When I was thirteen, my family went back to Italy to visit the family farm.
In an Italian family, anyone you can trace back to your great-great-grandfather is considered family. So we were family. They greeted us with a kiss on each cheek. There were a lot of family who came just to see the “American part of the family” that was visiting. We didn’t even know how some of the people there were related to us. The one family member who spoke English couldn’t tell us how they traced back to our great-great-grandparents. “But they’re family.”
Italian families eat one big meal at lunch. There is almost no breakfast – maybe one croissant if you’re really hungry, and some coffee. There is also no dinner – maybe a snack and a glass of wine. But lunch – lunch is a seven course meal. Yes, SEVEN courses. We made the mistake of asking for seconds on the first course. They looked at us funny. We didn’t know there were SIX more courses coming.
Americans think of Italian food as unhealthy. It’s very high carb – pasta, lasagna, pizza, etc. But Americans just looking at the food – not how Italians eat their food.
How Italians Make Their Food Healthy
Since Italians don’t eat breakfast or dinner, they’re in a fasted-state the majority of the day. I visited Italy as a kid, but it wouldn’t be till years later that intermediate fasting would become a major health craze. The coffee in the morning suppresses appetite and gives you energy, which is why if you visit Italy, you’ll have the best coffee in the world. All those fancy words for good coffee – cappuccino, mochachino, expresso – they have an Italian origin for a reason.
Plus, Italy has historically been an agrarian culture. That means the majority of the day, Italians would be outside doing farm-work, which is fasted-cardio and lifting. Is this starting to sound like a healthier lifestyle?
If you’re in a fasted state all day, it makes sense to carb-load on one meal. You might be thinking – “wouldn’t it be better to have that in the evening, so you can sleep? After all, three-thousand calories is sure to make you tired.” Yes – that’s why Italy is a siesta culture (riposo in Italian). They take a nap in the middle of the afternoon. Most shops close during nap-time. I’ve even heard of flights being delayed, because “the pilot needed to nap.”
This riposo occurs during the hottest part of the day, when it would be most difficult to do farm-work. In a pre-air conditioning world, working during mid-day would exhaust people, so during the hottest part of the day, Italians are inside eating and napping with family.
Italian vs. American Eating
To recap – Italians drink great coffee, do fasted-lifting, eat a giant meal surrounded by family, and then take a nap from during the hottest part of day. They only carb-load on one meal.
Meanwhile, Americans eat Italian food for three meals a day, often alone, sit at a desk in a completely sedentary lifestyle, drink coffee-abominations with 76 grams of sugar added, don’t get enough sleep, and then wonder why Italian food is “unhealthy.”
You’re all eating Italian-food wrong.
Don’t just look at what food was eaten, look at how that food is eaten, and the culture it was created in.
P.S. My family has a cookbook of Italian family recipes. You might want to get a copy here, because Italian food is healthy if you eat it the way Italians eat it. Plus, this cookbook makes a great Christmas gift.