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Sep 8, 2023Liked by √Čtienne Fortier-Dubois

> "I’m not sure why [Italy] kept its identity separate from the West to a larger extent than France was. Maybe because it consisted of a bunch of small states for most of its history, unlike France?" - It might also have to do with geography and climate. Italian food is highly dependent on the availability of Mediterranean produce (same as Greek food): olives, herbs etc. These could not easily be found when Roman culture expanded further north, so the converted Germanic tribes had to make do with whatever was available in their lands. French cuisine, being a much later development, could use the colonial infrastructure of modern times to access a wide variety of resources that were also available to the other colonial powers of the time. Another problem is that both Italian and Greek cuisine are actually not their original selves. Both today make heavy (almost defining) use of tomatoes, which are a South American import of newer times. Additionally, much of Greek cuisine is actually Turkish or Arabic, often even preserving the original names: Halva, loukoumi, imam, tzaziki and so on. These are not words in Plato’s tongue. So these are recent developments (Turkish occupation of Greece goes from 15th to 19th cent.) and the original cuisine of Greece (and much of pre-pizza, pre-tomato Italian cuisine) is today lost. Spaghetti too is rumoured to be a Marco Polo import from China, so what was pre-medieval Italian food? Probably just bread, onions and fish. Poor people's survival food, like in much of ancient and medieval Europe.

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Garum! Lots of garum! And the upper classes in Rome had a fairly wide variety of food, for the time, I think. Still, it seems that what we think of as Italian food today developed roughly at the same time as French cuisine, from the Renaissance onwards.

It might make sense to say there are two Western cuisines, broadly speaking. Olive oil vs. butter. Wine vs. beer. Tomato vs. potato. In other words, Mediterranean vs. Northern.

Italy is the core of the Mediterranean area; (northern) France is the core of the Northern area. (Though France is also the only major country that's clearly in both.)

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Sep 9, 2023Liked by √Čtienne Fortier-Dubois

A good way to look at why Italy (and Iberia and Greece) are different is to look at the primary fat. In well watered NW Europe, one can water dairy cattle and you rely on butter. On the drier Mediterranean rim you end up with olive oil based cooking. You get some exceptions - like the Po valley in Italy where it is much more the well watered rolling planes like the Ile de France. There you see all sorts of crème and butter based Italian dishes. Otoh inFrance you get Provençal style cooking that is much more olive oil focused and does not use butter like it is an unlimited ingredient.

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Like the various butter vs. olive oil maps! https://www.reddit.com/r/MapPorn/comments/se3fv4/effort_for_a_more_accurate_regional_basis_butter/

I wonder if France being the only country that clearly straddles both (though honorable mention to northern Italy) has had something to do with French culinary dominance. I doubt it, but who knows.

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Sep 8, 2023Liked by √Čtienne Fortier-Dubois

Isn't nearly all modern Asian (south and east), African and Latin American cuisines basically Portuguese fusion anyway?

To make a list of all macro regional cuisines I'll put Portuguese Fusion at number one together with Eastern Mediterranean (Balkans, Greece, Pontic Steppe, Turkey, Caucaus, Levant and other coastal Arab). Western is a strong third and Italy comes fourth. The rest (basically pre-Columbian rest of the world) is down there somewhere from fifth to nth.

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I'm aware of Portuguese influence on all those parts of the world, but not in terms of food? What does "Portuguese fusion" cuisine mean in this context? I'm sure Portugal had some influence but I doubt it's the core of Chinese, Japanese, Indian, etc.

Like, by the same token, should we consider Italian food to be "Mexican fusion" because it relies so much on tomatoes from Mesoamerica?

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Sep 9, 2023Liked by √Čtienne Fortier-Dubois

I'm by no means an expert on culinary history or anything so my comments carry no more weight then a random blog reader. After the disclaimer, my point was Portuguese being the medium that carried dishes, techniques and ingredients across far away geographies. That fusion created the Japanese, Chinese, SE Asian, Carribbean etc cuisines that we know today. Before the Portuguese as a medium for that fusion, with some exceptions, those cuisines were nothing alike what we know today. That's a unique combination.

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I had forgotten about it, but tempura is a decidedly Portuguese influence on Japanese food! I bet there are a few other examples like this. But if we're being this lax with definitions, I think there simply is just one macro-regional cuisine, "human cuisine", at least after the beginning of the Age of Exploration around 1500.

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Sep 9, 2023Liked by √Čtienne Fortier-Dubois

I might be wrong but I like a back and forth. I think the Portuguese fusion megaregional cluster neatly stays out of Western or Italian or Eastern Mediterranean cuisines in my opinion, so that's why I listed that 4 and added "rest of the world" or "pre-Columbian cuisines" as a miscellaneous fifth.

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Does it though? I'd expect Portuguese cuisine to be pretty similar with the rest of the Mediterranean in the first place, and Mediterranean cuisine isn't independent from other Asian influences (e.g. spices)

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Sep 10, 2023Liked by √Čtienne Fortier-Dubois

Well I also guess it was pretty similar to Spanish cuisine for example, but before the age of exploration. Afterwards, Portuguese cuisine became the medium in which many other cuisines interacted, and they want their separate way from the Spanish or Western cuisine in general. Just my very uneducated idea though.

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The difference between French,Italian and Spanish food is that it is made fresh in those countries. American food is processed. Freshness makes all the difference.

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