~ The Love Apple ~
When the tomato was first introduced to Italy from South America – yes, the tomato is not indigenous to Italy – it was thought to be poisonous. Its odd, sometimes ugly shape and varying color really made people nervous. Eventually, as it caught on and became more popular, it was nicknamed the “love apple” and was considered an aphrodisiac – hence the nickname.
Obviously now, it seems impossible to imagine the tomato not being a part of the Italian culture. They love the tomato!
On my last trip to Viterbo, Italy in January, I learned a very important lesson about “love” from Alessandra.
In America, we “love” everything ~
“Oh, I loved that movie!”
“I love my sister!”
“I love chicken fingers. They are the bomb!”
“I love you, darling!”
“I love apple pie!”
We use the verb “love” to express how much we like something, whether that is a person, place, or thing…and even abstract things like an idea or philosophy. In some ways, our use of “love” is so common and prevalent that I wonder if it really means anything any more. “I love this knife!” “I love my job!” “I love my mom!” “I love my husband!” Can you really “love” your knife the way you “love” your husband?
In the Italian language there are several ways to express how much you “love” something. The verb for “to love” in Italian is Amore. But you don’t use it like we use “love” in English. Here is how the Italian language handles our overused version of “love.”
First, there is “piacere,” the verb for “to like.” I can like something “mi piace di gelato” which really means that “gelato is pleasing to me.” I can like gelato A LOT – “mi piace di gelato moltissimo!” But in the Italian language it is impossible for me “to love” gelato.
Second, there is “volere,” the verb for “to want.” To tell a friend or a family member “I love you” you would use the verb “volere.” In Italian, you would tell your mother “ti voglio bene” which literally translates as “I want you well (good).” Obviously, to an Italian it translates as “I love you.” Can you imagine telling your sister that, “You wanted her good?” To our ear, to say that you “want” someone seems rather forward. “I want you, Mom.” Eek! Can you imagine? Again, in the Italian language I can’t literally “love” my mom.
Finally, there is “Amore.” In Italian, you only use “amore” when referring to romantic love – in plain English: implying SEX.
Amore implies the physical and sensual aspects of love between people. It is only used in that context. Bobby can love Sally, but Bobby can’t love apple pie. Well, he could, but if you used the verb “amore” to say that, you would be describing a rather funny and embarrassing scene from the movie American Pie and not how much Bobby liked pie as a food item.
So this weekend consider what you “piacere,” who you “volere,” and who Cupid has shot an “amore” arrow into on your behalf.
Here is one of my favorite “love apple” recipes. It makes me long for summer when tomatoes are in season and, in particular, heirloom tomatoes find their plump, differently colored and sometimes downright ugly selves at the market. They can be sinister-looking beauties.
And, who doesn’t “amore” a sinister-looking beauty from time to time?!
Happy Valentine’s Day~
Here is the link to my Heirloom Tomato, Onion, Basil and Mint Tart recipe.
Buon Appetito~ bring your family to the table!