The Three Taboos

411-the-three-taboosPrincipally, everybody is free to say and do whatever they want everywhere. But there exist several things which are a taboo and they’d better not mention them or do them when they travel and reside in a foreign country. As you know, my passion for Italy is very strong and tangible and that’s why I am going to underline the three things you’d better skip while you’re on the boot.

You know that lunch and dinner time, food and wine, are sacred for the Italians. They can cut you off in some seconds if it comes to eating. It’s because the Italians have a subtle culinary style and la cucina italiana (Italian cuisine) is inseparable part of their culture. La pasta and gli spaghetti are very important to them. They are even often nicknamed as “maccaronari” and “spaghetti men” because they consume them (and pasta in general) once or sometimes even twice a day. After having generously obtained the flavours of the Mediterranean at lunch or dinner (of course, I am not saying a fine pesto genovese on a sandwich or hamburger), they will take a cup of the “wine of Araby” but be sure it will never be cappuccino in the afternoon or at night. So, what is the first taboo? Never order a cappuccino after 10 A.M. or especially, after your first meal. Only tourists do it this way. They order Spaghetti alla Carbonara and then a cup of cappuccino. This is a “culinary sacrilege” for the Italians and tourists’ sin will hardly be forgiven. 😀 They usually attract the astonished looks of the Italians at the nearby tables, who are drinking short espresso instead.

Being on the topic of pasta and spaghetti, do you know where spaghetti came from? According to the legend, Marco Polo brought them from China in 1295. Another interesting fact is that in 1226 the Arabs had a type of meal similar to lasagna. And they carried it over to the Sicilian cuisine. In fact, the Sicilians were masters in preparing and cooking pasta for centuries. It was spread soon on the mainland and in the world. Soooooo …. If you are asked about the origin of gli spaghetti don’t ever answer that they stemmed from anywhere else but not from Italy. The Italians will be fully stuck by the information sources you have got this information from and will deliver a one-hour speech to you after which you will learn a very important lesson, i.e. to never raise such topics again – taboo number two. 😀

We are moving to the third taboo.  Maybe you have already tried the different types of Italian pasta like farfalle, spaghetti, vermicelli, ravioli, fusilli, etc. and now you would like to try penne ai funghi. A nice choice, indeed. 🙂 But, guys, be careful when you order it, otherwise you will get into a very comic situation like mine of some years ago. Why? When I was in Milan some 5-6 years ago, a Neapolitan friend of mine and I went to have lunch.  I had a basic knowledge of the language and since then I hadn’t mastered to pronounce every single consonant clearly. What do I mean? For instance, the word “penne” should be pronounced “pen-ne”, i.e. both letters “n” should be pronounced explicitly. Well, I didn’t do it and instead I said “pene”. And do you know what happened? My friend and the waiter began winking at each other and smiling at me. Of course, a normal reaction in such situations is to get a little bit nervous, to blush up and surely, to ask what the problem is. Hmmmm …. Actually, there was no problem. The only slight inconvenience, let me say it this way, was that I had ordered “a delicate organ of a man’s body”, i.e. “his most precious”. 😀 Of course, the guy from Naples had a sense of humour like most of the Italians and he just made the following short comment: “You should have told me you wanted my precious friend before we sat here”. 😀 So, my dears-and-nears, mind the third taboo – always pronounce all of the consonants in Italian. 😉


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