Some time ago, I developed an interest in wine and food, especially the traditional regional dishes of Italy, which always seem to have an interesting story, For example, I was never aware that there is more than one version of Pasta Alla norma, the southern Italian (especially Sicilian) pasta and eggplant specialty. This famed offering is said to have originated in Catania, the birthplace of the great composer Bellini, who wrote the opera “Norma.” I had been led to believe that opera had given its name to this dish, but in fact norma is spelled with a lowercase “n” and originated in the Sicilian language, not Italian. Pasta alla norma actually means “pasta in the normal way.” In Sicily, because of the abundance of eggplant, there exist many dishes which use the vegetable as a base for many of the island’s culinary delights.
As I read more, I learned the favorite Sicilian eggplant is fat and round and varies in color from purple to violet and white. Continuing my reading, I found that the vegetable, introduced to Sicily by the Arabs, was met with suspicion throughout Europe. The Italians would call it the “apple of craziness,” or melanzane. Interesting? I think so, many of you may be aware that apple is translated in Italian as mela and zanni is crazy; thus ‘melanzane.”
Take the time to learn about the heritage of Italian food. In asked about how long Italy has been producing cheese, most would respond a few hundred years. If fact, it is more than 2,000 years. How about the fable about pasta and Marco Polo? No, he did not bring it to Italy from China. Pasta has been a staple on the peninsula dating back to the time of the Etruscans, predating even the Roman Empire. They name for the native Italian dish was “macaria” and to this day we still a form of this word to describe pasta – macaroni. The more you learn about Italian food, the more you will appreciate and enjoy it.