi” Study Center for 2016 is aimed at rediscovering, through traditional cuisine, those dishes that use food that has already been prepared to create new recipes and flavors.
2015 Condiments: sauces and gravies that represent the territorial cuisine.
Among the Mediterranean cultures, Italian cuisine is differentiated not only by grain, grapes and oil, but also by a large variety of aromas and flavors that confer upon them a special character, thus becoming their condimentum. In past times the competition and the battle among condiments was fought by few competitors while today the battlefield has become global and undergoes a constant and rapid evolution.
The theme chosen by the “Franco Marenghi” Study Center for the year 2015 is aimed at recovering the traditions based on condiments and their likely role in modern Italian cuisine as well as at allowing a critical analysis of Italian cuisine as it is offered overseas.
2014: The Cuisine of Rice
Rice was at center stage in the year 2014. The theme, chosen by the “Franco Marenghi” Study Center was aimed at recovering the cuisine of many varieties of rice
through traditional recipes, many partly forgotten and patrimony of regional cuisines, while focusing on those recipes that associate rice with local products.
2013: The Cuisine of meats that should not be forgotten
The theme of the year 2013, protagonist of the eighth volume of Itineraries of Gastronomic Culture and of the usual yearly appointment of the Ecumenical Dinner, was dedicated to the so-called “poor meats”. Accordingly, it encompasses the cuisine of the “fifth quarter” as well as other meats and products of animal origin that are used in the cooking of the poor and less used in our time insofar as they are often seen as belonging to the abandoned “cuisine of hard times” and consequently forgotten (hence the title of the volume The cuisine of Meats that Should Not Be Forgotten). The choice of this theme is meant to revive the cuisine of traditions connected with forgotten meats that can still play a role in a sober modern Italian cuisine.
2012: The cuisine of herbs and aromas
Aromas, fragrances, tastes and herbs do not just support the preparation of foods, but also can evoke memories and become soul food, especially when it happens that food and most of all cuisine preserve their identity and reveal our personal and collective unconscious perceptions, most of all within the context of family. Scent and taste were an important, possibly fundamental part of the image of the family and of belonging to a society, most of all local, that is now threatened with decline if not with its disappearance. Today more than ever, the cultural role of herbs and aromas becomes important as they serve to identify traditions. Herbs (most of all those that are wild) and plant aromas together with their culinary and gastronomic use constitute one of the most widespread and important bases for the identity of a true Italian regional cuisine and distinguish “our” Mediterranean cuisine as an important “cultural marker”.
2011: The cuisine of fruit
In the grand landscape of present day cuisine, fruit seems to take a secondary role, perhaps because it appears at the end of the meal, all too frequently in competition with other foods (cheese and dessert), or because it is eaten outside meals, in mid morning or mid afternoon, or sometime made into juice. In the human culture, however, fruit has always played a primary role; every corner of the earth has fruit trees that man learned to use during his long evolution. Every single fruit has its history, sometimes even legends, but one thing is sure: man needs not only fruit, but a large variety of it (“nourishment biodiversity”). Today, the kinds of fruit that we eat are severely reduced even in comparison with fifty years ago, and only a few varieties are industrially cultivated in order to satisfy specific commercial needs.
The present problems of a fruit based human diet, which the Academy’s Study Center Franco Marenghi has identified, are essentially twofold: the almost complete disappearance of food biodiversity and the reduction in healthy “extra-nutritional” features. The highly diverse kinds of fruit that were used in many culinary and gastronomic traditions are by and large forgotten today. For this reason, in 2011 the Study Center has decided to focus on fruit based cuisine with special emphasis on those preparations where fruit is a qualifying ingredient. It should be added that such recipes, once adequately rediscovered, fit quite comfortably into post-modern cuisine, where harmony goes hand in hand with sensorial contrasts, those of sweet-salty-sour, where fruit becomes an important element of tradition’s renewal. In our times, we find fruit as a component of situations and traditions that just a few decades ago appeared unchangeable and that we are now called upon to document and interpret in order to safeguard traditions, by favoring their improvements.