15 December 2020, 08:20 AM
  • Italy’s cuisine is a global sensation. Peri Eagleton, co-founder of Seggiano, explores the history behind the country’s rich culinary traditions
Peri Eagleton, Seggiano: “Italian food culture is constantly innovating”

The English and Italians have a love affair. Their land is beautiful, its people are charming and their food is undeniably wonderful. Whenever Italians are chatting, conversation inevitably turns to food, their national obsession – and how so-and-so cooks a favourite dish or always adds a particular ingredient at the end, ad infinitum.

It’s hardly surprising then that Italians have an evolved sense of taste and appreciation of food which, as a natural consequence, has made Italian food globally popular. One of its strengths, besides amazing regional variety, is its foundations in simplicity and quality ingredients.

The Italian peninsula, from cooler northern regions, through temperate rolling hills and plains to sun-kissed southern beaches, has a wild variety of microclimates and terrains, which encourages cultivation of a prodigious diversity of grains, fruits and vegetables.

The history of invading visitors has enormously enriched regional culinary traditions, and we can see why food culture here is so evolved and the food sector so strong. Pizza, tomatoes, extra-virgin olive oil and pasta are its mainstream pillars.

Pasta emerges central to this story and the world’s abiding obsession with it, fuelled by a love of satisfying carbs and the versatility of sauces one can combine with it, only gains momentum. Quick and easy to cook, it will always be a go-to home meal.

For most Italians, eating pasta is considered an inalienable human right. We’re launching a gluten-free pasta that tastes like the real thing, developed in response to the needs of Italian coeliacs, for whom not being able to eat a really good plate of pasta is a serious source of emotional distress.

Italian food producers don’t rest on their laurels… Excellent state support for positive farming methods and the preservation of old cultivars, as well as a strong relationship between producers and university research programs – the latest we heard of will bring a high-antioxidant extra-virgin to market soon – means that food culture here is constantly innovating.

Consumer habits are changing with more people now cooking at home and using quality, healthy ingredients. Empty shelves at the start of the pandemic fuelled brand switching, and statistics show that shoppers are still exploring new food choices.

Small independent shops, offering high-quality, curated choices and a wide selection of best-in-category ingredients, may have also provided their community with the small, personal social interactions that have been so important to us during lockdown. We know what people were buying – home baking products, pasta and pasta sauces.

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