The moment you step off the plane in Italy you’re struck by one thing almost immediately. Everyone is skinny. I mean really skinny. How can this be? Doesn’t everyone look like Tony Soprano? Nope. Not at all. Those images you’re probably making in your head are Italian-Americans not Italians in Italy. Big difference.
Why are many Italian-Americans huge and many Italians from Italy thin as a rail? It seems that when you mix the American part, with the Italian part, things get larger. Kim and I just got back from a week in Vegas. Vegas is an obvious cross section of America so these differences became glaringly obvious. In walking around the casinos we couldn’t help but notice how massive everyone has become. I was recently talking to a pilot friend of mine who said that one of the reasons the airlines had to limit the number of bags on flights was because the average weight of passengers has gone up 20 pounds! Seat belt extensions didn’t even exist a few years ago, now they have at least a dozen on every flight.
Here’s what’s so confusing to me about this. Isn’t the “let’s slow down for hours and eat pasta” an Italian thing? The Italians are the ones that have like 5 courses right? How are they pulling this off? What about their neighbors, the French? Don’t they eat cream so thick that it would choke a donkey? Do they have special DNA that repels fat? Is it all that cigarette smoking? What is it?
If you spend some time with our Mediterranean counter parts you’ll observe a few things. Their eating habits on the surface may appear to be unremarkable, but if you dig deeper you’ll notice some significant differences.
1. They fill up on salad with almost every meal.
2. The portions are 25% less of what ours are.
3. They never snack or grab something as a quick bite in the kitchen (they eat as a family at specific times).
4. They only eat what’s fresh and never processed. It’s all about family, friends and whole food. Most Americans eat food from a box rather then from the earth.
5. They use olive oil in almost everything (helps fill you up with little downside).
6. For dessert it’s almost always fruit and nuts (rarely Gelato).
7. Fast food is almost non-existent in the culture (many McDonald’s have had to close down).
8. Meal time is a sacred event. You take your time, have great conversations, stories and laughter. Meals are eaten slowly, which means, you’re not forced in to a rushed indigestion coma and have plenty of time for digestion.
Food is so fresh in Italy that often times there isn’t even a menu in restaurants. The waiter will tell you what’s fresh and in season and create something each day around that. When the courses come out it does not look like the size of Maggiano’s portions. It’s more like the size of your fist.
So what do you think?