Mafia and Pizza: history is served. Conversations with John Dickie
The historian and journalist John Dickie is a professor of Italian studies at the University College of London. He has long written of different aspects of Italian History: his research includes the representation of South Italy, the cultural history of liberal Italy, organized crime and Italian cuisine. In the interview for the monographic number of the «Giornale di Storia», Dall'orto alla tavola. Per una storia dell'evoluzione dei prodotti e dei gusti alimentari tra XVI e XXI secolo, Dickie reflects on the value of food as culture and he explains the transposition on television of his book Con Gusto. Storia degli italiani a tavola (Laterza 2012) in the program De Gustibus, not the usual talent show nor the more classic recipe program that is already a hit on TV, more than just a collection of the History of gastronomy, century after century, it concerns of a charming scene of costume on gastronomic curiosity. and on how even food has made history. A different way to narrate food, culture, and tradition that brings on good wishes to be able to see "more History on television".
Professor Dickie, as a reminder to our readers, you are an Academic History teacher as well as a television host. What was your study course and above all how much did specializing in Italy influence your “passion for food”?
My parents had me when they were quite old, and so they had a very traditional British way of eating. Just to give you an idea: I did not try either wine vinegar or olive oil until I was 18 years old! So my academic interest in Italy—I started studying the language at 18—was also an education in eating. I spent my first year in Italy in Turin in 1984-5. I’ll leave you to imagine the impression that a first taste of bagna cauda made on someone with my background!