Is There a Moral Difference Between French and Italian food?

 
 
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Rolling Stones or The Beatles? Skiing or Snowboarding? Cats or dogs? You’re always ready with a calculated response for these questions—as if your answer defines your caliber of human. And the what’s better—French or Italian food? turf battle is an absolute classic.

You don’t need a culinary arts degree to have exposure to the prejudices of each cuisine. French food is known as foofy fancy, rich with mounted butter. Italian is known as basic simple, easy with drizzled olive oil. But these characteristics are just the tip of the iceberg. I wanted to know the deep, philosophical differences between French and Italian food, so I went to France and Italy and conducted over thirty interviews with locals.

Here’s what I found:

 
 

French food explained

 

Where you place your time and energy is where you place your values. The French value the hands-on cooking process and pride themselves with top-notch kitchen skills and order. Rigorous French techniques have become fundamental in all culinary programs. The French preoccupy the meal process with cooking preparation and because of this, the French became historical culinary trailblazers—infamous for pushing the envelope and taking the dining experience to the next level.

 

FRENCH Food Ethics

Don’t settle for good enough: “Make the simple sauce better by adding an entire bottle of Burgundy wine, reducing it, clarifying it twice, and finishing it with a rich fat.”

The food is delicious because of me: Due to the hard-work, extreme discipline, and heavy involvement in the process, conscientious French chefs take ownership for the products of their kitchen.

 
The French care deeply about selecting quality ingredients, but most classic French kitchens want mealtime conversations to center around chef skills and techniques.
 
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Italian Food explained

 

One of the best things I ate in Italy was a tomato salad. Sliced raw tomatoes, torn basil, salt and pepper, and olive oil—that’s it. No cooking.

Italians value farming, because they know quality farming is the only way to produce flavorful ingredients. When the meal process is focused on agriculture, it’s a sin to interfere with the flavors that nature worked so diligently, so patiently to produce. Of course there are many-hour Bolognese’s and the formidable Osso Bucco. But Italian food at its core, is about using the best ingredients, listening and respecting them. This is a contradictory line-in-the-sand compared to the ethics of French food.

 

Italian Food Ethics

Perfect on its own: Listen, how to not interfere?

The food is delicious because of nature: How to bring out the flavor respectfully in a way that highlights its taste even more?

 
At its most traditional, Italians want mealtime conversation to be centered around how flavorful the ingredients are—the quality of the land and how knowledgable the farmer is and much they care.
 
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And those are the key philosophical differences between French and Italian food in a nutshell!

 
 
 

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Theresa Cantafio