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Have you ever noticed that it's very hard to find someone who does not like italian food? Ask around, you'll find those that object to be few and far-between. There is something to be said for this. Italian cuisine has taken hold in almost every nation and has been warmly recieved. Italian cusine contains some common thread that all people can seem to identify with. It is this universal enjoyment of a cuisine which finds its root on a very small peninsula in southern Europe which facinates me to no end.

There are many factors which have played into the development of Italian cuisine. It has throught it history been a cuisine that has been driven by the people (as opposed to French cuisine which was driven by the aristocracy). Italy, in its small size contains a wide variety of micro-climates, almost all of which are extremely fertile, and suited to growing a wide variety of ingredients, being a peninsula gave its people access to the sea, and it's bounty. All of these factors contributed to the culinary development of Italy. If I could sum of the whole of italian cuisine in a phrase, I would have to say that the essence of italian food lies in "Simple Flavors, Perfected".

Italian food is highly regional (indeed one could consider each region a seperate cuisine, and many do). The people of what is today known as Italy used regional ingredients, in season, all the time. Cuisine which is driven from the common people (no matter the culture) usually means one thing, Simplicity. There is an inherent simplicity to italian dishes I believe it is this simplicity that makes it so accessible, and so universally loved.

Today italian cuisine can easily be broken into two large groups, Northern and Southern. Northern Italy is where the money was, Northern Italy's cuisine therefore, relys on some more expensive ingredients. Southern Italy was mainly agricultural and less affluent so a higher reliance on local ingredients and herbs is emphasized. However, North or South the cuisine was driven by the common people, and it's that common, basic food, as deep in flavor as it is in history which touches on a shared cultural memory.

From the conquests of Rome, to the travels of Marco Polo the italian people have spread themselves far and wide, bringing their food with them. Italians found ways to bring those flavors with them, they dried pasta and basil in the sun and more importantly they found local ingredients which emulated those tasted from home. The reliance on local ingredients to the italian people bred an adaptability into the cuisine. Italians easily embraced foods from the new world (example: the tomato) and incorperated them into popular dishes. "Traditional Italian Cuisine" is not restricted to "old world" ingredients, but is taking what is found locally and creating an italian flavor. It's that simplicity in Italian cuisine which makes this possible. I have spent a lot of time in resturaunts, on both sides of the kitchen. I have watched French chefs gripe about the lack of availibilty of ingredients "vital" to French cuisine, I have watched Japanese chefs express the same woes, all the while an Italian chef, without a word, would grab a can of whole peeled tomatos, a cheap cut of pork and dried pasta and turn it into a plate of heaven.

A close second to Italian cuisine would be Chinese, but that's another node. Both have the root in common cooking, an adaptability to their dishes both also have strong regional sub-cuisines. However since caucasians are not highly respected in Chinese kitchens, I'll stick with italian.

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