Domina L’Angolo Cucina Posted by Serena on Oct 25, 2009 in Culture
It seems that the good old Italian kitchen, quel locale per antonomasia (that quintessential room) which was once the traditional focal point of the home, is slowly but surely being ousted by l’angolo cucina (the corner kitchen). In Italy the kitchen once represented il focolare e il cuore della casa (the hearth, and the heart of the house), and for many, particularly those who live in the older houses in rural areas, it still does. In our village, for example, to be invited into someone’s home is synonymous with being invited into their kitchen, where we inevitably end up sitting a fare due chiacchiere (chatting), a bere un caffè (drinking a coffee), o forse un bicchiere di vino (or maybe a glass of wine). In the winter particularly, little groups of neighbors will gather at each others houses and sit around la stufa (the stove) or il forno a legna (the wood fired oven) in the kitchen, passing the time of day.
Here in Lunigiana we also have il gradile (more commonly known as il seccatoio), a small building in which le castagne (the chestnuts) would be dried ready for grinding into farina di castagne (chestnut flour). Il gradile was also once used as a primitive kitchen, with an open fire in the middle of the room over which, supported by un paio di alari (a pair of firedogs), was placed il testo (a heavy iron skillet). This was the preferred method for cooking such traditional recipes as la pattona, la torta d’erbe, and il testarolo. These days the use of il gradile as a kitchen is increasingly rare, but we have been lucky enough to sample these dishes cooked in the traditional manner and I can testify, non c’è paragone! (there’s nothing like it!)
However, whether we like it or not, social trends change, and with the migration of young people to larger towns and cities, where they tend to live in un appartamento (an apartment) as a much smaller family unit, the kitchen seems to have lost its relevance. A recent survey of 30,000 newly constructed habitations shows that the presence of a separate room for the preparation of food is becoming increasingly rare. In northern Italy for example, only 9% of bilocali (two room apartments) have a separate kitchen. The figure goes up to 10% for central Italy, and even in the more traditional south barely reaches 12%. Trilocali (three room apartments) don’t fare much better, with only roughly a quarter possessing una cucina tradizionale (a traditional kitchen). Only when we look at quadrilocale (four room apartments) and larger does the presence of a kitchen reach 70%.
In Italy, when we talk about the number of rooms an apartment has we do not usually include the locali di sevizio (service rooms, such as the kitchen, bathroom, or storage room), therefore an apartment described as a bilocale may in reality consist of more than two rooms. However, for the majority of people these days, the use of an angolo cucina incorporated into il soggiorno (the living room) is more efficient and allows the creation of a smaller, more economical apartment which serves the same function as the traditional home.
Another factor which has no doubt contributed to the decline of the kitchen is the change in our eating habits. Whereas in the past the family would riunirsi (get together) around the kitchen table three times a day it seems that these days us Italians like to eat out much more frequently. A recent survey has shown that 80% of Italians regularly eat meals outside the home, and of these 44% do so at least once a day!
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