Food Culture and Tradition

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Typical Food of Veneto in Italy



The great staples of this province include polenta, radicchio rosso (a reddish form of chicory or curly endive), rice, and fish of all kinds including the imported salt cod.

It was in Venice that the first sack of dried corn reputedly was unloaded in Italy, and Venetians have retained their affection for it ever since. It was also in Venice where the first fork and cloth serviette accompanied elegant dinners while the rest of the world ate with their fingers and wiped them on their clothes and anything else available. The height of Venice’s glory was in the 1400s – like an elegant lady with the confidence and breeding that comes from 300 years of supremacy as a cultured city, intellectual center, and merchant harbor to much of Europe. Not surprisingly, her sophistication encouraged a cosmopolitan cuisine and to this day, dishes such as sausages and sauerkraut, casseroles of salt cods, stews of offal, turkey, and goose are reminiscent of other European and Mediterranean lands.

While almost every region of Italy and each small village delights in their own version of biscotti, it is believed that this twice-baked crisp little bread originated from the standard (plain) Venetian pani biscotti. From earliest times the large round dried flatbreads and smaller crisp breads were considered essential food for journeys even by Marco Polo and Christopher Columbus.

Typically too, the classic dishes of the region are prepared with loving precision. Polenta may be served hot or cold, boiled, roasted, sliced and fried, layered with fish, cheeses, meats or vegetables into baked dishes, or served from a wooden slab or copper pan. Fish is cooked principally in one of three ways: poached in a broth, deep-fried in oil, or grilled quickly over red-hot charcoal. Although rice is widely used it is not prepared as in Lombardy. No saffron is used here nor is rice eaten by itself. Rather, it is cooked and served with a variety of other ingredients which may include meats, fish or seafood, or even beans or raisins. Most famous is risi e bisi, a famed first course of cooked rice with tiny green peas, grated cheese, and bits of bacon or ham. Flat noodles accompany many meat dishes and may also be served with grated cheese as a first course. Game and all types of meats and sausages abound, and frequently it is the added grated cheese that distinguishes Venetian dishes from those of Austria, Germany, or Hungary.

Cabbage, zucchini, fennel, squash of all types, potatoes (especially in the form of gnocchi) are all used in abundance, together with tomatoes, peppers, onions, and other common vegetables.

Some of the more exotic dishes of this region include: sopa coada, a soup made of young pigeon squabs; arrosto di maiale al latte, browned pork flavored with rosemary and garlic then stewed in milk; and capon a la canevera, capon stuffed with beef and guinea-fowl meat then placed in a pig’s bladder and sewn up with a bamboo pole as the vent – the bladder is discarded after boiling and the meat is cut for serving.

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