On the nights that I come home and don't know what to make, or am really hungry and don't want to put too much effort into what I am making but still want it to be marginally nutritional, I make sauteed vegetables over pasta. It doesn't really matter what vegetables you have as long as they are vaguely Italianish and taste nicely together and over noodles. In this particular concoction, I had leeks, mushrooms, red pepper and courgettes (lots of garlic and oregano too), but will often use tomatoes, broccoli, or throw in a bit of meat like bacon or sausage. Sauteed vegetables + egg tagliatelle noodles + sprinkle (or handful) of parmesan cheese = good dinner almost any night of the week.
This is what my dinner looks like on most nights. One dish, maybe two for the meal and a glass of milk. Always a glass of milk. It's a habit that I got into as a child when we did not have a choice about what to drink- milk or nothing. Now, dinner doesn't feel right without a glass of milk. You should see the strange looks I get in restaurants when I occasionally ask for milk with a meal.
I say this dish is vaguely Italian, but I suppose that is only really because it has noodles traditionally used for Italian dishes. This dish has never come from any specifically Italian cookbook or recipe, it just reminds me of the flavours and idea of Italian food. I wonder how many other dishes are like this- passed along under the guise of being one national food dish but maybe originated in that same area. I imagine people moving through countries in the past, whether by force, choice, trade, religion or otherwise and recreating the food of their home area, or people reminiscing about a place they visited and creating dishes to remind them of the tastes and memories. Food is often like language, or at least English, in that bits of it are picked up from lots of places and incorporated into the social food repertoire so that in the passage of time, it is no longer clear what is one nation or ethnic group or area's quintessential food really is. So even though I talk about Greek food being something that I am having to adapt to, I know that all food has come down through time in many forms, and what we now call a Greek dish could have been an Italian or Lebanese or French one originally. Food in all forms under whatever name is a reminder of the vast changes in human history and is the outcome of timeless encounters between cultures. In this sense, food and history are interlinked in more ways than anyone knows and probably can tell the story of human history as well as anything else. Pretty amazing.
Speaking of history, I am off to encounter another culture and its history (lots of medieval churches) of my own this weekend- Paris. I hope to share lots of great pictures of the food and sites next week!