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Il Mangiar bene

Lingo School - Il mangiare

Lingo School – Il mangiare

Today’s blog is about FOOD!

Shall we start by saying that when one looks for the word FOOD in a dictionary, the first translation, which comes out is: CIBO or ALIMENTI or NUTRIMENTO and of course, they are the last words an Italian would use to refer to food.

When I personally use CIBO, my Italian visitors say that I have been living out of the country for too long.

How does one translate FOOD in Italian then?

For us FOOD is not a noun anymore. Because it is considered as a proper action, a relevant one, we prefer using the verb “MANGIARE” – to eat – as a noun.

We say:
Il mangiare bene – the eating well
Il mangiare è buono – food is good
Ho bisogno di mangiare – I need food

We also tend to be very specific with our food. We don’t necessarily like the word PASTO – MEAL.

You will mainly find the word PASTO inside the word ANTIPASTO because a starter is what comes before a meal and not only before pasta. In case you have a small doubt and feel like saying ANTIPASTA, be aware that you will get a dirty look.

You will also find the word PASTO on a tourist package to tell you how often you will be fed and it will probably refer to something which won’t taste as we expect.

So, instead of using MEAL – PASTO – we prefer being specific and mention what we actually eat. If we don’t like our meal, we say what we don’t like and even the reason why because we are not a shy nation when it comes to food!

We say:
Non mi piace la pizza qui – I don’t like pizza here
La pasta è stracotta – Pasta is overcooked
Non si mangia bene qui – One does not eat well here

And if we really DON’T like the food, we may just say: Fa schifo – It sucks – with a hint of disgust, insinuating “MA DAI” – come on – why can’t you make decent food?

The surprise comes when we DO like our food and we want to describe it. What do we say?

One evening, I was having dinner at a restaurant here in Cape Town with my Italian visitor and a bunch of students and friends. The question on what adjective to use in Italian to describe food, popped out. After a few attempts from their side, to translate adjectives like:
Delicious! Exquisite! Amazing! Wonderful!, my Italian friend and I, gave each other a humorous glance and without even thinking too much about it, we replied: We just say “BUONO” –good.

Can you believe it? Why?

You love Italian food so much that you need to use the best adjectives to describe it and you make a point to learn colourful words like: gustoso, saporito – tasty -, meraviglioso – wonderful -, delizioso – delicious -, squisito – exquisite -, you even get to say BELLISSIMO – GOOD LOOKING /BEAUTIFUL- and when we correct you, you still want to use it. You are so enthusiastic about it and respectful to what we do, that a simple BUONO does not do justice to you.

We, Italians, on the contrary, expect the food to be simply GOOD. We are surprised when it is not. We would rather use colourful expressions, when we eat more than what we should.

We say:
Sono una buona forchetta – I am a good fork
Sei un secchiaio! -You are a sink
Come spazzoli bene – You brush the food very well

We have no guilt for eating too much. We prefer describing ourselves as GOLOSI (plural of GOLOSO). You guys don’t even have a proper translation of this word. You say – greedy – which makes you feel even more guilty or you borrow the French word – gourmand – to sound less offensive.

Also, we don’t like being fat. We prefer justifying our extra kilos by saying IN CARNE – literally IN FLESH. When the pasta is finished but the sauce is still in the plate, we invented a verb for the action of cleaning the plate: FARE LA SCARPETTA literally – to do the little shoe – when we passionately grab the bread and pick every little centimeter of sauce to make sure it goes into the stomach rather than in the bin. Before we start eating, we don’t say ENJOY YOUR MEAL but we prefer saying BUON APPETITO, wishing each other to have good appetite to be able to face all!

I will leave you today with a quote by the Italian actor Ugo Tognazzi:

L’uomo mangia anche con gli occhi, specie se la cameriera è carina
A man can also eat with his own eyes, especially if the waitress is pretty

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