In a recent interview with Italian American Press, author Andrea Parisi discussed the inspiration and process behind the making of Italian Through Food. Excerpts are below: you can read the full interview here.
IAP: What inspired you to write your book? Parisi: I was born and raised in the USA, but it wasn’t until I moved to Italy that I truly learned how to eat well. I’m indebted to the Italians for teaching me the importance of good food, for the body as well as for bringing people together and adding meaning to life. I wanted to create a book that would provide readers with a window into this marvelous food culture, and also give them the language skills they could use to further explore la cucina italiana on their own.
IAP: What is the most important attribute of your book? Parisi: Italian Through Food places equal emphasis on exploring Italian food culture and learning the language. It’s not just an appetizing approach: research is starting to show the many benefits of culture-based language learning. My own teaching experience has shown that once the topic turns to food, students light up and really get engaged. So in this book, language and food are inseparable, you study both together.
IAP: Why should someone read it? Parisi: Have you ever wondered what makes Italian food so good? With Italian Through Food, you’ll develop the cultural know-how and language skills needed to understand where all of this deliciousness comes from. Whether you’re a newbie to the language or someone who’s taken years of Italian courses, you’ll enjoy reading through the story of how the Italians transformed ordinary nourishment into one of the greatest pleasures in life.
IAP: What feedback did you get from your students that helped develop the book? Parisi: Although there are Italian restaurants in every corner of the globe, aspects of Italian food culture can still seem unbelievable or unfamiliar: the fact that pomodori [tomatoes] were originally imported to Italy from the Americas, how gelato differs from ice cream, ways to classify cheeses … My students really helped me understand where more explanation and further information was needed. Another important lesson they taught me was how prevalent dialect is among Italian American communities. Several of my students were surprised to find out that the words they learned from their nonni [grandparents] were actually dialect, and that standard Italian uses a different lexicon. I know some of my readers will have a similar experience, and that’s why this subject is addressed in the pages right before the first unit.
IAP: How long did it take to write Italian Through Food? Parisi: It took about 8 years, with plenty of pauses due to other projects and life events. I wanted to make sure that all of the history and “food lore” in the book was accurate, and that required about 150 hours of research in Italian libraries. It was also difficult to work on this book for more than 2-3 hours at a time. Writing about food really does make you hungry, and I often found myself cutting a research or editing session short to go get something to eat!
Interview excerpts from The Italian American Press, http://www.italianamericanpress.com, ©2011-2017 Janice Therese Mancuso