Thursday, October 08, 2009

Home Food

In my last post I reported on a "home cooking" trend in the US.  As you might expect, Italy takes the concept of home cooking to a different level. 

The organization Home Food was started to preserve and showcase the special and unique regional dishes and food products of each area.  "Typical", "traditional" and "regional" are the buzzwords they live and cook by.  They even wax poetic: "Food is Man and typical foods are his roots." 

Whether you find food to be poetry or not, the simple aim of the organization is to maintain and share the foods that have been passed down to them through the generations, to keep them alive and appreciated by their own generation and the one below them.  They do this by hosting dinners and cooking the local, seasonal cuisine that their grandmothers and mothers taught them...and they invite you and me into their homes to enjoy it.

That's right - you can be a guest at one of their tables!  They encourage you to "Taste typical Italian food in an Italian home."  While the majority of the guests are traveling Italians eager to taste the specialties of another region, more and more foreign travelers are discovering the opportunity to live - or at least eat - like a Roman (or a Pugliese, or a Tuscan).  It provides a unique chance to dine with an Italian family and learn first-hand about their culinary culture.  And since nothing brings about bonding quite so fast as food, you're bound to leave with new friends in hand.

To participate you must become a member of Home Food.  An annual membership costs €35, but travelers who want to join in on the fun can sign up for a one-month temporary membership for just €3.50.  Registration can be made online. 

Once you're a member you can peruse the calendar and events to find a dinner in a location that suits you.  Never mind the often comical English translations; there is nothing silly about the menus.  You can enjoy fresh-made pici and drunken pork on a farm in Chianti; orecchiete with rapini and richly-stuffed foccacia in the heart of Puglia; or a well-rounded menu of Artusi classics in the historical center of Bologna.  There are dinners slated in several regions every month.  Each carefully planned and home-cooked menu costs between €35-40 per person. 

Home Food also organizes occasional cooking classes and interesting special events, such as the Food in Film festival, or a weekend of culinary bliss in Bologna, a package that includes hotel for two nights, two meals at different homes, a cooking class, and a foodie tour of town.

Partaking in age-old traditions, tasting fresh regional fare that has been lovingly prepared...this is what I call home-cooking!


janie said...

I read about this a few years ago and have really wanted to go to one! Have you and Bryan participated?

Valerie said...

Hi Janie - Yes, when we first arrived in Italy we attended a dinner with our Roman friends. It was a wonderful experience. You and J. would definitely enjoy it! I've been trying to convince Giorgio ever since that he should sign up since he is a chef, but he doesn't like that they call the cooks "cesarina" (feminine)!

J.Doe said...

Sounds good. Is anything like it available in the US?

Anonymous said...

I love this concept. You get Italian food--plus Italians!

Valerie said...

J. - I've not heard of a similar organization in the US, though perhaps some regional Slow Food chapters host events along these lines.

Dianne - Exactly! It's a win-win!

Jessica, WhyGo Italy said...

My husband & I did a Home Food dinner in Milan a couple years ago, and since it was just the two of us plus the host couple it felt like we were going to dinner at a friends' house. Which is kind of what it was like after 3 hours of chatting with them, half in English and half in Italian, about everything from the food to music to politics. And I'd mentioned in my original email to Home Food that it was for my husband's birthday, so the hostess brought out dessert complete with a candle and we all sang "Happy Birthday" in Italian. Still one of my favorite memories from Italy.

What's funny, though, is that every Italian I've mentioned Home Food to thinks it's silly. "Come to my house," they say, "and I'll cook you real Italian food for free!" For those who don't have Italian friends making such offers, however, I think Home Food is an unforgettable and unmissable opportunity to experience a slice of real life in Italy.

Here's the post I wrote about our Milan Home Food experience:

Valerie said...

Jessica - What a great experience! I love those leisurely meals with great food and good conversation. Thanks for the link to your Home Food experience.