It is often said that Italy has the best food in the world. And there are three primary reasons food in Italy is so good, especially compared to food in the U.S.:
Freshness – Italians simply will not eat food that is not fresh. As a way to measure freshness, look at “food miles” which is the distance food travels from where it is grown to where it is ultimately purchased or consumed. The U.S. government says food miles in America are an average of 1,400 miles. (This makes sense when you consider that Heinz ketchup eaten in California is made with California-grown tomatoes shipped to Canada for processing and returned in bottles.) In Italy food travels an average of 27 miles. Italians eat food that’s grown close to where they live.
Ingredients – The hallmark of great Italian cuisine is the use of high quality ingredients, combined sensibly and prepared simply for maximum flavor. Using fresh product, Italians enhance the inherently delicious flavors of food with simple yet sophisticated preparation techniques. At the same time, Italian cuisine is very seasonal. The high priority placed on the use of fresh, seasonal produce distinguishes the cuisine of Italy from the imitations available in most other countries. Americans on the other hand, add many different flavors to most foods and mask its authentic taste.
Philosophy of Food – For Italians food is more than fuel; it is part of life, family, celebratory moments, and it is important in everyday life as something to be appreciated with a sense of artistry and delight. For the U.S., food is regarded as fuel, simply a physical necessity. Here’s a great example:
The public school system in Rome lists quality of food for students as a central focus. To do this, school administrators require that the origin of the food be guaranteed: pasta, rice, bread, fruit and vegetables must come from organic farming, while meat and sausages are supplied by firms that have a certification of quality for their goods. Foods must be cooked in the school kitchens on the same day they are received. Menus are diversified according to the season of the year. In the classrooms, nutritional principles are explained to the students as part of cultural heritage.
In the U.S. the food system for schools emphasizes price over all other values. Also, the bidding process for school food has led to a cheap food policy, which takes kitchens out of schools and leads to a highly industrialized foodservice where efficiency and profits are the highest priority. Quality and freshness are not considered.