Pasta, cappuccino, olive oil Italian food culture is a prominent feature of Western society in our cafes, restaurants and homes. But what is the history of Italian cuisine? And where do we get our notions about Italian food? Garlic and Oil is the first comprehensive history of food habits in modern Italy. Chronicling the period from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day, the author argues that politics dramatically affected the nature of Italian cuisine and food habits. Contrary to popular belief, the Italian diet was inadequate and unchanging for many decades. Drawing on the writings of scientific professionals, domestic economists, government officials, and consumers, the author shows how the miserable diet of so many Italians became the subject of political debate and eventually, the target of government intervention. As successive regimes liberal, fascist, democratic struggled with the question of how to improve peoples eating habits, their actions purposefully and inadvertently affected what and how much Italians ate, shaping not only the foundations of Italian cuisine, but also the nature of Italian identity. Garlic and Oil is a popular national food history that offers a new perspective on the history of consumerism and food studies by examining how political change affects food consumption habits.
"The topic is alluring, the style accessible...It is very timely to have a book on Italian food that is a work of serious scholarship...[This is] a book that many of us have been waiting for." --Robert Lumley, University College London
"Why have Italians been able to resist the blandishments of fast food for so long? In this fascinating study Carol Helstosky shows that politics play no less a role than culture, environment and the social order in shaping what we eat. Her exploration of the origins and survival of the 'Mediterranean diet' from Mussolini to the present makes Garlic and Oil an original and immensely readable contribution to the rapidly growing literature on food and its many histories." --John A. Davis, University of Connecticut