If you come to Italy, you are going to be eating some good food. This has been a common denominator for a while now. The reason isn’t due to the fact that Italy has a better climate for growing good food or that better food is available here. It’s a question of education — education that has been instilled in children growing up in Italy since the beginning.
The key to a healthy lifestyle lies in the education of healthy eating from a young age. This is something that is passed down to children in an Italian family — it is part of their mentality.
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There are not as many pre-made frozen foods, and most families opt to cook from scratch using fresh ingredients and preferring real foods to processed ones. Even in families with hectic schedules and restricted time, a fresh, home-cooked meal is a must here.
Italians live longer than most — on average 83.1 years — compared to 79.8 for Americans and 79.5 for Brits. It’s the Mediterranean diet and the general attitude towards food in Italy that form the better general health of Italians, and their higher life expectancy.
The educational farm ‘Il Podere’ in Umbria is one of the many places where healthy eating habits starts young.
In the countryside, in the Petrignano of Assisi, Umbria, surrounded by fields and hills that change color according to the seasons of the year, the farm offers courses to schools about the importance of olive oil in our daily diet.
During September, October and November educational courses are offered to children from early years to high school.
A typical day out for school children would be to see the olive grove and be taught the various techniques of olive harvesting, to the actual production of the olive oil and, finally, tasting. The children are taught to recognize quality olive oil using proper tasting techniques and how olive oil can be used as a healthier alternative in the baking of cakes, desserts and other foods.
The oil produced at the farm is said to have a bright green color and an intense, but pleasant taste.
Further down the boot in Rome, ‘Kids Enjoy Cooking,’ a newly opened cookery school that offers courses exclusively to children, combines the two important ingredients for a successful life according to the organizers: the English language and the importance of cooking from a young age.
Silvia Valentina Del Bufalo decided to make her ambition come true this year when she opened the school at her country house in Cesano near Rome and, due to high enrollment requests, she will be opening a new site in another area in Rome.
Del Bufalo uses all home-grown ingredients from her vegetable patch, her hen coop and, of course her beloved olive trees.
“Olive oil is the essence of our Mediterranean diet and we try to incorporate this ingredient in all of our lessons. Teaching the importance of healthy eating to children is something every mother would like. Together with learning English, it’s a perfect combination for Italian children.” Valentina said.
As times are changing, fast food is becoming more widely available and sometimes inevitable. Italy has its own ways to help keep children on the right track to a better diet. Be it olive oil tasting or lessons on how to use it, education will always be a fundamental ingredient in the local diet.