Growing up, I was a bow-ties and butter kind of gal. No amount of persuasion could convince a 7-year-old me that adding tomato sauce was a good idea. Absolutely not.
Eventually, I did graduate to that red sauce — and then to Bolognese, spicy, and Alfredo. I tried tortellini and fettuccine, then gnocchi (“Yucky!” 7-year-old me pronounced), orzo, ravioli, trofie. And then, just when I thought my mom’s box of De Cecco was the most incredible stuff … I went to Italy.
There is absolutely nothing better than pasta – and I thought the world whole-heartedly agreed.
But sentiment is changing in Italy. According to the Wall Street Journal, “pasta consumption in Italy has fallen to 31 kilos (70.6 pounds) per family [per year],” down about 20% from 10 years ago. What was once a staple food item for the Italians may soon become just another indulgence, already spurned by many dieting Americans as “unhealthy.” In a world obsessed with calorie counting and carb-free diets, where does pasta stand?!
“I used to follow the South Beach diet and pasta was — and will always be — the enemy,” explains Jen Eisenberg, senior at the University of Michigan and leader of the anti-pasta movement in my house.
And now, more Italians agree. According to a Nielsen survey, “the share of women between 26 and 30 years old who believe pasta is fattening increased 26% from 2008 to 2012” and “among 26- to 30-year-old men, the number who think pasta makes people fat increased 16%.” But is pasta really that bad for us? And I don’t mean the whole-wheat kind (which, let’s face it, doesn’t come close to tasting as good).
Walking the streets of Italy, I was struck by how Italians still managed to be thinner than Americans, notorious for our obesity epidemic. And Italian families still slurp up 70.6 pounds of pasta per year!
Maybe pasta isn’t the culprit here. Maybe it’s that our go-big-or-go-home American style of eating is slowly taking over the globe. Take, for example, a regular-sized portion of spaghetti and meatballs from my on-campus go-to Noodles & Company, weighing in at a whopping 920 calories. Could fat Americans be scaring Italians away from their pasta?
I guess the moral here is — for all eaters internationally — everything in moderation. Olive oil and garlic is a fine swap for butter. Keeping pasta meals down to once or twice weekly wouldn’t be so terrible. I guess.
No food is ever really safe from the scrutiny of the nutrition-conscious people of the world. Which is fair, but please, don’t take my tortellini away.