No Italian Food for the Italians


Fresh food

Stereotypical Italian food in Italy, that is not in this town.

Payton Baughman, Photojournalist

When we think of Italy, the first thing that tends to come to mind is its food. From their warm creamy pastas to their Rick saviors cheeses, many may say this is the main reason they want to visit such a place – to have a bite of a lifetime.

But, what would happen if Italy didn’t have the typical Italian food that so many desire? Would you survive?
“I couldn’t imagine not eating pasta in Italy!” says Kylie Tsai (10).

The people of Lake Trasimeno in Italy would beg to differ.

The nearly 50 square mile of the lakes wedged into the central Italian countryside. In the region of Umbria but nudging up against Tuscany. It is known for its traditional dishes which differ wildly from its neighbors.

Umbria is the only landlocked region on the Italian peninsula. and it’s known for its hearty, meat-heavy food that comes straight from the forested hills: truffles, prosciutto, and sausages are among its most famous exports.

And yet here on the lake, the traditional foods eschew pasta and pizza in favor of fish. Not your everyday fish, though; instead of fancy cuts of tuna or sea bass you’ll find perch, pike and eel.

They’re often cooked in an unusual way, too. Take carpa regina in porchetta, one of the lake’s signature dishes. “Carp baked like porchetta” (herb-roasted pork) takes one of the lake’s biggest fishes, slathers it in strong herbs, and roasts it — just as is done with Italy’s classic meat, porchetta (CNN News).

Why do the people of this town eat traditional foods?

Visitors might get a shock but the reason that these Italians don’t eat “like Italians” in our collective imagination is that Italian cuisine is hyper-local — usually varying by town.

Lake Trasimeno’s food, which can at first seem incongruous to foreign tourists, is actually what Italians call “zero kilometer” food — in other words, as local as it gets. Not only that, but there’s a reason some of the dishes can seem strange. And there’s a reason why they almost disappeared, too.

So what are the other foods served?

Pork-style carp isn’t the only incongruous dish on the menu on the lake. In fact, Parbuono – who was born on the lake – says that the locals historically cooked fish-like meat for a fascinating reason.

“The area around the lake was historically one of contadini [peasants, though not pejorative] and sharecroppers,” he says.

The late Perugia anthropologist Alessandro Alimenti described Trasimeno as “an island of water in a sea of land.” There were around 10,000 contadini to around 400 fishermen.

The contadini and fishermen lived wildly different lives. The former’s days were regulated, living by the hours of the sun and the seasons, while the latter had “no set hours, no conception of time – they could be going out at 3 a.m. and would be (CNN News).

Would you try this dish? What do you think? Does the lake sound like a place to visit? Or do you miss Italian food?