I’m early on in, “Fascist Voices,” by Timothy Duggan, which I bought after a great review in the London Review of Books by Richard Evans, an historian whose work I’ve enjoyed and learned from and admired for years. Based on the review, I’d thought the book would be more or less a compendium of diaries and letters from ordinary Italians expressing love for Mussolini. So far, however, the work provides a wonderful synthesis of the decades before fascism took power to Italy; contextually, it notes, the rapaciousness of France and England left Italy (and Germany) feeling left out of the exploitation of resources. Those resources were needed to establish national identity as well as, more mundanely, provide the raw material for the industrialization that started in the 1800s.
Ironically, perhaps, it was the growth of a national military in Italy and every other country, from Japan to France, which created a national cuisine that broke down regionalism. Without the rise of a military in the twentieth century, in which solders from all over the country needed to be fed, there would remain cuisines of region rather than nation.
I’m not saying that Il Duce was needed for spaghetti & meatballs, by the way. That’s an Italian-American dish.
Speaking of Italian-Americans, you can say what you like about French food being tops, but thank the Italians for introducing and maintaining great traditions of food to all Americans. Why, right here in Boston we have a first rate fruit and vegetable store (Russo’s); a first rate fish store (New Deal); and, a first rate dried meats and cheese store (Salumeria Italiana). The ancestors of these shop owners came from southern Italy, which was left out of the fascist revolution, and not having work in Italy, came to the US, thanks to a price drop in steerage over.
History marches on…