Italian food culture at Cornell

1 Apr, 2019

Last week (March 25-26), I and Martina Cirelli, an MSc student in food science from the University of Parma, have been invited to give a seminar in a course hold by Professor Flaminia Cervesi, Cornell University.

Flaminia is a Senior Lecturer in Italian and since her arrival in Ithaca, she has been teaching the Italian language at various levels and introductory courses on Italian literature. She still enjoys sharing her culture and language with the students and thus from her initiative, an Italian Food Culture course was born. The aim is to help students familiarize themselves with one of the most important, and world-renowned aspects of Italian culture, or rather "La Cucina Italiana". Every class alternates grammar and conversation lessons, while adding a few practical cooking activities that are focusing on recipes and traditions that characterize different geographical regions of Italy.

This opportunity was great to bring my contribution to explaining the success of the 100% traditional food made in Italy!


All the students of the class were already very well prepared about tradition in the food sector and even the difference between PDO and PGI (the so-called geographical indication in Europe). Many questions were asked over the 90 minutes seminar and many doubts were clarified (i.e., why is the price difference between a regular cured cheese and a Parmigiano Reggiano? And what about the nutritional quality? Are all traditional food products healthy?).

In the end, we have not only given definitions and describe case studies about typical products, but also provided a real delicatessen tasting experience. We had the opportunity to taste both the two most famous Italian cheese in the US: the Parmigiano Reggiano DOP e Grana Padano DOP. Most of these young American students were unaware of how a cheese wheel was made and for how long it was matured (at least 12 months) and they were also very impressed by the amount of milk used in the production (16 liters to obtain 1 kilo of the final product).


The guided tour among the flavors of tradition, was followed by a spoon of real Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena (vinegar), aged over 20 years, from my family vinegar farm. Finally, the students were given a piece of traditional sweet product, typical in the Eastern period: the Colomba Pasquale. For every product, Martina Cirelli explained the production stage and the sensory properties, as well as the proper way to taste and enjoy these foods.


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