A Matter of Taste: Europeans on American Food
McDonald's in Italy
McDonald's is an ever-present symbol of American food in Italy; in fact, the hamburger empire is the number one fast-food chain in Europe
People always tell me how lucky I am to be eating my way through
I'm still on the go in
We usually talk about food, and the conversation sometimes shifts to what I eat back home. It can come as a surprise, but Europeans don't always have a dim view of American cooking. After all,
Over one long Italian meal, Claudia (a Roman tour guide) says she loves American food. Her favorites include the BLT sandwich and "chili soup." She's charmed by our breakfast culture and that we "meet for breakfast." She says you would never see families going out for breakfast in
But she notes that in
Some of my other Italian friends are less tactful. At dinner with three Tuscan friends -- Manfredo, Roberto and Ilaria -- I listen to a sharp critique. "I think American pioneers did not know to make a good salami or prosciutto so they could not preserve their meat properly," Manfredo says. "This is why you have the barbecue sauce: to hide this taste of rotting meat."
"Is there no barbecue sauce in
"No," says Manfredo, "but I like very much to make Buffalo wings. Could you kindly send me a package of Frank's Original Red Hot Cayenne Pepper Sauce when you return home?"
We all laugh, and then Roberto adds, "I think, in America, a restaurant is looking not for what is good food. What is good is what sells. Real lasagna is only this thick," he says, sticking his knife through two steamy inches of lasagna on the plate in front of him. "In
Roberto continues, "If you go to an American restaurant and say the food is bad, you get a coupon for a free meal. More bad food. If you say the food is bad in a restaurant in
"In a real Italian restaurant when you complain, the chef will tell you, 'I cooked this as a boy the way my grandmother cooked this,'" Manfredo says. "It cannot be wrong."
Raising my glass of wine I offer a toast to Italian food. "To la cucina Italiana."
Manfredo follows that, saying magnanimously, "To bacon and eggs." We all agree that American breakfasts are unbeatable.
"Omelets, hash browns," Roberto reminisces. "On my last visit to
Raising our glasses, we make another toast. "To American breakfasts."
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