Bringing cultural ancestry and demography into the French vs. American cuisine debate 🍟
> "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.
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.
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.
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.