My family is Indian, and as a result I grew up eating a lot of Indian food, and watching my mom prepare it. Then I graduated college and moved here, and in the process of immersing myself in the Italian culture, I’ve noticed some interesting similarities and differences between the two cuisines, and consequently, the two cultures.
These are two of the most food-centric cultures on the planet. We mark all occasions with food; we use it to celebrate and we use it to mourn. The Italians do the same. An Italian grandmother takes as much joy in presenting her family with a 5-course meal as an Indian grandmother, and neither will be satisfied until everyone at the table is on the brink of a food coma. Second helpings are par for the course; the third helping shows true appreciation. In Italy, after you polish off the antipasti and the primo piatto, you still have the second course, the contorni, and dessert to contend with. My own mother, when preparing food for any occasion, is never satisfied with just one or two side dishes to accompany a main dish. Usually there are a minimum of 3 sides, plus some naan and at least two choices of dessert.
The ideas behind the preparation of each cuisine, however, differ greatly, at least from what I’ve seen.
Indian food is typically composed of a varied blend of spices and components, all coming together to create a single dish. Even basic curry, when prepared traditionally, is the product of many ingredients blending together to render a flavorful, vibrant culinary experience.
Italian food, in contrast, is all about simplicity. A basic tomato sauce, when prepared traditionally, needs only a few ingredients: tomatoes, salt, maybe some garlic (definitely some garlic), and that’s really all. Anything beyond that is added at the discretion of the chef. This allows the tomato flavor to shine through in a simple, yet delicious fashion.
At the end of the day, the result of both ideologies is deliciousness. I can’t say that one is better than the other. The chef who can achieve perfect harmony from a battery of spices and ingredients is just as talented as the chef who can coax a religious experience out of just a tomato. Both meals are made with love, and both plates will be licked clean!
Today I’m sharing a recipe for classic bruschetta. I’ve talked about bruschetta here before, and as I said, it’s a blank canvas. You can make it as simple or as fancy as you like. This time, I went with simple: bread, a tomato, some salt, olive oil, rosemary and garlic.
Well…that was the plan until I spied the goat cheese. But it’s really only in there for creaminess; the flavor is in the tomato.
Cuisine aside, the Italians don’t always do everything simply and subtly.
This monument has several names. Sometimes it is called il Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II. Sometimes it is referred to as Altare della patria (altar of the motherland). Its friends just call it “Il Vittoriano”. I call it the Wedding Cake. Whatever you call it, you can’t call it understated!
Classic Bruschetta recipe
(I only made myself one piece of toast, so scale the recipe up if you want more than that!)
- 1 tomato, diced
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/2 tsp. rosemary
- salt to taste
- 1 piece of bread, lightly toasted
- 1 tsp. olive oil
- goat cheese (as much as desired)
Rub the clove of garlic all over one side of the bread. Save the remnants of the garlic for grating into the tomato mixture, if desired.
In a small bowl, combine tomatoes, salt, rosemary, olive oil, and grated garlic.
Spread a thin layer of goat cheese on the garlicky side of the toast. Spoon tomato mixture on top of toast. Enjoy!