When we first started telling our Italian friends that we would be working with Claudio and Martina and reopening Erba Luna, the overwhelming reaction was, “Great! An American! You will be making ‘amboorgers!” (‘amboorger is the Italian word for hamburger….but they put such a wacky spin on the pronunciation!).
Now, I admit that I just might be a food snob. Our poor son was about 11 years old before he clued in that we could make hamburgers on the grill. Now, grilled quail he had seen on the grill, but never a hamburger. (He was a bit younger when he figured out that we really did get sports on our TV. We used to pack him off to the neighbors to watch baseball. What? I hate baseball!)
So, I was a taken aback by this ‘amboorger reaction. Why the assumption that hamburgers would be my contribution to the kitchen?
OK. Fast forward a few weeks and now I’m the one making food stereotypes. Americans don’t eat their meat blue. If a steak is too rare, and we know its Americans, we cook it a little longer. Brits don’t like room temperature vegetables. In the summer, in Italy, many or most vegetable side dishes are served at room temperature. The Brits told us they felt like they were getting leftovers from lunch. This was after they refused to eat some marinated artichoke hearts that I thought were delicious…marinated in a mint/parsley dressing. The Aussies and the New Zealanders do not understand Italian lamb cuts; they like their meat soft and juicy and without gristle. The Italians like their vegetables cooked until they resemble mush. Potatoes roasted in their skins put off both the Brits and the Italians.
And all bets are off when it comes to feeding kids. Here, there are no distinct cultural trends, just personal issues. So what does that say about us? That kids are an open book, and the parents create the culinary boundaries for them? I’m just asking the question, as I certainly have no answers and I’m just an observer. And as for food stereotyping? Well, it's interesting, and like all things, should be seasoned with a grain of salt.