Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I dieci errori - The ten errors


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Inspired by an article I read on D- la Repubblica entitled: L'Arte della cucina italiana: i 10 errori da non commettere The art of Italian cuisine: the ten errors not to commit, I thought we could take a look at simplified versions of these "ten errors" and use them as a basis for reviewing negative informal "tu" commands in Italian. (You might learn something you didn't know about Italian culture, too!)

1. Mai e poi mai sorseggiare un cappuccino durante i pasti.
          Never ever sip/drink a cappuccino during meals.

Not so much now, but I have to admit I used to be one of those Americans who had no problem consuming a latte or cappuccino either during or after a meal. The "Art of Italian Cuisine" article, however, maintains that this is a big no-no (at least if you want to seem Italian.) Cappuccinos are for breakfast (preferably with something sweet like a croissant or a brioche) and espresso (referred to simply as coffee or "caffè" most of the time) is for after meals or any other time throughout the day.

2. Non servire una pasta o un risotto come contorno.
       Do not serve a pasta or risotto as a side dish.

Another "error" that I committed in the past, but have done less after having spent a bit of time with Italians. Pasta and risotto are first course dishes and stand alone! If you want a meat or other second course dish, eat your pasta first, then grab a new plate and perhaps a vegetable side dish.

3.  Non versare olio nell'acqua della pasta.
             Do not put oil in the pasta water.

I've actually read that putting a bit of oil in the water can help stop the "foaming over" that sometimes happens when cooking pasta, but apparently, my source was not Italian as the article states that you should never put anything in the pasta water except salt which is added in abundance. I've found that if you use a big enough pot, the boiling over phenomenon isn't a problem anyway, so make an Italian happy and only add oils and other condiments AFTER the pasta has been cooked and drained.

4.  Non mettere lo ketchup sulla pasta.
        Don't put ketchup on pasta.

Wait, some people do this??  Yes, ketchup is tomato-based like other perfectly acceptable pasta condiments, but it's also quite modified from its original tomato-state (read: very sweetened!) so please stick to fresh or freshly-canned tomatoes and tomato sauces and, as the article implores, "Tieni lo ketchup per le tue patatine fritte o hot dog" (Keep the ketchup for your french fries or hot dog.) 

5.  Non sostituire gli spaghetti per le tagliatelle in "Tagliatelle Bolognese."
            Don't substitute spaghetti for tagliatelle in "Tagliatelle Bolognese."

The pairing of a pasta sauce with its perfect pasta shape is very important business in Italy. Who knows how or why spaghetti got involved with bolognese abroad, but if the original recipe calls for tagliatelle, use tagliatelle!

Tagliatelle are long and flat, more similar to fettuccine than they are to spaghetti.

(Rules 6- 9 of the original list are less "errors" in and of themselves and more misconceptions about the "Italianness" of each dish.  So I'll sum up these rules into one single error:)

6-9.  Non pretendere certe cose che pensi siano "tipiche" in Italia.
                  Don't expect certain things you think of as "typical" in Italy.

For example:

  • Pasta with chicken- Although it's delicious, you'd be hard pressed to find this combination anywhere in Italy.
  • Caesar Salad- invented by a chef of Italian origins, but virtually unknown in Italy.
  • Fettuccine Alfredo- invented by a chef in Rome, but only ever got popular outside of Italy.
  • Red and white checkered table cloths- charming as they may be, if you see them in Italy, they're probably just trying to cater to tourists who think that's what everybody uses in Italy.

10.  Non ignorare i consigli della mamma.
           Don't ignore mom's advice!

Good, sage advice in any context but especially true when you're talking about good food and family tradition. In Italy and elsewhere, it's often the women who keep and pass on family recipes and wisdom, so when in doubt, take it from a mom.

(Don't be afraid!)


Affirmative "Tu" Commands: (as in Do this!)

For -are verbs, it's the same as the 3rd person singular present tense

parlare: parlo parli parla parliamo parlate parlano -> Parla! (Speak!)

Or, you can also think of it as simply dropping the final -re:

mangiare -> mangiare -> Mangia! (Eat!)

For -ere and -ire verbs, it's the same as the 2nd person singular present tense: (including the -isc- that gets added to the stem of certain -ire verbs)

prendere: prendo prendi prende prendiamo etc....-> Prendi!(Take!)
scrivere: scrivo scrivi scrive scriviamo etc...  ->  Scrivi! (Write!)
dormire: dormo dormi dorme dormiamo etc...  ->  Dormi! (Sleep!)
finire: finisco finisci finisce finiamo etc...  ->  Finisci! (Finish!)

There are also irregular verbs where the above rules don't work.  Some of the most common irregular "tu" commands are:

andare ->  Va'! (Go!)
essere ->   Sii! (Be!)
avere ->  Abbi! (Have!)
dire     ->   Di'! (Say!/Tell!)
fare     ->   Fa'! (Do!)

Negative "Tu" Commands (as in Don't do that!

You just add "non" before the infinitive verb. This works for all verbs, regular and irregular, no matter if they're -are, -ere, or -ire.

parlare: Non parlare! (Don't speak!) 
mangiare:  Non mangiare! (Don't eat!) 
prendere:  Non prendere! (Don't take!) 
scrivere:  Non scrivere! (Don't write! 
dormire:  Non dormire! (Don't sleep!) 
finire:  Non finire! (Don't finish!) 
andare:  Non andare! (Don't go!) 
essere:  Non essere! (Don't be!) 
avere:  Non avere! (Don't have!) 
dire:  Non dire! (Don't say/tell!) 
fare:  Non fare! (Don't do!)

Now read over the "Ten Errors" again. Notice how all but one use the "non + infinitive verb" formula? [The first one, uses a similar construction, but instead of "non" for "don't" it uses "mai e poi mai" which means "never ever."]

I'd like to know what you think about these "errors." Which ones do you agree with? disagree with?  If you were going to write your own rules for cooking and eating, what would they be? I'm curious to hear, so post them in the comments below! (Try to form them in the negative to continue practicing the negative "tu" commands)

Here's one of my own:

Non aspettare la colazione per mangiare i pancake.
  Don't wait for breakfast to eat pancakes.

Happy studying (and eating!) 

See also: