Clarissa Clò, Ph.D., SDSU Associate Professor of Italian and on the San Diego Italian Film Festival Board of Directors
Donna Gabaccia, Professor of History, University of Minnesota, and author of "We Are What We Eat," and one of the guest speakers at CineCucina
Catt Fields White, director of SD Weekly Markets (including Little Italy Mercato), putting together the Dine On The Dock party for the festival
Related Story: CineCucina: SDIFF Pairs Food And Film
CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. Italian food is such a big part of many Italian films that the first thing you want to do when you leave the theatre is eat spaghetti and grab a cannoli. Luckily, a series of events sponsored by the Italian food festival combines them. It's called CineCucina. Clarissa Clo is a professor of Italian, and on the film festival board of directors. Welcome back to the show.
CLO: Thank you.
CAVANAUGH: Donna Gabaccia is professor of history at the yesterday of Minnesota, author of what are what we eat, and one of the guest speakers. Welcome to the program.
GABACCIA: Glad to be here.
CAVANAUGH: Cat Fields White is a director of San Diego weekly markets and putting together the dine on the dock party for the festival. Welcome to the program.
WHITE: Thanks Maureen.
CAVANAUGH: Now, Clarissa, this is an annual event. Why does the organization feel it's important to hold events throughout the year?
CLO: Well, for one, we never have enough time to cover all of the things we want to do. So we definitely have more things that we want to do than a single festival concentrating in a few days will allow us to do. And also because we do want to develop throughout the year a series of different themes. This year in particular, the theme is migration and the local contribution of the Italian community here in San Diego. Last year for instance it was unification, so we celebrated Italy at 150. And of course there are overlaps among all of these themes. So that's what it allows us to do.
CAVANAUGH: I understand CineCucina is your idea.
[ LAUGHTER ]
CLO: Well, I suggested the name, and I borrowed it from a colleague in discussing the movie big night. I did recommend the name, but it's too much for one single person. I don't want to take the credit. We certainly are interested in exploring the topic and we all were -- the same page.
CAVANAUGH: Explain what the topic is. What is CineCucina and how does it differ from the other events?
CLO: Well, it combines two of the biggest loves of Italians, cinema and food. And ultimately both of them are really about telling stories. Either through film or through food. So what we're doing is taking those two loves and making it into one by screening films that are specifically about food, but I'd say largely really about lifestyles organized around food.
CAVANAUGH: Now you say food tells stories what. Kind of stories?
CLO: Well, the stories of those who make the food, the stories of the ingredients that go in that dish, the fights that go around making sure that everybody's got the original recipe, the authentic one so it's really an occasion for for sharing, nurturing, for fighting. It's very much an opportunity for congeniality, 360 degrees.
[ LAUGHTER ]
CAVANAUGH: Tell us if you would, what films are screening and do they all touch on food themes?
CLO: We have a huge lineup. I hope that the listeners will join us this week and next. On Thursday, May 24th, we're going to be screening a couple of films. One is called filling my step on the path, which is about the lifestyle choice that a few Italians have made to return to the mountains. And those are one of the places that people migrated the most from. So it's a spiritualide logical and material choice to go there. Then we'll have don Franco morely join us again, and they're making a movie about Italians in the golden state. Their previous film was call bitter bread: So you see you don't really go we from food in one way or another. They'll be screening what they collected in San Diego last time they were here. And on Saturday, we will haves Donna's wonderful presentation, we're really excited about that. And we'll screen a film called setso trucko, which is a film about four women wine producers, organic wine in particular, and we see these women hard at work in their vineyards, but also without tricks. They produce this wine biologically and without chemicals. So it's really a poetic take on wine making and who's allowed to produce that wine. And then on, I know Cat will talk more about the events next Thursday, but we have a wonderful menu lined up on drinkol's warf in Point Loma.
CAVANAUGH: Donna, I know that you are going to be giving a talk on pizza. What is the significance?
GABACCIA: Well, first of all, we all eat it. There's rarely anyone in the world anymore who doesn't think they know what pizza is and what its history is, and I'm going to tell a more complicated story, but I think also more interesting. The history of pizza really begins before there were actually tomatoes in Italy, and before the people who lived in Italy considered themselves to be part of an Italian nation. So the history of pizza is complex, it's how foods begin in the America, the tomato, then travels toity el, and how centuries later immigrants carried sauces to the Americas, and it brought originally American ingredients back to the America, and in America, pizza is then revised and transformed, becomes mass produced and exported all throughout the world. And that's why some people in Asia today think that pizza is American.
GABACCIA: Yeah, so it's a history that forces us to think about when pizza becomes an Italian food, when it becomes an American food.
CAVANAUGH: Your book focuses on how immigrants change the way people eat in the United States. That's the focus of this book. Is there a connection between the way food migrates and the way people do?
GABACCIA: Yes, there is. Foods generally travel through markets and commerce and exchange. And it usually travels with people, but sometimes the most mobile people are the merchants, and the businessmen, and not the cooks who actually know what to do with the food, so for example in the early modern period, merchants and explorers brought corn, also an American crop, they brought corn back to Europe, but they didn't bring your American cooks with them. And two things happened as a result, corn which fed mesa America in Europe many people simply did not know what to do with it. So they only fed it to animals. And in those parts of Europe where people began eating corn, and in part was Italy, with polenta, came heavily dependent on corn in their diet, they department know how to cook it the way the Americans did. And as a result, people eating corn in Europe suffered from pellag ra, which is a nutritional deficiency, whereas in the Americas no one suffered from it.
CAVANAUGH: This is just a fascinating line of study. How did you get is it R started in this particular field?
GABACCIA: Well, I'm a historian of migration. And I have always thought that the story of migration to the United States is too heavily focused on how the immigrants changed and often doesn't really tell us how Americans changed in response. So I was looking for a topic that really allowed us to show --
CAVANAUGH: Go back and forth.
GABACCIA: Yeah, there's a back and forth, a relationship. And food is a wonderful way of showing how Americans changed as immigration occurred. Americans have been adopting foreign foods really since the colonial era. And certainly in the 19th century. The notions that Americans have only learned to be experimental and interested in the foods of the newer imgrant, that's just not true. This is a process that's been going on for a very long time.
CAVANAUGH: Cat fields white, director of San Diego weekly market, she's putting on the dine on the dock party for this festival. How has your Mercado changed over the years?
WHITE: Well, we're almost 4 years old, relatively new in terms of large markets. And started with 41 vendors on about a block and two third, and now we stretch five full blocks on Date street to Front every Saturday, 140 booth, lots and lots of local farmers and artisan foods. Of
CAVANAUGH: We heard how this Italian film festival in its totality likes to take the whole idea of the historic story of Italians in San Diego and try to blend that into the festival. Tell us what the significance is for the Italian film festival to hold this event on the dock.
WHITE: It's an unusual confluence of interests. I've been working with the San Diego fishermen's working group is trying to revitalize the fishing industry. It's been a generational industry. It fell off 20 years ago with the dolphin and tuna controversy.
CAVANAUGH: I remember that.
WHITE: That caused a lot of grief in many, many families, and pretty much the almost the entire failure of the industry. But there are still fishermen in San Diego. Only about 100 now. And a lot of them are centered in little Italy.
CAVANAUGH: And it's a big part of Italian culture in San Diego
WHITE: Huge. Absolutely. We sell fresh fish on Saturdays, and the fishmonger there does a huge business with the Italians.
CAVANAUGH: What's on the menu?
WHITE: Oh, some incredible stuff. This is a tricky menu for the chefs, it's a little bit of an iron chef type situation that. I can only use what the local fishermen bring in. And we don't know what that's going to be until we see what the weather is, what the catch is. Fishing is a tricky industry. It's not like dealing with farmers where they put the crops in the ground and go pick them. The fishermen are subject to what's going on in the ocean and a global weather pattern and aspects they don't control. But we're expecting to see black cod, sheep's head, rock fish, yellow tail, urchins, chefs doing interesting things with fresh anchovies. We think of them as oily things in cans, but if you're in Italy, they're beautiful, fresh fish that you oftentimes grill. We've got some amazing chefs. They've all been cautioned they need to prepare their dishes with an Italian accent for the film festival. So you'll see Andrew Spurgin, Melissa Myer, Pete Balistreri, he doesn't have a hard time cooking Italian. He's Italian to the core. Craig Jimenez from crafts and commerce, and Peter McColfrom whisk and ladle. Maybe a couple more surprise guests.
CAVANAUGH: I have to ask you quickly, how has the concept of CineCucina been received?
CLO: Well, we usually have a great turnout, both at MOPA and at Birch. We're hoping for the same to this year, and obviously attendance at the dine on the dock event, people come and are always very curious, very receptive. They leave and they want more. And in fact they're often disappointed that there isn't actually a treat, a tasting after the screening.
[ LAUGHTER ]
CLO: So that's kind of tricky for us to do. That is what's done in Italy. We borrowed some of the concepts from the slow food film festival in bolonia. That's what they do after the films. They offer a tasting of what they've screened. So it's a feast for the eyes, and a feast for the belly.
CAVANAUGH: Starting this Thursday the MOPA for film, Saturday at the Birch theatre for film and food, and May 31st at pier 4 for food and a party.