Irish and Italian: A Culinary Match Made in Heaven
I am mostly Irish, with some English and a tiny bit of Italian from my father’s side. But my mother is all Irish, which is what counts when it comes to this post.
I married a full-blooded Italian – maternal and paternal Italian blood lines.
We had a lot of differences to figure out, but probably our least compatible area was the kitchen.
Us Irish aren’t really known for our gourmet cooking style (can we say rustic) and well, those Italians think they are the only ones who can cook.
Here are a few of the things we had to work out:
Spice it up. We Irish use 2 spices when cooking: salt and pepper. And even those are used sparingly. When we were dating in college (and I was still trying to impress him), I made him the most exotic dish I knew: my sister’s chicken recipe. It actually had garlic salt and soy sauce in it.
I think my husband uses every spice that is on the face of this earth. We actually have strands of saffron, candied ginger and 3 different types of paprika. Not only does he have bottles of single spices, he has bottles of mixed spices. Then he has tupperware containers full of rubs he has made – each one for a different meat. This is his spice cabinet:
There is also a spice rack that sits on the counter and a drawer full of the rubs. Then there are the fresh herbs in the refrigerator and in the garden in the summer.
Butter or oil?
Irish – butter, on everything.
Italian – oil – must be olive oil.
When is it done? One of the hardest things I had to come to terms with in our marriage was cooking meat. I was used to my meat
charred well-done. Growing up, pork chop night at our house was the worst. My mother would cook those pork chops until they were as crispy as a chip on the outside and as leathery as my shoes on the inside. They were served with a jar of applesauce because the only conceivable way to get them down your gullet was to slather them with applesauce, cut them into teeny-tiny pieces and gulp them down with a lot of milk.
My husband prefers his meat
edible on the pink side. You know, they way most good restaurants serve it.
As a compromise we began cooking meat using a meat thermometer. It satisfied my slightly OCD side by giving me a number to shoot for and assuaged my skepticism when he served me something that was juicy and red.
The fall-back cooking technique. The Irish are good at boiling things. Can you say “boiled dinner?” Who else would boil an entire meal including the meat? If I don’t know what to do with something, my instinct says to boil it. Boiling will cook the heck (and taste) out of anything.
My husband? He’ll fry it. Everything tastes good fried. The Italians even fry cookies – strufoli and bow tie cookies are a staple at Christmas. I can’t believe we didn’t get a fryer until this year!
Above the ground or below the ground? I think my Irish ancestors must have been some of the most resourceful people on earth. Who else would think to dig down into the ground for their staples? Potatoes, carrots, turnips, these are the root vegetables that Irish people crave.
Italians seem to prefer things that grow above the ground: squash, olives, mushrooms – things that add visual depth to the meal.
Beer or wine?
Irish – beer and lots of it (although here I stray from my roots – I have never liked the taste of beer).
Italian – wine and lots of it
At least we agree on abundance.
So, you say, it seems we disagree more than we agree – how is this a match made in heaven? Well, it is heaven because I am more than willing to let Spouse take on the cooking when he is home. And I am a mean baker – so we both have our spheres in the kitchen.