Eating Europe - Pork Butts and Clams
Odd food combinations with an excursion into the Italian sport of butt-pinching
|Guido Veloce Explains Europe to You - Issue #3|
Americans are used to odd combinations of food items--as long as they don't touch. Think about it: you got your Mexican combo with maybe a taco, a burrito, and an enchilada all on the same plate but compartmentalized--know what I mean? And we'd never think about doing this with our own food. I mean you almost never see a combo featuring a hot dog, two hamburgers, and a little pile of Cracker Jack dusted with parsley, even at the ballpark.
Americans do have little things like a McDonald's "hamburger" combined with something called a "secret sauce" that tastes suspiciously like spackle, but mostly they don't use sauces to bring things together much.
Director Francis Ford Copola once remarked that in America you've got your meat, your potatoes, and your peas, all in separate compartments, but when you twirl your Italian spaghetti, you see the sauce and the meat and the pasta all intermingling with one another. Cool, no?
So what's the oddest combination you ever put in your mouth? Food I mean.
I once ate a spectacular meal in France that started with snails in a rich burgundy sauce stuffed inside a big, hollow cow bone and baked. On top they threw some big, crunchy salt crystals so when you stuck your spoon in the bone you withdrew a melange that had layer upon layer of taste, starting off with a crunchy, salty tang before the rich burgundy sauce kicked in.
But when I think of odd combos that are kinda normal for a group of people I think of the famous Portuguese Pork and Clams. You take something like a marinated Pork Butt and braise it a long time, adding the clams at the last minute so they add their juices to the sauce. It's better than you think. When you're in Portugal next time, you gotta try it.
II. Speaking of Butts--Do those crazy Italians still pinch 'em?
Ok, so a reader writes me to inquire about the legendary butt-squeezing performed by macho Italian men. I'm thinking they don't do it so much anymore. Not that my butt has ever been a target, but the women with whom I've tried to speak just don't seem to complain like they used to.
For example: in the 70's a woman told me that she and her girlfriend had taken a cheap room in Rome before going out to see the sites. When they returned they opened the door to the big armoire to put their clothes away and a naked guy jumps out and grabs them both on the behind. They scream and chase him away, then badger the hotel clerk to call the police. The constabulary arrives only to tell then, "look, you're a couple of good-looking foreign girls. What you expect a man to do?"
But that was then and this is now. An anthropologist might tell you that in times of economic stress women go out and get jobs working in other people's houses and the laid off men sulk at home. Said emasculated men have nothing better to do than to uphold the honor of the family. So, like dour tyrants they work to protect the monogamy of their wives and the virginity of their daughters. And then, to provide a contrast, they also go out to prove that foreign women, unlike their wholesome Italian counterparts, are slutty enough to take a whole bunch of digital prodding without complaint.
But who listens to Anthropologists any more? It's enough just to say that, according to my sources, the practice of butt pinching seems to have pretty much died out in the north of Italy but may be still practiced in some places in the impoverished south.
Funny though--the tradition of butt squeezing remains embedded in the Italian legal code. Italy's highest court of appeal has recently ruled that patting a woman's bottom doesn't equate to sexual molestation if it's a spur of the moment deal and contains "no libidinous intent." It's sorta like a little masturbation I guess. No harm no foul.
Well, I've said enough--I'm outta here. Why not write me and tell me what European subject you'd like me to rant about next week?