When Italians and Italian Americans think of their parents and grandparents, they often remember food, cooking, and the dinner table. However, as the necessity for home cooking dwindles down our list of priorities, many people worry that we might lose traditional forms of cuisine within the home. Where will people create those special memories if they stop gathering around the dinner table for mouthwatering traditional recipes?
Casa Artusi, centre of gastronomic culture devoted to Italian home cookery, established in Forlimpopoli (Italy), in the name of cultured gastronomist Pellegrino Artusi, and Emilia Romagna Region are constructing a counter-movement, which they presented at Casa Italiana NYU on November 17th, on the occasion of the First Week of Italian Cuisine in the World. Concerned with making traditional forms of cooking and meal sharing relevant and possible for young people, they worked to revive the innovative work of businessman and writer, Pellegrino Artusi. Casa Artusi and Emilia Romagna Region hosted a 36-hours hackathon, titled Art-Artusi, during which participants brainstormed on ideas to improve the concept of traditional, homemade Italian cuisine. The goal is to create a digital platform where young people can access information about, and continue building upon, traditional forms of cooking. By joining contemporary platforms of knowledge and communication with traditional knowledge and Artusi-inspired recipes, the valuing of meal sharing, home-cooked food, and high-quality products can be passed on.
The initiative was launched during a panel discussion with Francesco Genuardi, Consul of Italy in NY, Stefano Albertini Mussini, director of Casa Italiana NYU, Stefano Bonaccini, Emilia-Romagna Region Governor, Gianni Riotta, Journalist and Princeton University Professor, Simona Caselli, Councilor for Agriculture of the Emilia-Romagna Region, Andrea Segrè, Scientific Committee of Casa Artusi, and Monica Fantini, coordinator for Romagna-Terra del Buon Vivere..
Pellegrino Artusi, typically cited as the father of Italian cuisine, wrote “The Science of Cooking and the Art of Fine Dining.” The cookbook was published in 1891, has been translated and published in twelve languages, and represents a staple guide in kitchens across Italy. “The proof that Artusi was the first cuisine blogger is in the fact that my grandmother had her old copy of Artusi, and sandwiched in, she had all the recipes that she wrote. She would pull out the Artusi book, which was kept like a bible, and say ‘Of course, this is what Artusi says!’” as she read what were actually her own additions, describes Stefano Albertini Director of Casa Italiana NYU. Artusi not only defined Italian cuisine, but also highlighted the commonalities between regions of Italy, while celebrating local food and knowledge. “What Alessandro Manzoni did for our language, creating a common language, Artusi did it in the kitchen by overcoming the concept of regional cuisine to create a concept of a cuisine of all of Italy,” explains Albertini.
Traditional Italian recipes support and build on the notion of the “healthy Italian lifestyle,” which requires local and traditional products, knowledge about how to prepare and cook those products, and sociality. By sharing meals at home, people exchange ideas while creating and reinforcing relationships. Family style meals not only communicate care and compassion, but can also reinforce shared aspects of identity, contained in traditional ways of cooking and consuming.
Albertini explains that, “The hackathon is trying to bring together these two worlds that seem so distant: the bible of Italian cuisine and the language of today’s youth.” The movement sees Artusi as a progressive in the way that “He introduced the elements of cohesion, inclusion, and integration, which are needed to be able to link our cultures together and to understand each other,” says Monica Fantini. The hackathon additionally represents these values and strives to become a platform for integration. Fantini reasons that, “Tradition equals integration in this sense because we’re pushing forward what was invented by Pellegrino Artusi and what I feel is a modernization of Italian culture. We want to build and create a system where new Artusis can come about!”
Furthermore, Simona Caselli explains the economic importance of passing down traditional knowledge about food production and cuisine. “The second most important sector in our economy [in the Emilia Romagna Region] is agrifood, which combines agriculture and food industry.” Utilizing traditional recipes that draw on local resources and knowledge benefits local communities. This concept applies not only in Emilia Romagna, but anywhere in the world.
Through cohesion, inclusion, and integration, the hackathon and the platform that its participants produce, aims to help us understand each other better. Regardless of opinions and our identities of young or old, urban or rural, local or foreign, everyone can all get behind good food. Once integrated knowledge allows the food to be made, then we can all sit down at the dinner table and hear each other out. The learning will not stop at a digitized recipe; it will continue long into the night, around dinner tables of friends, families, and strangers alike.