Tonight I want to share my paper of Anthropology of Taste, the last exam (and a good 30 and praise!) I gave before graduating in Science, culture and politics of food and wine. As elaborated, the professor asked us to make a free theme by choosing one of the three tracks he gave us and I chose this: "Witnesses of the change in Italian food culture after the Second World War". I hear about Luigi Veronelli for ten years. I've mentioned him countless times, but I've never written about him. This is the first time. Also I would like to thank my professor Sergio Vitolo because I hadn't written a paper for eighteen years. Over the years I have written several books and hundreds of articles on this wine blog, but no theme. I got excited.
I was lucky enough to have an extraordinary professor, Giovanni Zanzi, who taught me not so much to write - something for which I was naturally inclined, perhaps given my being a greedy book eater from an early age - but to communicate. I still have all the twenty-four themes I wrote with him in the last three years of high school and I'm not ashamed to say that thanks to her I went to reopen that old envelope because I remembered that to make a good essay and not get lost on the street, "the sheet ”, but I didn't remember exactly how it was made.
I put the card down trying to make his track my own and to do that I watched 3 episodes of At the table at 7 that I found on Rai Play. I hope you like this theme, it made me want to read "The Gastronomo”By Veronelli and I just bought a copy of the 1960 Champagne magazine!
I have chosen three of the authors of the twentieth century that I studied in his lectures. The first two arguments are dictated by two contemporaries culturally opposed to each other: Emilio Sereni (partisan) e Guido Piovene (fascist). Thesis and antithesis chase each other to weave the passage from survival to consumption then sanctioned by Luigi Veronelli (anarchist) with a new dimension of taste.
First of all, I decided to place Italian intellectuals in their context of birth and life. The very study of his lessons taught me that "action is conceived if understood in a context" (M. Augè). Family background, political orientation, studies and work are valuable indicators.
Emilio Sereni (Rome 1907 - Rome 1977) was an Italian writer, politician and historian born into a Jewish family of anti-fascist intellectuals. Graduated in Agriculture and member of the Communist Party, after years in the Resistance during the Second World War, he was twice minister with Alcide De Gasperi: from 1946 to 1947 he was Minister of Post-War Assistance and in 1947 he was Minister of Public Works. From 1948 to 1963 he was Senator of the Italian Republic and then became director of the communist theoretical magazine Marxist criticism. His knowledge of languages - English, German, French, Russian, Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Japanese, and some dead cuneiform languages - enabled him to study from a wealth of books and gave him a multifaceted culture. Prolific writer, he composed 1071 writings, among which they had particular success: History of the Italian agricultural landscape, The agrarian question in the Italian national revival and Capitalism in the countryside.
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Guido Piovene (Vicenza 1907 - London 1974) was an Italian writer and journalist born into a noble family of the Venetian aristocracy. A graduate in Philosophy and a member of the Fascist Party, he worked as a foreign correspondent in London and Paris for the Corriere della Sera and in the United States and in Moscow for La Stampa. After renouncing his racist past and rave anti-Semitic reviews, his writings turned to travel reporting. From 1953 to 1956 he toured Italy and told it in a radio broadcast of the RAI and then transformed it into the book Viaggio in Italia (1957), the most famous guide of the years of the Economic Boom. For years a prolific writer of successful novels and essays, in his last year of his life he founded The Newspaper (New) with Indro Montanelli, Enzo Bettiza and Gianni Granzotto.
Luigi Veronelli (Milan 1926 - Bergamo 2004) was an Italian gastronome, journalist, editor, television presenter and philosopher born into a family of industrialists in the chemical sector. Graduated in Philosophy and anarchist, he worked as an editor publishing three magazines including The Gastronomo. In the 80s he was sentenced to six months for having instigated the Piedmontese peasants to revolt and occupied the Asti station and the motorway as a form of protest against a government indifferent to the problems of small producers. As a journalist he worked twenty-one years for Il Giorno and as a writer he published various titles, but he is mainly as a television personality - in particular with At the table at 7, the progenitor of all modern cooking programs - who has become a universally respected character in the world of wine and beyond.
Witnesses of the change in post-World War II Italian food culture
The post-World War II man, aware of being the only witness of himself, returns to the center of the world with an awareness historically of only the aristocracy and the wealthiest classes: food is not just nourishment.
Veronelli, Sereni and Piovene: the post-World War II man
Since the 500th century man, tired of the rigid canons imposed by the Greek tradition, has sought a personal and subjective interpretation in the translation of the social and theological dogmatics imposed on him, shaping, over the centuries, a feeling of freedom that will lead him to reject horror and authoritarianism and that in the twentieth century will give rise to the Second World War.
The twentieth century, with the advent of Fascism and Nazism, was imbued with a horror and corruption that nothing and no one should be allowed not to know. At Auschwitz the concept of man with such infamy was reinterpreted, with such a persistence in respecting what was considered by some to be a sublime ideal - with the object of defining a subcategory of men less useful than slaughter - to ask questions about hypothetical death of God that Nietzsche had theorized in the previous century.
The man of the Second World War - at first - therefore questions himself about the apparently inexplicable silence that God had towards that massacre. The silence of a God who did not see, or did not want to see, the horror of the eyes of those who lived the extermination of their people and their hearts, of a God who did not prevent the blood of the victims from flowing with brutality up to that point. unimaginable moment dictated by the "organization" of the elimination of a race.
The Second World War was, in some respects, the "triumph" of that feeling of freedom that animated man from very distant times where individual nations, while not always sharing the same interests, fought the Italian-German despotism by redefining the concept of human dignity.
The mental construction of a rational, ordered cosmos, governed by very specific ends and governed by a provident God who makes the pain of existence itself more bearable, is therefore gutted by the "death of God", understood as the collapse of all absolute certainties that have supported man in previous centuries, stable centers of gravity capable of exorcising the dismay caused by the chaotic and irrational flow of things. Man, understanding that a possible evolution is only necessary for the single individual, places freedom as an essential axiom of his life and sees in the Second World War "the world" on which to place roots in order to build his own future.
However, it is a world where the ghost of misery is frightening: in 1946 people still ate with ration cards * and the Italian rations were the lowest in Europe, even lower than those of Germany. If a man needs about 2500 kcal per day to live in health, the ration available to him was just 700 kcal, barely doubled with the free market. The production of agricultural products, even those that were the basis of food, decreased while prices increased significantly, so much so that for some commodities there were even increases of thirty-five times. The decline in the production of agricultural products, at first, was not due to a decrease in areas suitable for cultivation, but to the abandonment of fields during the war - due to the lack of fertilizers, pesticides and fuel for agricultural machinery. - with a consequent drop in the productivity index.
*Land ration cards (active in Italy from 1940 to 1949) were personal documents that the head of the family used to receive the ration of food and goods that was due to his family over a certain period of time based on the number of members. The authorized dealer stamped the card and cut off the monthly booking coupon. Collection dates and quantities varied often and were announced in newspapers or on hanging posters.
The post-World War II man was therefore a man who was only apparently free as poverty and the food crisis actually limited his possibilities. Furthermore, the national agrarian structure was vacillating "defenseless" to make room for industries, even then, even then more than today, "eco monsters".
In 1948 Emilio Sereni, at the time Minister of Public Works for the Communist Party, wrote Noon to the opposition, an essay in which he witnesses the unease of the peasants and the protests that animated those years to obtain the redistribution of uncultivated land, a favorable tax system and the reform of agricultural credit. "There is a fourth party in Italy, which may not have many voters, but which is capable of paralyzing and frustrating our every effort, organizing loan sabotage and capital flight, increased loans or scandal campaigns . Experience has convinced me that Italy cannot be governed today without attracting, in one form or another, the representatives of this fourth party, the party of those who have money and economic strength to the new government formation " .
Veronelli, Sereni and Piovene: the transformation of the landscape and new eating habits
We are in the years in which the Italian landscape changes profoundly: if before there was a clear boundary between city and countryside, today it is an urbanized unicum. Guido Piovene, contemporary and politically very far from Sereni (Piovene was a fascist), he noted in his Viaggio in Italia (1957): “while I was traveling through Italy, and after each stage I wrote what I had just seen, the situation changed in part behind me… industries closed, others opened; prefects and mayors were forfeited; new provinces were born […]. In no other country would it be allowed to attack as we do, to deface cities and countryside, according to the interests and whims of one day ”. It is therefore evident that this fourth party had become in a few years a factual reality that contributed to the transition from an agricultural to an industrial landscape, from the countryside-countryside to the countryside-urban.
This transformation not only created new eating habits, but - even more interesting - changed the metrics by which a food was judged. Fitting the example of bread, which most of all endured the political choices of the time. Between 1949 and 1956 the nascent bakery industries were pushed by two laws - the first for inhabited centers over 3.000 inhabitants, the second for all - which forbade obtaining bread from manual dough and cooking it in a wood oven. In an era where Italy was still in poverty and the economic miracle was upon us, but still of unimaginable scope, especially for the so-called "common people", artisan bread was "tanned" by virtue of the industrial one. A few years later, with the advent of well-being, this process was consolidated also thanks to advertising. Famous: "Do you still eat like in the time of the caves? Instead of bread, Saiwa crackers!"Of the Carosello. Consequently, ready-to-eat foods become a symbol of prosperity and progress, and choosing a food advertised in the newspaper or on television therefore becomes an aesthetic choice. It is not surprising, as Frontani (2004) writes, that the consumption of bread steadily decreased until the 80s. The Corriere della Sera journalist Orio Vergani - who will found the Italian Academy of Cuisine in Milan - wrote in 1953: "Italian cuisine dies".
The man who survived the Second World War and the years of misery immediately following sees in the possibility of consuming a form of social redemption. It should not be forgotten that these are the years in which household appliances forcefully enter the homes of Italians and also the possibilities of storing food and cooking them increase considerably.
Although a part of politics - regardless of the alignments, as Emilio Sereni and Guido Piovene demonstrate - realizes that "there is a problem" in the management of the agricultural landscape, "the ethics of consumption" cannot yet belong to the Italian of the 60s overflowing with the desire to build, do, explore, but above all dimenticare the years of hunger.
Veronelli, Sereni and Piovene: the "birth" of taste
If on the one hand they are the years of consumption, and in particular of the consumption of ready-to-eat foods, on the other they are the years in which the subversive - and not only of the kitchen - Luigi Veronelli founded the magazine “Il Gastronomo”. In a 1981 interview bychiara: “When, 1956, I published, a few months later The thought journal of theoretical philosophy, The Gastronomo gastronomy magazine, I didn't have the slightest embarrassment. What is gastronomy, in fact? An act of judgment, aimed at separating, in the field of food, what is good from what is not ". Of course, already in the late Baroque some cooks pioneers of taste and combinations had renewed the table of the rich, but to think that anyone who could choose food based on their taste and what they think is good is an absolute novelty. Veronelli's magazine, created to promote, protect and enhance the "gastronomic deposits" and in particular the wine becomes the means to protect the typicality national teams laying the foundations for the subsequent birth of the De.Co. (Municipal Designations, Law No. 142 of 8 June 1990).
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Luigi Veronelli thus founded food and wine journalism and, even if at an early stage, he spoke to an elite public, when in 1973 he joined Rai everything changed. The father of the current cooking programs is born: At the table at 7, which, thanks to the co-conduction of Ave Ninchi - a corpulent, graceful and brilliant actress loved for films alongside Totò, Alberto Sordi and Peppino de Filippo - reaches an ever wider audience. Veronelli's controversial and timely disclosure is no longer reserved for a cultured and wealthy gastronome, but is the prerogative of anyone who owns a television. In the 70s, television was already the means of mass communication and - between one commercial for an industrial ready-to-eat food and the other - Ave Ninchi is the bridge that Luigi Veronelli needs to raise awareness as many people as possible to anticipate the modern conception. of gastronomy. "Pork is like Aida: there is really nothing to throw away!" Ave Ninchi begins in episode 8 of May 10, 1974 of At the table at 7. Particularly interesting is the debate on the choice between fat pork and lean pork based on uses: a topic that would be current in 2022.
With Veronelli, taste no longer has only an aesthetic value, but also an ethical one. The choice of a specific food must not be seen only to define the status of the person, but tells about the unique flavors of the territories to be protected.
"The death of God" which took place during the Second World War, therefore, is an accomplice of an ennobling of gastronomy and the pleasure of food. After an initial period in which industrialization and consumption are seen as means to demonstrate the way out of misery, the modern gastronome is born.
Good taste is something that goes beyond taste and what is liked in the strict sense: it is a modern Grand Tour among the quality products of the Bel Paese that the "new man" - consumer and free - can not only see, but also choose and protect.