Archive for April 16th, 2009

Antipasto Bento and a bit about Italian-American Foodways

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

The bento below was made from Easter leftovers:

Antipasto Bento

As the daughter of two Italian-Americans, the cuisine I know most about would be Italian-American food. Notice that I don’t say Italian food, because there are those who believe that there is a distinct difference between the two. A few years ago when I was taking a class on the Italian-American Experience, we read a book called Hungering for America: Italian, Irish, and Jewish Foodways in the Age of Migration. It argued that may people migrated to the US as a result of poverty and hunger in their home countries. In the case of Italian-Americans, they finally found themselves exposed to the kinds of foods that were usually only available to the upper class. As a result, Italian-American food evolved to include more of things that the lower-classes would only eat on special occasions if at all. To Italian-Americans, food also became a public statement of identity and celebration. This is not to say that Italians do not have a similar passion for food, but availability of ingredients and the influence of American culture has definitely had an effect on what Italian-American families eat today.

In my house, a holiday meal could never be complete without the antipasto. In fact, antipastos were even common on weekends, especially if we were having guests. The table would be spread with various cheeses, cured meats, marinated or grilled vegetables, anchovies, olives, and Italian bread. As children, my sister and I would help my mother arrange everything on the plates as attractively as we could while still taking the time to preform “quality control”…cleverly hiding the olive pits and other evidence on our napkins. Most of the time, the actual meal became secondary and would barely be touched.

This Easter was no exception. Though there were only six of us, we had so much antipasto that we barely made a dent in our ham (a concession we made because some people *looks pointedly at her sister* do not like lamb, a more traditional choice for Italian-Americans on Easter). Happily, the various things that make up an antipasto lend really well to making bentos because you can give yourself small portions with a lot of variety and color. Not to mention the fact that this bento took 5 minutes to put together. If I had any bread at my house, all the ingredients would have made an incredible sandwich. I’m sorry to say that I did not roast these peppers myself, but that can be another journal entry for another time.

For more detail on the contents of the bento, please click on the picture.