1. Watch the masters in action, from the comfort of your home. Youtube is full of Italian-language video tutorials on how to cook and enjoy Italian food. Giallo Zafferano has a great cooking school series of short videos that focus on simple techniques – nothing too overwhelming for beginning students. For more results, perform a video search using phrases such as “ricetta facile” [easy recipe] or “corso di cucina” [cooking class].
2. Read the ingredients on food packaging. If you’re in Italy, this is a great way to review vocabulary and learn new words. If you’re not in Italy, you can often find Italian food imports at specialty shops or stores, such as Eataly. If you’re really motivated, why not try translating an English language label into Italian? It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be fun.
3. Take a food tour or cooking class. If you’re planning a trip to Italy, try to fit in a food walking tour or cooking class. Companies that offer these sorts of activities exist in most major Italian cities. If you don’t have time to get to Italy in the near future, see what a local cooking school has to offer. Italians are everywhere.
4. Take your dictionary to the Italian restaurant. If you don’t want to carry a big heavy book around, just use an online dictionary on your mobile device. Then look up appealing menu items written in Italian and see if what you come up with matches the translations provided on the menu. You’re bound to find some interesting variations!
5. Explore recipes written in Italian. The most famous Italian cookbook, by Pellegrino Artusi, contains 790 indispensable Italian recipes and is now available for free online. Later this summer, we will work through three of these recipes on this blog and I’ll show you how to translate them without having to understand every word. In the meantime, do the best you can on your own and confirm your translation with the English version (translated as Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well, you can find it online or even at your local library).
And of course, if this is the kind of learning you like to do, pick up a copy of Italian Through Food!