By: Eleanor Conrad
This November, UW-Madison celebrated the sixth annual “Week of Italian Cuisine in the World” with two virtual lectures and multiple in-person events. The week of mouth-watering events was co-sponsored by the Center for European Studies and led by Professor Grazia Menechella of the Department of French & Italian.
During the first virtual lecture, Prof. David Gentilcore of Ca’ Foscari University in Venice, Italy presented, “Americans in Italy, or How Three Plants from the New World Changed Italian Cuisine,” introduced by Consul General of Italy, Dr. Thomas Botzios, Director of the Italian Cultural Institute of Chicago, Dr. Luca Di Vito, and UW-Madison Professor, Grazia Menechella. This lecture highlighted the significance of indigenous American ingredients (tomato, potato, and maize) in the development of Italian cuisine.
The second virtual lecture was a presentation by Prof. Massimo Montanari of the University of Bologna on his book, “A Short History of Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce” with welcoming remarks by Dr. Luca Di Vito, Dr. Thomas Botzios, Prof. Grazia Menechella and the President of Casa Artusi, Dr. Laila Tentoni. Montanari’s lecture told the surprising and influential history of this beloved, simple dish. During his presentation, the audience learned the origin of the Italian noodle, the initial confusion of how best to incorporate tomato into Italian cuisine, and the evolving recipe of this iconic dish (olive oil is a relatively new addition and replaced lard!). His book is now available for purchase in English, and an art exhibit inspired by his work, including watercolors by artist Luciano Ragozzino, is on display at Casa Artusi in Forlimpopoli, Italy. The exhibit will also be available online through Casa Artusi’s website.
Because of the virtual nature of these lectures, people from around the world were able to attend and over 200 students, faculty, and members of the public tuned in to watch. UW-Madison students also had the opportunity to benefit from multiple in-person events on campus. Professor Menechella gave her presentation, “What’s a Recipe?” for the class, History 264/764: Dimensions of Material Culture taught by Professor Marina Moskowitz. Her lecture focused specifically on Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.
Librarian Lisa Wettleson created an exhibit of manuscripts and recipe books from the Special Collections Archives available at the Memorial Library for Professor Menechella’s classes, Italian 230: Modern Italian Culture and the first-year interest group (F.I.G.) course, Literature in Translation 410: Food Cultures of Italy. At the UW Steenbock Library, Librarian Karen Dunn curated a small display of books on Italian cooking and agriculture for all members of campus to enjoy. The exhibit represents a small fraction of the materials available at the Steenbock Library on these subjects.