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Gastronomic Rites and Rythms of the Amalfi Coast

The basic gastronomic sequence of our culture!

John GrishamRecently, John Grisham, the best-selling author of legal thrillers, recounted in an interview, that he was literally left disturbed by the typically Italian habit to devote and remain up to two consecutive hours at the table. He then admitted to have understood why Italians dedicate all this time to eating and he confessed to having been seduced to the slow rythms of our conviviality. We are, after all, heirs to the Roman civilization. For us, eating is above all a chance to meet, discuss, communicate and share pleasant and relaxing moments together. Most Italians wouldn't dream of doing business over lunch or dinner. Al least, that is, not here, not in this part of Italy that still believes that to share a table, a dish, or a good bottle of wine, is an intimate, sensual, tender and friendly undertaking. Our eating habits are quite different from those usually associated with Anglo Saxon or Northern European cultures. Let's enumerate the basic gastronomic sequence of our culture. Buon appetito!


Amalfi CoffeeMorning Coffee At home, or more likely, at a bar, our day begins with an espresso. Coffee is our crutch and our delight and we are, as the whole world knows, very lacking as far as breakfast is concerned; a coffee, milk and an immediate hit of sugar, usually under the form of a cornetto filled with cream, chocolate or jam, a slice of cake, cookies or any sort of sweet usually fills the bill. The more healthy among us may add a glass of orange juice and hold off on the doughnut, fried cake or cream bomb until 2:00 in the afternoon. We can't do without meeting at the bar more than once in the morning to renew our dose of caffeine. Offering a coffee, seeing each other for a coffee, meeting for a coffee, is our ritual gesture of exchange and welcome. Don't give in to this habit and try not to be the good tourist and get too used to this custom. You my find yourself with a new dramatic drug habit at the end of your holiday.

Amalfi AperitifThe Aperitif... at the Bar, around lunch time, that for us means between 1.00 and 3:00, we find ourselves at the bar again, often outside on a terrace of in a piazza to enjoy an aperitif with friends. This is an essentially strategic moment of the day, and it is from here, from the aperitif at the bar, that we begin to plan the evening, to court someone that we like and to discuss problems before sitting at the table for lunch. We would never spoil the rite of lunch with the leftovers of the latest disagreement with the boss! Besides, Martini, Bellini, Campari, and lemon and orange juice based drinks are Italian arts. From tha Amalfi Coast there is also to add the quality of the citrus fruits, the beauty of the terraces and the warmth of the sun even in Winter.

Amalfi PastaLunch As a basic we usually eat a first course of pasta, rice or vegetables to which we add a second course of fish or meat, a side dish of raw or cooked vegetables, and at least a piece of fresh fruit or more likely some fruit salad. On Sunday and holidays, the second course becomes at least two types of meat of fish, the side dishes are tripled and we add an inevitable tray of pastries to the fruit. On Sundays, the residents crowd the bakeries that -especially on Sundays- offer counters overflowing with devilish temptations. We accompany the meal with a few glasses of wine; sometimes white, sometimes red, and usually from the area. On Sundays or holidays - and especially in the evening at dinner - we treat ourselves to bottles of excellent local wine that we like to share with friends and
family.

Amalfi PizzaDinner We usually have dinner later than other places. The afternoon, after our siesta, is the moment of our maximum productivity. About 9:00 we have our dinner. This is the best time, for us, to go out to a restaurant or invite friends home to dinner. Lighter than lunch, our dinner is generally based on a single dish such as grilled fish, fish soup, breads or pizza filled with just about everything delicious and trays of tasty little mouthfuls that are a local specialty and made from vegetables, eggs or dairy products... and usually accompanied by a bit more wine than at lunch.