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THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2017 www.italoamericano.org L'Italo-Americano 2 NEWS & FEATURES TOP STORIES PEOPLE EVENTS W o u l d y o u b e l i e v e t h a t p u t t i n g t o g e t h e r a q u i c k s p a - ghettata for your friends in San Francisco or Los Angeles is a way to promote Italy abroad? A way to make us all ambassadors of our being Italian or Italian American and to spread the cul- ture, identity, knowledge and t r a d i t i o n o f t h e B e l P a e s e around the world? Indeed, there is an "Italy out- side of Italy" that unconsciously carries out an essential, albeit often underestimated, duty. Nowadays, millions of Ita- lians live outside of the Bel Paese, along with about 80 mil- lions people of Italian descent: all of them are mirror, with their w a y o f l i v i n g a n d c u l i n a r y habits, of their motherland's lifestyle. Often, thanks to their work and their successful busi- ness ventures, they even manage to benefit the economy and the image of Italy itself. T h e t e r r i b l e N a p a V a l l e y f i r e s b r o u g h t u s b a c k t o t h e sacrifices made by Italian immi- grants who chose to settle there, in 1850, because of the area's climate, that so much resembled the one they had left behind. It was there they settled with their families, started their activities, sowed seeds, planted grapevines and plants they had brought from home. Witnessing hectares a n d h e c t a r e s o f l a n d b e i n g destroyed by fire made us think about the role of hundreds of farmers from Piedmont, Veneto or Sicily had in the diffusion of that very wine-making culture that made California one of the main - and most competitive - wine producers in the world. In many a way, wine and its production can be read as a con- crete symbol of the role of Ita- lian immigrants in the US' eco- nomic growth. They transferred the cultivation methods inherited from their own native lan and their humble ability to read and interpret nature overseas. They came from the hills of Tuscany and the plains of Apulia with what we call "know-how," but tradition has always known as sweat and labor, the heart of an age old experience that made the Bay Area as lush and productive as it is today. If so many traditional Italian food products are famous in the world it's also thanks to our fel- low Italian immigrants. They brought overseas produce and agricultural techniques, some of them unknown before, just like viticulture; they contributed to the diffusion of a true "food cul- ture," not only to a type of culti- vation. Specialists have then under- stood how, in countries like the US, immigration represents the cultural avant-garde of Italian food's commercial popularity. Of course, the process was not planned, as migrants were simply interested in keeping their very own culinary habits from home, in growing the pro- duce and reproducing the land- scapes they knew; they wanted to preserve their habits and sup- port financially their families back in Italy, not opening up international commercial routes. However, the simple act of kee- ping and passing on their own culinary traditions turned into a "colonization," a "conversion" of lands to new cultures and of people to new flavors that crea- ted, little by little, the alluring new market of the Made in Italy and its renowned companion, the Mediterranean Diet. There is another interesting point to think about: during the years of early Italian migrations to the US, pasta, wines, cheeses, salumi, even pizza, were stigma- tizing symbols of our own iden- tity for which we were often derided. But today they have become prestigious cultural pro- ducts, free from any negative connotation, status symbols of Italy's popularity abroad and a s o l i d t o u r i s t a t t r a c t i o n b a c k home. Isn't it curious? Y e t w e s h o u l d a l w a y s remember it and we should also think about how it was, at the very beginning, the poorest, the e c o n o m i c m i g r a n t s o f t h o s e times, who brought and suppor- ted Italy's culinary culture in t h e w o r l d : t h e y w a n t e d t o r e c r e a t e h o m e i n t h e i r n e w motherland. Their attachment to family, to Italy, the way they carried that grapevine in their suitcase when they boarded a s h i p t o a l a n d w h e r e p e o p l e didn't speak their dialect, but an entirely different language, were an attempt to keep close to their identity. Today, we find our food in supermarkets and we largely lost contact with its origins; for this reason we should always keep in mind the immense cul- tural baggage hidden in a glass of wine and offer that simple plate of spaghetti with pride and gratitude for the great w ork done through the decades by our migrants. The cultural - and food - baggage our migrants brought overseas BARBARA MINAFRA

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