» Italian Food Fusion

food fusionRachel Berns’s (Health Sciences BS, 2024) paper "Cultural Attitudes Towards Ethnic Cuisine in Italy,” composed during an interdisciplinary travel course led by professors Anuradha Prakash and Sara Mattavelli, voices the important and timely need to intentionally promote cross-cultural interactions and actively experiment with culinary fusion in Italy. The cherishing of local culinary traditions can exist side-by-side with an openness to foreign foods. Rachel’s paper wishes to be the starting point for future conversations with Chapman students and faculty about identity, food, and change. This line of inquiry also invites the organization of laboratories involving local chefs and food critics to explore ways to hybridize and expand Italian traditional recipes by connecting them with other Mediterranean culinary traditions and beyond.

Italy has become a common “landing country” for many European and Asian immigrants, creating a perception of invasion that has led to cultural reactionism masked in the reinforcement of “traditional cuisine.” For so-called traditional foods to endure, they must continually be reinvented, bearing different meanings and social values throughout time and space while accumulating rich, cultural baggage that serves as a powerful marker of identity in a given society. This paper explores the role of traditional cuisine in Italian national identity and pride, and the subsequent historical culinary antagonism maintained in widespread attitudes toward ethnic cuisine in Italy. Through an analysis of primary and secondary literature, complemented by qualitative field observations in the Italian cities of Perugia and Modena, several instances of culinary discrimination are discussed within the political, social, cultural, and historical complexities of preserving tradition while also accommodating diversity, highlighting an interplay between nostalgia and xenophobia that we can almost taste. Key factors such as food legislation, the tourism industry, and evolving attitudes among young generations are considered to yield a dynamic picture of the current perceptions of ethnic cuisine in Italy. Despite lingering biases, there is hope for a future of culinary coexistence and integrative celebration of non-Italian foods in Italian culture, driven by young individuals’ openness to diverse tastes and traditions.

“Cultural Attitudes Towards Ethnic Cuisine in Italy”