I stumbled upon this today and thought what an interesting read. I have always enjoyed finding out how dishes came into being. I thought you might enjoy this as much as I did!
Classic Italian-American food is no different. When immigrants began arriving on our shores, they couldn’t find the right ingredients and were met with palates and traditions that varied greatly from those of their paisanos back home. They adapted their food culture to these new conditions, bringing forth a menu of dishes that might seem unfamiliar or downright confusing to native Italians. But on the other hand, some old traditions lived on even though the original context for the food was long gone.
This one shocked me. I thought meatballs were to Italians what burgers are to Americans!
“In Italy, there’s really no equivalent to our American meatballs. Italians do make polpette, but they’re never as large as what you’ll find here in the States. Polpette are made with veal, or a combination of veal, pork, and beef. When Italian-Americans introduced meatballs to the States, they started using what was available to them here, mostly beef and lots of Pecorino-Romano cheese. Over time, our culture has demanded they grow in size.”
What can I say? As a vegetarian, eggplant is the only good type of parmigiana!
“You will only find eggplant Parmigiana in Italy, it’s never made with veal or chicken. When Italians came to America, they had to make use of the local ingredients available to them. Meat is much less expensive in America than in Europe. So they had to adapt their vegetarian cuisine to our more meat-centric culture. Over time, as our eating habits changed and Americans wanted faster food options, the idea came about to put chicken Parm between two pieces of bread and make it a sandwich, so that people could eat it on the go. But you would never see anything like our chicken Parmesan sandwich in Italy.
I didn’t know what this was until about 15 years ago. And no, I have never had the expensive balsamic vinegar. Balsamic vinegar here is so much better than red wine vinegar. It is a richer, more full bodied flavor. It is a must have in my kitchen.
“This is a multimillion-dollar market outside of Italy, but inside Italy there’s traditionally one kind of balsamic (balsamico tradizionale) that comes in a small bottle. It’s aged and used like an elixir. You’d put a drop of it on cheese, or do a tasting of it. You’d never mix it with olive oil, it’s not just on the table. It takes such a long time to make, so it’s very expensive. Because we don’t like bitter things, the balsamic we use is sweet. These large bottles are nothing more than red wine vinegar with caramelized sugar.”
And here is the link for the rest of the article.