Wine? Italians say spread it on staff How about laying some Brunello di Montalcino on your toast, or slathering Chianti on some cheese?
The brainchild of Italian agronomist Giordano Cal?, “spreadable wine” comes in 20 flavors of the country’s best-loved vino, including Marsala, Morellino di Scansano, Zibibbo and Nero d?Avola.The creams, which have the consistency of jam, are at their best with roast meats, cheeses or on fruit for dessert. Calo’s favorite combination? Goat cheese tempered with a rich spread of Aglianico.

Cal?, whose company motto is “little for few,” makes 10,000 jars of wine cream a year. He estimates about 20% of the sold outside the Bel Paese. Connoisseurs outside Italy have to settle for an ‘unleaded’ alcohol-free version, it seems it was the only way to keep it preserved and get it through customs.

Spreadable wine is an idea whose time has come: Italians are drinking less wine than ever, less than half of what they imbibed in the 1970s. Numerous initiatives are trying to get Italians back in the habit of drinking the gift of the grape in moderation — including one aimed at the youth market sponsored by the National Enoteca called ‘By Bacchus, Kids!”? text 1999-2005
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Italians more passionate about pasta than sex staff

Most Latin lovers prefer a plate of pasta to a paramour, according to a recent study. One-third of all Italian of both sexes indicated pasta as the main pleasure in life. According to the SWG poll, nearly half of them would never go without it.
Sex? L’amore as a life passion warrants a mere bronze, coming in after travel preferred by 27% and 21% of Italians respectively. Intellectual pursuits would seem to be of higher importance than rounding out a that plate of pasta with a glass of wine: reading was cited as a passion by 14% percent of Italians while wine only by 4% percent.

Passion for pasta may also lead to a national sense of guilt if another poll by SWG of over 1,000 Italians is to be believed. Half of all Italians feel they are overweight, when only 34% of them are in actuality. And low-carb diets won’t make much headway in Italy any time soon: 60% of those interviewed ate pasta or pizza at least five or six times a week and some up to twice a day.

Although about half of Italians can be considered overweight, they still boast trimmer waistlines than many Spanish, Greek, German and Belgian counterparts. Surgeons cited sedentary lifestyles and “American-style” fast food as plumping up the national girth, warning that in a few years Italian rates may catch up with U.S. obese averages, currently about twice as high. ?1999-2004
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Related resources:
Marcella Says: Italian Cooking Wisdom from the Legendary Teacher’s Master Classes

Italy says grape harvest: no grazie

The grape harvest in Italy this year, said to be a small but good vintage, may wilt on the vine because no one wants to do the work.

Sicilian mayor Calogero Trupiano predicts empty vineyards because of a labor shortage — a serious threaten to the Italian wine industry, accountable for more than 20 percent of worldwide wine production.

Granted, grape harvesting is no picnic. Workers rise at dawn to avoid the worst of the late-summer heat and spend a long day bending over vines with pruning shears and hauling heavy, grape-laden baskets for processing.

“I did it once, thinking it was an easy way to pick up extra money,” Marco Paoletti told zoomata. “Never again. It was grueling work. There were ten-hour days with only a break for bread and cheese, you need serious stamina.”

In recent years, fewer Italians have been willing or interested in the job and the immigrant labor force has stepped in where locals bowed out: no more, says the mayor. Trupiano fears the grapes may turn sour on the vine because despite quotas that help bring in foreign workers for field work, not even they are willing to spend 45 days in the fields to earn total wages of around 2,000EUR.

Italians are drinking less wine than ever — about half as much as they did in the 1950s — raising concern that a symbol of the country may go by the wayside. In an effort to raise an interest in dying traditions, last year a town near Naples held three days of back-to-basics lessons on the fall harvest, including a grape-stomping workshop for kids.?1999-2004
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Related resources:
Ready to give grape picking a try? Get hooked up with the Italian branch of Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WOOF)….

Italy by Numbers: Summer Food Festivals

zoomata staff
2 million Italians participate in August food festivals
43% take place in southern Italy
18% take place in central Italy
29% dedicated to seasonal produce
Summer in Italy means “sagre” or fairs in celebration of local specialties — that’s just a one-letter difference between “sacred,” in Italian to give you an idea of how seriously food is taken here. And, while the food is taken seriously, the fests are casual, picnic-like affairs with communal tables and a band for dancing.
Many center around seasonal produce: the Eggplant Fair (Corigliano – Caserta province) or the Blueberry and Raspberry Fair (Trasaghis – Udine province – month of Aug.)
Though festivals centering around fish or cheese are half as common as those dedicated to meat, the mad-cow scare has shifted interest and crowds to meat-less fare.
Time-honored traditions involving meat (like the donkey stew fair in Calliano -Aosta province – August 25) probably won’t boast a huge turnout but if you can stomach the dish it may be a good way to feel like a local for a day.
To stick with pasta, try the Pappardelle Fair in Montespertoli (province of Florence Aug. 24 – Sept. 3).
Best way to find a food fete in Italy? Keep an eye out for the posters announcing “sagra” when on the road and a short deviation may make for a memorable meal. ?1999-2004
This is an original news story. Play nice. Please use contact form for reprint/reuse info.

Related resources:
Searchable database for events in Italy, including food fairs…

Italians Patent ‘Diet’ Bean, Politics as Usual

updated Thu. May 13 16:47 pm
zoomata staff

Proving once again that politics touch everything in Italy, scientists patented a genetically-modified bean containing a substance commonly used in diet pills naming it “Silvio” after Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Scientists at the National Research Center in Milan genetically modified a kidney bean to remove phytohemagglutinin, a toxic substance, from phaseolamin a common ingredient in starch blockers made from bean extract.
Diet pills made with the recently-patented bean won’t be hitting the shelves anytime soon but the controversy is bound to linger.

Italian media had a field day with implications of the name, speculating on whether it referred to the leader’s somewhat portly appearance or his height. Berlusconi went into hiding for a month around Christmas while on a drastic diet and after reportedly having a face lift. The Premier, who claims to stand five foot seven, is also said to be conscious about his stature and has been satirized as a dwarf. His legume namesake is technically a ‘dwarf’ variety.

“Everyone’s been asking about the name,” researcher Roberto Bollini told zoomata by email. “It was meant simply to thank the government for an innovative law on patents, but there have been a lot of jokes made. Especially about the dwarf part.”

The homage to Berlusconi comes at a time when Italy’s scientific community is increasingly at odds with the government — including strikes and researchers threatening to leave the country.

Low salaries, nepotism and cuts in spending have all been credited with creating a brain drain of Italy’s scientific community.
Efforts to lure them back have not met with much success. Highly-esteemed oncologist Lucio Luzzatto came back to his home town to work at the Institute for Tumor research in Genoa only to be fired earlier this month, ostensibly for moonlighting at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center of New York.
A petition signed by colleagues in seven countries couldn’t get Luzzatto reinstated; leading daily Corriere della Sera reported that the real problem was old-world politics in the form of friction between Luzzatto and the managing director. ?1999-2004
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Italian Onion is ‘Poor Man’s Viagra’

posted Tue. April 13 18:25 pm zoomata staff

Men in Southern Italy have long claimed the red Tropea onion makes lovemaking easy, a scientist has now proved it is a natural form of Viagra.

Pasquale Potenza, who emigrated to Argentina as a youth, may have remembered whispered tales about the amorous side effects of the sweet onion of his native Calabria. After years of research, the biochemist at the University of Buenos Aires discovered that the Tropea onion contains nitric oxide, the active ingredient used in the little blue pill to regulate blood vessels and sustain erections.

“I’m not exactly sure what the implications may be,” said the researcher, whose last name happens to mean “potency” in Italian. “It will take complex studies to see whether it could be used on a pharmaceutical level — the connection is there though.”

Brought to Italy over two thousand years ago most likely by the Phoenicians, this type of onion has long been known to have excellent medicinal qualities. Pliny the Elder famously sung its praises — claiming these onions could cure vision, induce sleep, heal mouth sores, dog bites, toothaches and rheumatism.
Modern Italians are more likely to use a small amount to flavor an omelet or soup, but they have convinced the EU the Tropea onion is worthy of Protected Geographical Indication (I.G.P.) food status.
If Potenza’s research turns out to be commercially viable, they may find all sorts of new uses for it. @1999-2009 Related resoures:
Cucina Di Calabria: Treasured Recipes and Family Traditions from Southern Italy

Olive Oil ‘brain food’ for kids, Italian docs say

zoomata staff posted: Tue Feb. 17 12:21 am

A teaspoon of olive oil a day during pregnancy makes for smarter children, according to Italian researchers. The effects of ‘green gold,’ on a mum-to-be are many — from a healthier liver and cleaner arteries to reinforcing cell membranes– and can add up to a 30% increase in intelligence.

“Olive oil isn’t just a condiment, it’s a food,” said Giorgio Calabrese, professor and nutritionist. “Our studies have shown that it is an important element for health, not only contributing to intelligence but also in preventing tumors, reducing risk of heart attack and improving cholesterol levels.”

Those of us who missed out on a mediterranean diet in the womb can still benefit from regular consumption of olive oil.
A study by the University of Bari found that elderly people with a diet high in monounsaturated fatty acids contained in olive oil had and maintained higher cognitive skills than those who did not. During the nine years of the study, researchers studied over 700 people between the ages of 65 and 85, and found that followers of the mediterranean diet, where 29% of total calories were fat from olive oil, scored highest on cognitive tests and maintained that advantage over the years.

Trying to convince the rest of the world that olive oil is the ‘divine gift’ mediterranean populations consider it may take some doing. Even before the low-carb, high-fat diet craze set in, only 3% of the worldwide consumption in fat was made up of olive oil.

“It’s conquering the other 97% of the people that concerns me,” said Calabrese. “We can talk about benefits all day long, but we need to change habits.” ?1999-2004

Zoomata is the brainchild of a bilingualjournalist based in Italy who thinks out of the box. This brain is for hire.

Related resources:
Barbera Frantoia Olive Oil in Hand-Crafted Ceramic Jar

Converting from butter to olive oil — quantities & tips

A Passion for Pasta: Italians Love Tradition

Despite thousands of ways to dress a plate of spaghetti, Italians love the classics. The favorite variant in the Bel Paese is a simple plate of pasta with tomato sauce.
All other versions combined — seafood, pesto, cream sauce, baked — were named as favorites by only 25% of the 1,000 Italians surveyed by Cirm for World Pasta Day 2003.

Most Italians seem to have a nearly inborn knack for noodles, 62.8% don’t bother following instructions. The ability to master the elusive “q.b.” (quanto basta or to taste), likely derives from a daily knowledge of penne, tortellini and spaghetti — at nearly 60 pounds per person per year, Italians are top consumers of pasta worldwide.

Celebrations taking place in Naples and around the world on Oct. 24-25 will also highlight new ways of looking at the old standby. The Cirm study found that Italians add six new recipes to the average menu of 12 every year — though these brilliant and often improvised creations don’t take the place of the classics. Some traditions may soon change, 9.8% of Italians have tried their national dish in what would have been formerly considered heretical versions — frozen or precooked. ©1999-2007

Hot, Fresh Pizza — From A Vending Machine

Chalk up another one for Italian ingenuity: the pizza vending machine. Entrepreneur Giovanni Demaggio, 35, has created a machine that serves a four-slice pizza in 90 seconds, for about $3.
Whether the so-called ‘Wonder Pizza’ will provoke wonder or just disgust remains to be seen since
two out of three pizzas offered probably aren’t very popular with non-Italian palates: Neapolitan (oregano, anchovies and capers), Quattro Stagioni (olives, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, ham) and the Margherita (cheese and a sprig of basil). By the end of 2003, Wonder Pizza will be sold in 1,000 European outlets including airports, train stations and offices — perhaps the true test of automatic pizza as an ‘international’ food.

Zoomata is the brainchild of a bilingual journalist based in Italy who thinks out of the box. This brain is for hire.

Related resources:
The Art of Pizza Making: Trade Secrets and Recipes
Take some time out for a real treat….

Italian Wines Get Electronic ID

Wine snobs now have heaps of new knowledge to lord over the rest of us after Italian winemakers unveiled a new tracking system providing technical information about the bubbly.
Consumers punch in the code from the pink label on bottles of Asti spumante and Moscato at the consortium web site and up comes all you’d probably never need to know about the libation — pinpointing the vineyard where the grapes were harvested, the place and time it was bottled and a detailed chemical analysis.

Wine producers hope to appeal to discerning consumers who like to be over informed about what they’re drinking — the tracking is currently only available for "Controlled and Guaranteed Denomination of Origin" or DOCG wines, given to 23 top brews tested by the Italian government. The president of the Italian Enologists association would like to see the system extended to DOC, IGT and table wines. A similar system was launched last year by a Tuscan winery — a microchip on the bottles reassured consumers that the Brunello di Montalcino wasn’t some counterfeit brew sporting the same label.

"We don’t want to introduce new laws into a very regulated sector," said Giuseppe Martelli. "But we’d like to coordinate the producers and better inform the consumers about what they’re drinking." For example, the technical info that the web site gives from a bottle of Asti Spumante retailing for about $4.50 reveals information like the total acidity (5.8 grams per liter), that the Muscat grapes used were in part bought from outside the company and is part of a 78,000 bottle batch.

That’s a lot of information — but whether it will excite Italian consumers is another matter. The fact is that Italians are drinking less wine than ever — 50 liters per person yearly in 2002, in contrast to the 104 per capita drunk in 1975. As lifestyles change, so do drinking habits — beer consumption has also more than doubled from 13 liters to 30 each per person a year. Numerous initiatives are trying to get Italians back in the habit of drinking the gift of the grape in moderation — including one aimed at the youth market sponsored by the National Enoteca called ‘By Bacchus, Kids!"


Zoomata is the brainchild of a bilingualjournalist based in Italy who thinks out of the box. This brain is for hire.

Related resources:
Burton Anderson’s Best Wines of Italy

zoomata guide: Talk your way around a glass of wine in Italian