On her return to Italy, Chiara Martinotti, la Regina della Freisa, sent an email from Cascina Gilli. Most of the contents were business details about her recent trip to the States, but she stopped me short with a comment about the sweetness of American food.
"I found very sweet, almost childish flavors, especially in Ohio [take that, Buckeyes!]. I don't like this, but I do begin to understand the American preference for sweet drinks, including wine."
I hadn't thought about the sweetness of American food even though I've been in Italy dozens of times. It's very different here, granted, but I also don't glop up my food as so many people in America do -- you know, the sour cream on the baked potato, melty cheesoid product on everything from popcorn to noodles, heavily sugared prepared spaghetti sauce, etc. I also avoid chains like Olive Garden. But don't most aware food and wine geeks avoid that kind of thing anyway?
That observation doesn't address the larger issue of sweetness in the drinks we, as a people, prefer. After all, we oldsters have lived through many crazes having to do with sweet, unstructured alcoholic products: Mateus, cold duck (the nadir, IMO), hedonistic fruit bombs and, currently, those too-sweet fruit beers. There hasn't been one major marketing barrage pushing steely Muscadet or broad-shouldered Aglianico to the masses. Never happened, never will.
As I tiresomely point out to people, our national fondness for sweet drinks was firmly established in Colonial times. Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum. That rum, made from molasses, was aged in toasty oak barrels and combined with all sorts of sugars and spices to ease the weariness of the working man. Toddies and shandies and all sorts of concoctions that sound like a recipe for instant diabetes. (The rich had their Madeira and Port.) Bourbon -- treated in a pretty similar way. (Look at America's classic cocktails -- heavy on the sugars, whether via fruit or the cane variety.)
But I'd like to pose a question to all five of you who read this blog [people still write blogs? how cute!].
Do you find the food here all that sweet? That much sweeter than, say, in Italy or France?
And are your food choices determined, in part, by the necessity of pairing them with the wines that you favor?