Lidia Bastianich has been described as the reigning queen of Italian cuisine in America. She is the host of cooking shows on PBS, including Lidia's Italy, a new 26-episode series which features American and Italian chefs preparing regional Italian dishes.
Bastianichs family fled Communist Istria in 1956 and became political refugees in Italy, before moving to the United States. Bastianich trained in kitchens in New York City and opened her first restaurant with her husband at the age of 24. Since then, she has opened several restaurants, including Felidia and Becco. She has also authored several cookbooks including Lidia's Family Table and Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen.
Question: What sparked your interest in food?
Lidia Bastianich: My initial understanding maybe of food and ultimately falling in love with food and production of food was in the courtyard where my family lived with my grandmother and my great aunt. And so these little pockets of houses surrounding this courtyard were . . . chickens and geese ran freely. We had ducks. We had rabbits, goats. The gardens were in the back. So to grow up in a situation where the primary elements of nourishment are actually being raised and produced . . . We had olive groves, and remember we made olive oil. We had wine . . . wine . . . okay. We had grapes growing. And ultimately in September wine was produced. We grew our own products, but also animals like the pig. And again November the slaughter, the drying and curing of prosciutto. So all of these elements I grew up with. I grew up with the pristine flavors – the real flavors – of nature in its most simplest form. And that is, I think, my palate for everything that followed.
Question: What is the biggest challenge the food industry faces?
Lidia Bastianich: I think in the food . . . in the field of food, the big problem that we have is the availability, and the hunger that is present in the world. I don’t think that is necessary. And the question that follows or the answer that follows is that will there be availability in time to come? So the environment, and how we take care of the environment; and the interjection of technology, of industry, of whatever altering things. Are they all for our benefits? And ultimately are they . . . are we gonna have enough food?
Question: Do you have a personal philosophy?
Lidia Bastianich: I am philosophical. I am very spiritual. I am also philosophical because food is keep . . . keeps us alive. And therefore to be able to excel and produce something that, at the very basis, keeps people alive, it’s . . . it lets me think about many more things. You know what else does food do? Communicates socially. It communicates . . . So my philosophy on dining, ___________, families eating together, which is sort of hopefully coming back; and respect of food; and eating and not wasting food because there is so much hunger out there. There is a humanistic philosophy that cannot be . . . for me, cannot be detached from being a cook or a chef. Because I can use the gift that I have for spectacular and expensive meals. I can use the gift that I have to nurture somebody if they’re ill. I can use the gift that I have to spread so that I can nourish where there is less to eat. So I feel blessed, but also with a responsibility in what I do.
Question: How can we eat better?
Lidia Bastianich: I think we need to begin with a better understanding and try to educate ourselves. But also not everybody is available to have access to that; but everybody does go at some point and shop. So I think that we need to make the purveyors – whether it’s the shopping markets or the small bodegas – to be more responsible, and to bring, and to ask, and demand for good food. I always tell my audiences, “Do not accept something. You are the customer. Demand something – something that is good.” So it’s the accessibility of all these good products that we are talking to the mass.
Recorded on: 10/4/07
Lidia Bastianich recalls her culinary childhood in Istria.
Swiss researchers identify new dangers of modern cocaine.
- Cocaine cut with anti-worming adulterant levamisole may cause brain damage.
- Levamisole can thin out the prefrontal cortex and affect cognitive skills.
- Government health programs should encourage testing of cocaine for purity.
A study on flies may hold the key to future addiction treatments.
- A new study suggests that drinking alcohol can affect how memories are stored away as good or bad.
- This may have drastic implications for how addiction is caused and how people recall intoxication.
- The findings may one day lead to a new form of treatment for those suffering from addiction.
Civil discourse has fallen to an all time low.
The question that the American populace needs to ask itself now is: how do we fix it?
Discursive fundamentals need to be taught to preserve free expression
In their findings the authors state:
to stop attempted speeches — raise issues of just how committed college students are to
upholding First Amendment ideals.
Most college students do not condone more aggressive actions to squelch speech, like
violence and shouting down speakers, although there are some who do. However, students
do support many policies or actions that place limits on speech, including free speech zones,
speech codes and campus prohibitions on hate speech, suggesting that their commitment
to free speech has limits. As one example, barely a majority think handing out literature on
controversial issues is "always acceptable."
Talking politics at Thanksgiving dinner
- Progressive Activists: younger, highly engaged, secular, cosmopolitan, angry.
- Traditional Liberals: older, retired, open to compromise, rational, cautious.
- Passive Liberals: unhappy, insecure, distrustful, disillusioned.
- Politically Disengaged: young, low income, distrustful, detached, patriotic, conspiratorial
- Moderates: engaged, civic-minded, middle-of-the-road, pessimistic, Protestant.
- Traditional Conservatives: religious, middle class, patriotic, moralistic.
- Devoted Conservatives: white, retired, highly engaged, uncompromising,
It's interesting to note the authors found that:
"Tribe membership shows strong reliability in predicting views across different political topics."
Here are some statistics on differing viewpoints according to political party:
- 51% of staunch liberals say it's "morally acceptable" to punch Nazis.
- 53% of Republicans favor stripping U.S. citizenship from people who burn the American flag.
- 65% of Republicans say NFL players should be fired if they refuse to stand for the anthem.
- 58% of Democrats say employers should punish employees for offensive Facebook posts.
- 47% of Republicans favor bans on building new mosques.
Here are some guidelines for civic discourse that might come in handy:
- Practice inclusion and listen to who you're speaking to.
Civic discourse in the divisive age
dangerously tribal, fueled by a culture of outrage and taking offense. For the combatants,
the other side can no longer be tolerated, and no price is too high to defeat them.
These tensions are poisoning personal relationships, consuming our politics and
putting our democracy in peril.
Once a country has become tribalized, debates about contested issues from
immigration and trade to economic management, climate change and national security,
become shaped by larger tribal identities. Policy debate gives way to tribal conflicts.
Polarization and tribalism are self-reinforcing and will likely continue to accelerate.
The work of rebuilding our fragmented society needs to start now. It extends from
re-connecting people across the lines of division in local communities all the way to
building a renewed sense of national identity: a bigger story of us."
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.