American television shows are shown in Italy, but they are years behind the actual date. Most are older shows such as Hawaii Five 0, Ironside and The Simpsons. All are repeated constantly, but the best shows are related to food and travel.
We watched Anthony Bourdain visit Tuscany and attempt to make a pasta for a young group of Toscani friends. Bourdain should have been alerted that they would never appreciate his pasta. (My wife says that the whole thing is probably staged.) We see him nervously prepare everything and cooking it, making sure it is al dente but tweeking it with a few new components. He did not realise that trying something new with pasta would not be pleasing to Italians. Italians do not seem to enjoy innovation but instead consider it an annoyance. Adulteration is out! The word “purists” would correctly describe them. The result of the dinner was that Bourdain became the main course in front of his television audience.
There was a funny episode of Everybody Loves Raymond where his Italian mother faked sharing her precious recipe with Raymond’s wife, yet cheated by deleting one item so the dish would never be perfect. The writer of that episode must have been Italian. Recipes handed down here are sometimes guarded by a level of secrecy. Grandmas sometimes do not share many of their recipes, some take them to the grave.
Jamie Oliver had a series of episodes where he visited Italy and cooked with the locals. They kept telling him not to add any new components to basic Italian cuisine. They did not want to modernize their tastes. Near the end of the series, we see him sitting in his van, leaning over and looking into the camera to proclaim that Italians are a very stubborn people.
I have run up against my own jury when I made my lasagna. Just a few months after I moved here I invited a housefull of hungry Italian friends. My lasagna had multiple levels of home made pasta, fresh mushrooms, ground beef, and cheese with a tomato sauce. It came out looking good, smelling good and they respectfully tried it. The first comment I heard was, “Where’s the white sauce?” I was dumbfounded, and could not understand what they meant by white sauce. Then it was explained to me that lasagna here in the Veneto has bechamel sauce in lasagna. They politely said the lasagna was interesting, but I was told I should learn to make it “their way.” I had learned my lesson in eating regional food, and from then on I made it a passion to find out more. I also learned not to serve my friends Italian food “my way”.