Those two words, in and of themselves, are a literal contradiction. The word cuisine is French for “kitchen.” Think about that for a second. When traced back to its Latin roots you have “coquina.” So why don’t we say Italian coquina and leave cuisine next to its French describer?
I know that I’m being extremely picky on the literal meaning of the phrase, but I’m doing this to make a claim for not just myself, but all the chefs who like to branch out of their restaurant’s comfort zone on occasion.
A comment on a previous post about a foie gras dish I made stated that it was not Italian. And I, working at where I do, should be making Italian food. I understand that, and the comment really got my brain balls spinning insofar as what could be considered Italian food.
The foie dish, for example, was a collaboration between myself and Jared Wentworth for CRUX’s Apicius dinner. We had to reschedule it, so I put the previous day’s prep on the menu. I had no choice really. Jared made two of the largest foie gras torchons I had ever seen in my life. We then paired it with grapes, honey, and tangerine lace. All pretty Italian if you ask me.
So in that particular dish, the torchon is obviously the cuisine in the “Italian cuisine” portion of our story.
Perhaps Italian cooking isn’t necessarily about popular opinion – pasta and red sauce – but more about basic philosophy: zero waste, cook vegetables through, season well, respect simplicity (when needed), and intensify flavors.
And that is what Italian cuisine means to me.