Most Italians intend to give food as gifts for Christmas. Among the top contenders are Christmas sweets, torrone [nougat] and chocolates, Tuscan panforte and cantucci biscuits, pandolce from Liguria, panettone, struffoli from Campania and Puglia and various salumi or cured meat products made throughout the country. Specialty pastas, lentils and beans also feature high on the national gift list. Of those surveyed, 33% intend to buy local and 28% organic.
The gift of food, for Italians, is considered the greatest gesture one can make. Over the summer, Italians fortunate enough to own a large vegetable garden will gladly pick a few extra tomatoes for their neighbour every time they venture into the garden for the ingredients for a salad. So too, an excess of mushrooms, truffles or any wild food gathered is almost always shared with friends and family. The gift of food is always appreciated and it never gets old.
Of course, there’s another angle to the Italian appreciation of food as a gift. It’s one steeped in religious tradition. The Italian Christmas begins on Christmas Eve and carries through to the Epiphany on the 6th of January. Gifts of food given in the days before Christmas are intended to last throughout the festive season. They are not exclusively intended for Christmas day. Again, this in part reflects a culture that left nothing to waste and understood the importance of making things last. It’s no coincidence that many dishes made over the festive season are dishes that are made to last – panforte, tortelli, panettone, spongata, the various cured meat products, to name just a few – and will be enjoyed throughout the two weeks of Christmas.