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Tuesday 18 May 2021

Health at the table Eating: a primordial need

Eating: a primordial need

Author of the content

Massimo Montanari is one of the most excellent scholars of Food History at the University of Bologna. He was the author and promoter of numerous and important essays on the history of food, but above all he has the merit of having published in the company of Francoise Sabban the Atlas of Food and Gastronomy published for the types of the UTET of Turin in 2004, an monumental work in two volumes of large format and great editorial elegance. I met Professor Montanari on the occasion of a lesson held at the University of Padua on the relationship of Christianity with food and explained that St. Paul, having collected Jesus' thought on that subject, could report in a letter which, according to the Master , the food should be free because everything that the Lord has created is good to eat.

Only as regards the meat, Jesus advised to refer to the animals that live farther away from man or birds and fish. This freedom à represented for him a Jew and for everyone an authentic revolution with respect to the forced nutrition imposed by the Jewish religion.

With the title of "The kitchen of the great priests" Montanari has published an article on the Sunday insert of the Corriere della Sera, a doctrinal article, for its part, with the precise intent, according to the modest opinion, to contain a critical wax and condemnation of the impressive acceleration offered by the media to the amount of data news and speeches that are exchanged every day in the world on the topic of "food".

Given that we do not talk about nutrition and nutrients or what is necessarily needed to raise children and make us fit to support the intellectual and physical effort to face every day. Here we talk about food, that is, the food industry, food production and preparation, food procurement, processing and preparation, catering, gastronomic tourism all factors that are crucial to satisfy a primary need of society.


Montanari explains that since there is no business without marketing, everything that revolves around food takes on an increasingly advertising character and spreads the typical mechanism of the consumer society or creating needs to sell.

Food is a primordial need but marketing polarizes the attention on the circumstance in which one drinks or eats to realize the exchange of individual and collective emotions and feelings.

Having said that Montanari offers us an interesting reflection. The majority of consumers do not follow fashions and the restricted circle of "connoisseurs", preferably and unknowingly eat and consume what tradition has suggested and genetically marked, while a minority of consumers are looking for good food and good cook. It is to this minority of consumers that the specialized sections of television broadcasts, the cooking blog, are addressed. Thus emerge the chefs artists capable of entertaining the public with games, competitions, reality shows, lessons imposed at any time of the day on all channels. In short, a show for everyone. The majority remains the freedom to talk about food, an activity that is easy, within everyone's reach. A plate of soup is not enough to make us all feel the same.

Professor Montanari is a cultured and intelligent man because he offers us an opportunity for interesting reflection., But he seems to have neglected the social and educational value of what is offered to us daily by the media in an incessant and overbearing way. Couldn't respect for the primary need for food and the need for advertising support be subject to a discipline that politics should take charge of? Would it be gossip to think that politics benefits from this rampant spectacularity of gastronomy? it is no coincidence that one of the few industrial activities capable of supporting GDP is food and its primary need.

The time would come to shift the discussion on sexual activity, the latter also a primary need just as important as food. In fact, the TV did not wait and broadcast a program to optimize the sexuality of the couple with the proposal of exercises as if they were cooking recipes.

As soon as I finished writing this letter to my friends, the article by Davide Paolini, an affirmed columnist for IlSole24ore, whom I respect a long time (not reciprocated), fell before my eyes. I summarize: in these times of offering recipes and advice to gogò he writes that there is no channel, villager, national or international that does not offer a chef, stirrer or juggler of the pan capable of dictating his verb. I believe that the majority of the listeners after having attended the television lesson of the gourmet kitchen willingly return to the traditional cuisine Paolini thinks more clearly that the viewer even goes on to buy ready-made dishes for a week where frozen food dominates. The suggestion follows that the very serious sin is the lack, at the table of the "Malbuffet" (paraphrasing the well-known Malasanity), of the material culture of food or of the topic "agriculture" also forgotten by politics.

Then he reports what a famous unnamed chef wrote on his facebook "Learning to cook on TV is like learning to make love with pornography". I cannot make a reliable prediction on the evolution of this media phenomenon.

Food and surroundings

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