Saturday, June 5, 2010
Fear the Carb Nazi!
We all know them. They can rain on a dinner party when the sun is shining. They can make you feel small and weak and downright lesser than, these folks with ironclad willpower and the willingness to show it. I call them the Carb Nazi’s. Carb Nazi’s will look down their noses with suspicion at those who indulge in the glorious world of the carbohydrate.
For those of us of Italian American descent, carbohydrates are like water and air. We simply can’t live without them. There is a common expression in Italian, “Buono Come il Pane”, which translates as ”As Good as Bread.” This expression is used to describe someone or something of true goodness, simple and down to earth. We get together to “Break Bread.” The act of tearing off a junk of hard crusty bread from a shared loaf is a sign of friendship.
The world of Italian breads is vast and wide. We’re not talking Wonder Bread here folks. Wonder Bread is one of those products that I put in the same category as Spaghetti O’s. No self respecting Italian would eat them unless starving on a desert island somewhere with nothing else. These breads are truly a thing of beauty. A walk through an isle of your favorite bakery or Italian grocery store is a feast for the eyes and the nose, with stacks of paper wrapped loaves in varying shapes. Ciabatta, focaccia, braided breads, and flatbreads will grace the senses.
Then there is the pasta. There are more types and shapes of pasta than I could possibly expand upon in this short post. Sauces dance across these varied shapes al dente, using fresh simple ingredients to create culinary bliss.
The problem that we often have with pasta in this country is the same problem that we have with everything else, over doing it. The oversized, over sauced, over cooked and over cheesed dishes arrive to the table in many restaurants in buckets, not plates. In Italy, pasta is not typically served as the main course but as a first course, un primo, following gli antipasti, the appetizers. It is most often served as a smaller portion, with light flavorful sauces, as a primer for what is to come. You see it is not an all or nothing proposition.
Carb Nazi’s take the all or nothing approach to the extreme. Carb Nazi’s really do want to eat carbs. The more they deny themselves, the more they want them. The act of making anything off limits only serves to increase the desire. Their eyes glaze over and their backs stiffen as the bread basket is passed. They look straight ahead and avoid eye contact with the bruschetta while nibbling lettuce. It’s painful to watch, poor dears.
Call my crazy, but I’d rather spend my time in a quest for a fuller life, than a smaller waistline. I’d much rather spend my time around the table with friends and family happily breaking bread.