The other day the Italian husband who is not only a great cook but also a real foodie blurted out that Italians weren’t gourmets. I gasped in surprise, but before I could form a word, he had continued we are only passionate about own food and indeed this is true. Even regional restaurants in other cities are difficult to find. In Lucca the Comune has tried to ban non-Lucchese fare from the old city.
Ethnic restaurants tend to be outside the main tourist areas are frequented by few locals. Only the Neapolitan Pizza has become truly universal.
The culture is changing and Italians can’t always have their three hour lunch hour anymore, then there is a much more international population to cater for who need to eat on the hoof or outside normal hours, also for less.
It seems one company has solved this problem by selling ready to eat pasta meals from vending machines.
I am no fast food addict but curiosity got the better of me so I persuaded my Neapolitan that we should try one in the name of cultural research. The machine clearly stated that the pasta was fresh and not frozen and ready for eating in 2 minutes. The machines had wonderful photos of mouth-watering dishes all over them. Terracotta bowls brimming with thick tomato sauce . A volcanic mound of flour filled with eggs and every possible shape of pasta. Well that is a bit of an exaggeration. However the whole scenario of the photos certainly tempted the senses.
We moved suspiciously towards the machines and read the small print. The ingredients as required by Italian law were stated for each dish and there were no horrible e numbers or preservatives listed. It was decision time. I am always fearful of cheap meat so we opted for ravioli stuffed with ricotta and spinach served with a walnut sauce. We posted our 3 Euros 60 into the slot and waited. Precisely two minutes later we heard a plop and Enzo bent down to recover our order. Which landed complete with a second package containing the cutlery and a napkin. I insisted that as the family foodie he should be the one to give the first verdict. He unwrapped the cutlery with a serious expression looking like one of the judges on an Italian TV cooking programme.
The verdict. The pasta wasn’t really hot enough and the sauce rather gummy but really it wasn’t bad. It was not unlike the sort of pre-prepared pasta served in many Italian bars and certainly a lot tastier than what your average vending machine offers.