Browsing Category

Food trends

Food trends

WHAT IS BOTTARGA?

15/06/2019

 

There are only few ingredients able to give dishes flavour and personality so intensely. Let us introduce you to bottarga, the Mediterranean caviar.

Origins

Its origins are incredibly ancient: in fact, it was the Phoenicians who – almost 3 thousand years ago – first brought this precious and rare specialty to the Mediterranean Sea. The translation of batārikh, the Arab name for bottarga, is literally ‘dried fish eggs’. Indeed, bottarga is made by drying, then salting, mullet or tuna roe.

Tuna and mullet: differences

From a tuna, you may obtain a 1 kg-plus (2.2 lbs.-plus) egg sac, whilst as for mullet, the sac may weigh between 200 and 500 grams (0.4-1.1 lbs.).

The two specialties are processed in different ways. The mullet egg sac is stored in a dry and ventilated area, where it is sprinkled with medium/fine grain sea salt; the product is laid on a horizontal plane and turned periodically, repeating the salting process for a number of days. The duration of such phase varies depending on the sac weight, and is necessary to eliminate the liquid component within the sac. For tuna bottarga, instead, the first phase after washing is pressing by means of weights, in order to eliminate the liquid content of the sac; this process lasts 2 to 4 days, and is followed by salting, then a second 8-10 day pressing phase, once again with a constant replacement of the salt. The final processing phase is drying. The bottarga is hung and left to dry and age: 30-40 days for tuna bottarga, and 45-90 days for mullet bottarga, although the time may vary depending on the humidity and temperature conditions of the processing laboratory.

Where is bottarga made?

Although similar preparations exist in Spain, Greece, France, and the Middle East, the most important areas for bottarga production are the two main Italian islands: Sardinia and Sicily.

Food trends

VERMOUTH, AN ITALIAN STORY

29/05/2019

 

Loved all around the world, and an irreplaceable element in numerous well-know cocktails – Manhattan and Negroni above all – vermouth, with its 100% Italian origins, is living a second youth. Paired or unpaired, straight or mixed, and even used in cooking, the liquor – with the mysterious attraction of its history – is touching the hearts of young drinkers.

What is vermouth

Vermouth is an aromatised wine with an alcohol content between 16 and 22%. It must contain at least 75% aromatised and sweetened white wine. The mix of herbs used to flavour it must include wormwood, which is its distinguishing element. Other main herbs it contains are mint, marjoram, chamomile, thyme, coriander, blessed thistle, sage, hyssop, lemon balm, anise, and dittany.

History

In Grande libro del Vermouth e dei liquori italiani (big book of vermouth and Italian liquors) by Giustino Ballato, the origin of vermouth is attributed to distiller Antonio Benedetto Carpano, who drafted the first-ever recipe in 1786 in his small cellar facing Palazzo Reale (the royal palace) in Turin. Carpano chose this name because wermuth is the German term for Artemisia absinthium (wormwood). The correct term in Italian – according to Ballato – is vérmut, but the elegant French word vermouth was preferred, even though – he adds – flipping through historical texts and ancient labels one can bump into the Piedmontese term vèrmot or the Tuscan term vermutte, or even vermuth, warmouth, and wermut.

Vermouth today

Vermouth has undergone a successful relaunch operation. The trend is not restricted to Italy, but it involves the global market too, with a 3% annual growth expected until 2021. In 2018 the Istituto del Vermouth (vermouth institute) was born in Turin, with the aim to safeguard the drink’s history and PGI recognition. But the Italian liqueur is not only Made in Piedmont: there are excellent producers in the Emilia-Romagna, Apulia, and Sicily regions as well.

Food trends

PROSCIUTTO COTTO, WHAT ITALIANS LOVE MOST

10/05/2019

Obtained by cooking pork leg, prosciutto cotto (“cooked ham”) is the cold cut Italians love most: according to data collected by Assica (Italian association of meat and cold cut processors), in 2017 a total of 270 metric tonnes have been consumed, namely 4.5 kg (9.9 lbs.) per capita. There are 3 factors determining this: children have a sweet tooth for it, it has an accessible cost and – compared to other cold cuts – it is perceived as healthy.

Production
After the slaughtering phase, the pork legs are deboned and defatted. Successively, brine made of water, salt, and flavourings is injected into the meat. The leg is then ‘massaged’ to make the penetration of the brine as homogenous as possible. At this point the ham undergoes the cooking phase – the process that affects the flavour and shelf life of the final product.

Categories
There are different categories of prosciutto cotto. Its quality indicator is the percentage of humidity, which depends on the quantity of water added to the brine along with the massaging method and cooking system. In ‘simple’ prosciutto cotto, the rate of humidity will be less than or equal to 82%; in scelto (‘choice’) prosciutto cotto, the maximum humidity is 79.5%; and in the alta qualità (‘high quality’) version, the humidity can be no greater than 76.5%.

Homemade prosciutto cotto
Considered the little brother of the better-known prosciutto crudo (“raw ham”), the prosciutto cotto – when of a high quality and processed by hand using selected and accurately cured pork legs – reaches incredibly high quality levels and holds its own against Parma or San Daniele ham.

Food trends

MEAT: DRY AGING TAKES THE STAGE

26/02/2019

 

The meat of a newly butchered animal is usually hard and not very tasty. Aging is that variable period during which meat is left to rest at the suitable temperature and humidity conditions to gain softness and develop flavours and aroma. A chicken or a very young animal only requires a few days, but for larger animals it all depends on race, age, and meat storage temperature. A regular steak preserved in a cold store – that maintains the right temperature and humidity – takes 10 to 20 days to reach the supermarket shelves.

The new trend in meat aging has a name: dry-aging. It is an innovative technique that has spread in no time from the United States to the rest of the world. It is complex and costly, but quite appreciated by gourmands. It is essentially a form of bone-in aging and subsequent seasoning in cold store at a controlled temperature. The process triggers natural meat drying cycles, allowing it to lose about 20% water, with a related increase in salt concentration. Such method causes physical-chemical changes in the meat, first of all the oxidation of fatty acids and enzymatic lysis that releases aromatic amino acids. The meat thus acquires excellent sensory properties, is more flavoured, soft, and with a beautiful marbled look. Its cut colour is dark red, and it has a compact texture. Once cooked, it exudes incredible perfumes: experts suggest to prepare it on a grill, lightly seared.

The so-called wet-aging technique is also used worldwide, with small pieces of meat left to age in their own juices, vacuumpacked. The third method, experimented for the first time ever in Italy by Eataly’s Consorzio La Granda, is high-humidity aging, in cold stores kept at a constant temperature of 0-1°C (32-33.8°F).

Food trends

2019 FOOD TRENDS

07/02/2019

 

From an intersection of opinions from analysts, trade magazines, research institutes and catering service companies such as Doxa, Waitrose, Gambero Rosso, Whole Foods, Deliveroo, TheFork, Kroger and Kind, here are the eating trends expected for 2019:

1- Delivery only restaurants
Not just pizza and sushi but a whole new way of eating at home and, above all, a whole new form of catering: an increasing number of laboratories are dedicated to preparing dishes aimed solely for home delivery, as well as specialized chefs and refined conservation techniques. Because those customers who can afford it – a group that is growing clearly – demand restaurant-quality food in the comfort of their own homes.

2- African cuisine
After the boom of Peru’s Nikkei specialties, the spicy tastes of the Middle East and Korea’s fermentations, our world tour leads us to western Africa, to the decisive flavours and exotic fascination of Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria and Mali.

3- Healthy eating app
A balanced, personalised diet at the touch of an App allowing you to follow a healthy, varied eating regime despite today’s frenetic lifestyle. The way is paved for start-ups proposing practical, intelligent solutions.

4- Fake meat
The fashion for healthy living is on an exponential up: the dish of the year is “fake meat”, becoming extremely popular in the United States. It looks, feels and tastes just like real meat, though it contains no animal derivatives at all; in fact, it is completely vegetable-based.

5- Dragonfruit
The so-called functional ingredients – highly beneficial for our organisms – have been introduced to the menus in many restaurants. 2019 will be the year of the dragonfruit (otherwise known as the pitaya): a tropical fruit with low-calorie flesh but rich in vitamins and hempseed.

Food trends

TURMERIC: 5 SUPERFOOD BENEFITS

09/01/2019

 

Turmeric is the superfood of the moment: just think that in the past 5 years, Google searches concerning the Indian root have grown by 75%. It is mainly its therapeutic properties that make it so popular: turmeric is in fact antioxidant and anti-inflammatory; it strengthens the immune system, facilitates digestion and – according to research by the University of California published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry in 2018 – it also may prevent memory loss.

We do not always know how to use it as a cooking ingredient though. Is it better to use fresh turmeric or dried turmeric powder? In tea or chopped and eaten? “It is important to know the related chemistry and the cooking techniques to benefit of its truly useful nutritional strengths”, explains Fern Green, a food-stylist and chef, author of Curcuma. La Bibbia (Turmeric: the bible), a book including 65 creative recipes involving the Indian root. Green states that turmeric is perfect when paired with foods rich in quercetin (peppers, onions, and capers), a substance that boosts its beneficial effects. She also recommends: add a half-teaspoon of the root in its powder version when sautéing. Or try it with golden milks – the drinks used in Ayurveda treatments, based on oils and butters (cocoa, cashews, oat or almond milk) – flavouring them using turmeric powder. Use it fresh in hot water, instead, when preparing detox tea. Keep an eye on time though: do not soak it for over 15 minutes, as the heat may subsequently spoil the root. Want a last word of advice? In savoury recipes, always add a pinch of black pepper: it will facilitate the body’s absorption of the turmeric.

Food trends

SOCIAL KITCHEN, A SHARED PLEASURE

27/12/2018

 

According to Francesco Morace, social scientist at Future Concept Lab, the kitchen is where the unexpected encounter between digital exposure and conviviality, customization and participation occurs. In fact, the burners are where an extension of the concept of recognition – that the new generations consider the fulcrum of their personal and social identity – comes into existence.

According to the sociologist, in the future the idea of domestic space will transform: kitchens will dominate and extend to the living room, finding new expression on specific “island” tables made for in-house cooking demos. The kitchen-living room will thus become the true center of the home.

This type of kitchen will be one of the new frontiers in the concept of family and home experimentation, which must be closely followed in the coming years. A multi-tech, user-friendly experience lived in the place where meals are prepared and enjoyed, just as if on a stage or a film set.

Morace states that all this will add to a renewed and enjoyable interaction with the domestic dimension – also in terms of retail – which may become the ideal location to freely express kinship and use cooking with an expansive philosophy, free of space or time boundaries. This special sensitivity will create a unique bond, distinguished by curiosity and communication: feelings of closeness and precise rituals, which will be shared online without interruption. “We need to believe in the future”, concludes Francesco Morace, “An increased awareness of the high-tech will continue to emerge, also in the high-touch form – the more haptic and human dimension. A binomial made of innovation and tradition that will find its limelight and its language in the food context”.

Food trends

ITALY’S FOOD TRUCK BOOM

27/08/2018

 

Italy is on the way to becoming the Food Truck capital. According to data analysed by Unioncamere on new registered businesses, every two days throughout the nation a new travelling catering firm is set up. On 31st March 2018 there were 2,729 such businesses: on the road you can encounter a prosperous universe linked to the preparation of street food with a particular presence of under-35s and foreign entrepreneurs. Six hundred businesses have been set up by young entrepreneurs born after 1983, representing 22% of the total. And 327 businesses are run by foreigners.

But what today are Food Trucks in Italy?

They are forms of transport (mainly Ape vehicles, but also caravans and vintage vans) equipped with full kitchens, refined and furnished with care, customised in shape and colour with one eye focussing on gourmet food and the other on design and communication – especially via social media.

What’s on offer?

Just a few years ago, the list of dishes on offer on the street in Italy was made up of the typical traditional foods of each local area; today Food Trucks have vastly expanded the variety of the dishes on offer. As well as revisitations of tradition street foods, they also propose street versions of traditional restaurant cuisine (from pret-a-porter Milanese risotto to cupcake-shaped lasagne and fried tortellini on a stick) and original and surprising gourmet innovations.

In which Italian region can we find the most Food Trucks?

By region, Lombardy ranks first with 389 businesses, followed by Puglia with 295 and Lazio with 271.

Food trends

PANETTONE CONQUERS THE STATES

02/08/2018

 

In the New York Times, Teja Rao wrote that panettone – Italy’s traditional Christmas cake – has become “An obsession for American pastry chefs”. The food writer interviewed some of the US’s best pastry chefs and bakers, and came to the conclusion that “bakers say they have become obsessed by this high-maintenance dough: no other breadstuff is harder to make, but no other breadstuff gives you such satisfaction when you are finally successful”.
Demonstrating the typically American genuine fascination for things that are made well and taking time, the article focusses on the difficulty and care and attention required in every phase of the making of this cake, from the choice of ingredients to the control of the temperature of the dough. The NYT interviewed the following pastry chefs: Rick Easton, whose baker’s is located in Pennsylvania but who, during the summer of 2017, organised an event dedicated to the panettone in New York; the local New Yorker, Jim Lahey; the Californian Avery Ruzicka and Roy Shvartzapel from San Francisco, who learnt from the star of Italian pastry chefs, Iginio Massari. “Baking is always a mystic and wonderful thing”, Ruzicka says, “but when baking panettone it is even more so”.

What is panettone?

With its characteristic dome shape, panettone is Milan’s typical Christmas cake made from a dough of water, flour, butter and egg to which is added candied fruit, equal measures of orange and citron zest and raisins.
The origins of the panettone are linked to some Milanese-based legends from the late 15th century. The most famous tells of the chefs of the court of Duke Ludovico Sforza who, in order to properly celebrate Christmas, prepared a bread in the shape of a cupola containing grapes. Toni at the ovens, distracted, left the cake to burn leaving a thick burnt crust. The cake was so enjoyed by the Sforza court that they called it the “pan del Toni” (Toni’s bread) in recognition of its uniqueness.

Market

598.3 million euro. This is the exports value of ‘high quality Italian cakes and pastries’ according to a report by Confartigianato. And if the panettone is the true leader of the pack, other cakes, holiday pastries, bread with raisins, croissants, biscuits and pastry goods fair pretty well too. A real sales boom, which led to an increase of 5.8% during the September 2016-August 2017 period compared to the previous year. And of this amount, almost 600 million – 31.6% – is represented by exports to the United States which increased in the same period by 31.4%.

Diet and nutrition

FAKE NEWS IN A DISH

23/05/2018

 

They are known as Fake News: pieces of news, sometimes even published in or referenced from respectable news sources, which quickly go viral after having been shared on social media. They are considered one of the worst pandemics of modern day, due to the power they have to create new visions and change the public opinion and behaviour. Fake News mainly concerns the political and economics fields, but it also exists in the world of food.

Marcello Ticca, a doctor, adjunct professor, and Nutritional Science specialist, has recorded the most incredible Fake News pertaining to the food and beverage world in his book Miraggi alimentari – 99 idee sbagliate su cosa e come mangiamo (food mirages – 99 wrong ideas about what and how we eat, Laterza ed.). The text certainly debunks a few legends concerning what we eat, including the ones outlined as follows:

1- Never eat pasta in the evening.
As long as the sauce is not too heavy-duty, the body digests pasta far better than meat at night.

2- Fish is good for your memory.
Fish is no higher in phosphorous than other foods: it contains between 130 and 260 mg per 100 g, while meat contains 150/230 per 100 g, and legumes and dried fruit contain much more. Most of all, there is simply no proven correlation between the ingestion of the mineral and an increase in mnemonic ability!

3- Butter is fattier than oil.
Quite the opposite. Butter contains 17% water and thus 100 g of butter have a calorie content of 760. Instead, oil – of any type – contains 900 kcal. Of course, oil has other nutritional advantages over its white cousin…

4- Extracts and cold-pressed juices are like fruit.
Nothing but an illusion. In fact, juice extractors or cold press juicers make fruit lose most of its fibres, which are both useful in facilitating digestion in the intestine and in giving you a sense of fullness, which helps to eat less.

5- Eggs are hard to digest.
Eggs are unjustly among most demonized foods. They are digested much quicker than numerous other foods, and are not harmful for the liver. If they are eaten in the recommended weekly amount (4 times at most) they also help those with liver disorders.

6- Do not drink water over meals.
Many believe water dilutes gastric acids in the stomach lining, thus slowing down digestion. Au contraire, it favours digestion by improving the compactness of ingested foods. It also increases the feeling of fullness (thus making us eat less).

7- Do not eat between meals.
By now it is a proven fact that increasing the frequency of meals – eating food in the same quantity and with the same quality – positively affects a series of variables that contribute to staying healthy and avoiding the accumulation of adipose tissue.

8- Frozen foods are less nutritious.
Freezing is the best preservation method possible, of course when it is initiated swiftly and when the cold chain is never interrupted. In fact, defrosted foods remain untarnished, and certain vitamins and minerals even have a higher bioavailability than usual!

Diet and nutrition

THE BENEFICIAL PROPERTIES OF TOMATO

30/04/2018

 

The tomato is one of the symbols of the Mediterranean diet, even though it comes from a very long way away. Considered to be the most Italian of all vegetables, it actually arrived here from the Americas in the middle of the 16th century. Thanks to its countless qualities, it is now considered to be the emblem of a healthy diet. “The high water-content helps keep the body hydrated and reduces the overall calorie intake” explains nutritionist Elena Dogliotti, who adds, “It also contains very little sugar and a good dose of vitamin C, which has a strong antioxidant effect, and lots of potassium, which helps keep the blood pressure within the limits and is important for muscle function and cellular exchange. Thanks to fibre, it is an excellent pre-biotic, properly nourishing the “good” bacteria present in the gut and promoting a correct intestinal balance”. This balance, as we know, is essential to keep us healthy and to avoid the development of allergies, autoimmune diseases and obesity. The tomato also has lots of bioactive molecules, like antioxidant polyphenols, which have valuable anti-ageing properties, and is well-known for the presence of lycopene, a carotenoid which gives it its red colour as well as promoting the function of the immune system and helping to prevent cancer. “Vitamin C is absorbed better when tomatoes are eaten raw, while lycopene absorption is better when they are cooked: higher temperatures break the cell walls, increasing its availability” says Elena Dogliotti. “The best thing is to serve cooked tomato with a drizzle of raw olive oil, to maintain all the properties of the condiment intact too”. Tomato sauce, a typical Italian condiment for pasta and pizza, is a healthy food which is also ideal for children and teenagers.

The origins
The tomato originated in Mexico and Peru, where it was greatly appreciated and was known by the Incas and Aztecs as xitomatl (hence the English name, tomato), meaning “plant with juicy flesh and lots of seeds”. It was eaten every day, also as a sauce. The tomato arrived in Europe in 1540, when the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés took some back home to Spain. The fruit of the first plants arrived in Europe and wascultivated mainly in France, in a cold climate, remaining small and yellowish, often twisted and not particularly appealing.
The tomato made its appearance in Italy in 1596 as an ornamental plant in Northern Italian homes. Twenty years later it moved south, where the favourable climate produced bigger orangey-red fruit. Southern Italian farmers began eating it raw and cooked almost a century before other Europeans and today the tomato is one of the most widely used foods in Italian cuisine.

Diet and nutrition

INTEGRATION? YOU’LL FIND IT IN THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET AT MEALTIME

01/03/2018

 

Bologna’s F.I.CO. (Fabbrica Italiana Contadina) Eataly World, the biggest food park in the world, opened its doors in 2018, the year of Italian food, with an intense programme of talks, discussions, lessons and seminars entitled ‘Fico Mediterranean Lectures’.
Marino Niola, an anthropologist, journalist and populariser, inaugurated the series of international keynote lectures with a conference on ‘Being and Well-being: the Mediterranean Recipe’.
According to Niola, who is the scientific director of MedEatResearch, a social research centre studying the Mediterranean diet at Naples’s Suor Orsona Benincasa university, ‘the Mediterranean diet lengthens our lives, brings us well-being and increases our feelings of contentment, because it isn’t merely a nutritional model based on seasonal produce, traditional cuisine and biodiversity; it is a way of living well that re-establishes the balance between the environment and development.’
It was in order to define this ideal – an ideal way of life as well as an ideal form of nourishment – that the American scientists Ancel Keys and Margaret Haney invented the term ‘Mediterranean diet’ in 1975. Italy has the honour of being the place where it was discovered: the two researchers were in the Cilento region when they wrote their bestseller How to Eat Well and Stay Well the Mediterranean Way (Doubleday, New York).
‘In 2010, UNESCO put the Mediterranean diet on its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, propelling it into the world’s nutritional mainstream’, said Niola. ‘In any case, the Mediterranean diet has always been international because it is made up of mixtures, loans, crosses and contamination. Even the most traditional dish, the most identity-forming standard has traces of others. It’s no coincidence that many of the basic ingredients of our cuisines come from distant countries: they are foreigners we put in our plates… and thank goodness they’re there. Our spaghetti with tomato sauce would never have existed without entirely American tomate. If aubergines hadn’t arrived here from the East, we’d be without our beloved aubergine parmigiana. Not to mention potatoes, peppers and chocolate. In this way, every recipe is none other than the mixture of different ingredients that become one single thing.’
Niola’s conclusion was greeted with resounding applause: ‘In such a scenario, the Mediterranean diet is a recipe for co-existence, made not only out of foods but also, and above all, out of ethical and social values, models for convivial life, for an awareness of sustainability, an openness to exchange, a welcoming of integration. In short, an example of how humanity in the future could be.’

Food trends

TRENDS: FOOD & BEVERAGE IN 2018

15/02/2018

 

What wonders does the food & beverage industry have in store for us in 2018? For the past few years, the Waitrose and Whole Foods supermarket chains have been laying down the law, anticipating the food trends that will sweep the world. According to the list they’ve produced for 2018, we will be seeing very simple, yet high-tech, specialities boasting health benefits. Consumers will continue to be obsessed by one question: where does this food come from? Traceability, ingredients and wholesomeness will be the aspects to look out for when buying food, to the point where some consumers will be driven to farm food for themselves (using DIY agricultural machines like FarmBot). Purchases will be increasingly high tech: how many of us will soon be using technofoodology and artificial intelligence when shopping, such as Amazon’s Alexa device that you can talk to and do a number of things with, including ordering food? Let’s take a closer look.

Food
The most important trends identified by Whole Foods and Waitrose are particularly nutritious edible powders, such as matcha tea, maca root, spirulina and even cacao. People like them because they are easy to add to dishes, making soups, broths and hot and cold drinks more nutritious.
Protein powders, the real Food 3.0 frontier, merit particular attention. Companies are specialising in refined flavours for balanced liquid meals that can be consumed on the go or for homemade meals with extra protein flours: muesli or porridge containing flakes and flours with low levels of carbohydrate. Plant-based protein is also in the spotlight: soy, seeds, algae and almonds. These will be the stars of ground-breaking products such as Heme, a protein created by the Impossible Foods start-up, which apparently mimics meat flavour perfectly and could become the most popular ingredient on vegetarian menus in 2018.
Then there are medicinal mushrooms, featuring varieties such as reishi, chaga and cordyceps, which up to now have been popular among athletes. From having been used as dietary supplements, they are now added to traditional dishes like broths, desserts and even coffee. Cordyceps has been introduced from Finland. It is made from matsutake mushrooms and apparently has all the health benefits of normal coffee without the side-effects that some of us suffer from, such as heartburn and tachycardia. Clarified butter, or ghee, is also one of 2018’s musts: lactose free, it can resist high temperatures. When it comes to the culinary trends we’ll be stealing from other cultures, Middle Eastern cuisine will be top of the list, particularly that of Morocco, thanks to its spices and their worldwide popularity: harissa, cardamom, cumin and coriander. This culinary/cultural exchange will also involve Latin American cuisine, which has seen a surge thanks to the fashion for new types of tacos and foods designed for different dining occasions. Last but not least, there is a new healthy way of cooking: air frying. What does air-fried food taste like? Almost the same as fat-fried food, but much healthier.

Beverages
According to Whole Foods and Waitrose, we’ll be increasingly drinking ‘mocktails’: non-alcoholic cocktails. And what ingredient will be absolutely essential from now on? Timut pepper. This unusual pepper from Nepal is rapidly becoming popular among foodies all over the world and is perfect as an ingredient in cocktails. We will also become big fans of a new kind of soft drink that has nothing to do with the sugar-loaded beverages that have dominated the drinks aisles of our supermarkets up until now. These are natural drinks made from plants such as maple and birch that are naturally carbonated without the addition of carbon dioxide.

Diet and nutrition

THE REDISCOVERY OF BUTTER

29/12/2017

 

After having been demonised by health fanatics the world over for years, butter is having its rightful revenge.

As far back as 2014, it ended up on the cover of Time magazine with the title ‘Eat butter. Scientists labeled fat the enemy. Why they were wrong’. Thus, the humble pat of butter has slowly made its way back into the kitchen. Even researchers studying social change have looked into the case. ‘We are faced with nothing short of a comeback as far as butter concerned,’ writes sociologist Enrico Finzi, ‘thanks to its sensory characteristics, which are often associated with the pleasure of eating and the extraordinary contribution that butter makes when preparing certain foods and recipes.’

In actual fact, much more lies behind the rediscovery of butter. A recent study by Coldiretti, the Italian farmers’ association, explains how ‘demand has increased thanks to the recognition of its health benefits: experts say that a portion of butter (10 grams) contains 24 milligrams of cholesterol, i.e. 8% of the recommended daily amount. But demand has also increased because, especially in professional kitchens, butter is used as an alternative to fats like palm oil, which is being abandoned by a growing number of industries.’ It is no coincidence that the price of butter has doubled over the past year in Italy. ‘In the last decade, the percentage of consumers who prefer this product has significantly increased, and it now accounts for 47% of the Italian population,’ writes Renzo Pellatti in his book Conoscere e Gustare il Burro (‘Getting to know and appreciate butter’), published by Daniela Piazza Editore.

While in the United States, people like Elaine Khosrova, the author of Butter: A Rich History, have invented the profession of butter taster, today in Italy the number of types of butter – produced by skimming the cream off whey or churning milk fat – is growing. Goat butter is the latest novelty: with its stronger flavour and pure white colour, it is easily digested by those who don’t drink cow’s milk. In contrast, clarified butter (ghee) has no water content and is casein and lactose free. In short, it only contains butter fat. What’s so special about ghee? It has a higher smoke point, so it is the perfect fat to use when frying, particularly meat, without burning anything. Then there’s low-fat butter, which contains a low percentage of fat (around 60% compared to the 82% of normal butter) and is perfect for eating ‘as is’ or spreading on bread.