A plate in… Naples (5/7): trompe-l’oeil cuisine

“Mangia foglie. » Leaf eaters. As incredible as it may seem, this is how the Neapolitans were nicknamed, who nevertheless invented two (non-vegetable) emblems of Italian gastronomy – pasta and pizza – in the whole world. A qualifier dating from the Middle Ages when the people were reduced to consuming what grew easily around them, either leafy green vegetables, such as brocolletti Where friarielliwhich were fried in lard to enrich them a little.

It was in the 18th century, after the famines of 1763 and 1764, that these herb eaters became mangia maccheroni, or pasta eaters. Hunger rushes people from the countryside to the cities in search of work and Naples then has a high population density, poor in addition. Dry pasta, an occasional food, becomes a staple food, instead of meat, which is too expensive.

Like pizza, pastasciutta was born in a specific social context, namely the need to feed the multitude of people populating the narrow streets of Naples, most of whom live in tiny apartments, without the possibility of cooking their meals independently. An authentic example of popular street food,” notes the Italian historian Luca Cesari, specialist in the history of gastronomy (1).

Pasta which, in bourgeois kitchens, cooked for a very long time, sometimes an hour. And it is the little people who then invent cooking al dente,

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