Calabria is quirky.
Having just celebrated the holidays around the table with my delightful Calabrian Italian relatives, I can say that.
Whereas none of the proud Italian relatives would say they eat anything other than 100% Italian food on Christmas, a little food research shows that the food we enjoyed is anything but 100% of anything. Calabrian food is, if anything, a cuisine where contact with conquering Arabic, Norman, Greek and Spanish cultures have all left their imprint. The Bulgarians and Armenians also stopped by. Calabria is about as multicultural and tied to geography as one can get~ being Italian.
Upon arrival at my father in law’s we started with mile high eggplant parmesan….a dish ”strictly” Italian, however, thanks to the Arabs who brought the first eggplant. The Arabs also introduced artichokes, oranges and raisins, without which we wouldn’t have had that wonderful Italian Christmas Pannettone. Our Arab friends also brought lemons…finishing our Italian Christmas meal with no Limoncello would be unthinkable.
Could we not have pasta at any meal?… Pasta came to us through Marco Polo via China? The Arabs via Sicily? Many peoples could have introduced pasta but we know that most “Italian” of foods originally came from somewhere else. We were happy to enjoy our own Zio Sam’s handmade fettucine at Christmas and so happy that the pasta travelled to Italy.
Thanks to the Greeks, our Italian family enjoys many fried and dipped in honey special pastries and desserts. Quirky turdilli is everyone’s favorite holiday pastry and aunts come bringing their own variation.