Venetian Food Culture

It’s fascinating to see how ancient recipes are cooked again in Venetian kitchens as many chefs make serious efforts to review and revive them. Spice food becomes sought after again, even “fashionable”.

Food culture in Venice goes back to two sources – Laguna edibile (recipes using local produce from the Lagoon and estuary (Sant’Erasmo, Le Vignole, Mazzorbo, Torcello, Cavallino, Treporti …), from the barene and velme which are the muddy sandbanks sprinkling the Lagoon), and cucina speziata (sophisticated food based on herbs, blossoms, and spices. Can have positive effects on your health).

Spices at Drogheria Mascari's
Spices at Drogheria Mascari’s

On the other hand for more than thousand years, the Merchants of Venice brought expensive exotic spices from the Levant into town. With these spices, Venetians created the first fusion cuisine as early as in the 12th century.

Real Venetian Food consists of both influences. It is so delicious and mostly consists of easy recipes, with special, natural ingredients though. La Venessiana would like to give you the keys to learn how to integrate easy, delicious and healthy Venetian meals into your daily life. You can check out our Recipes here and head over to our Spice Atelier, but first, let’s start with giving yo all the background information. Why is Venetian food really special ?

Imagine extensive salt gardens in a shallow Lagoon and a just a few islands permanently above water. That was Venice, or rather, Le Venetiae, part of the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire during the 4th century AD. Venice developed close commercial relationships with her mother town Byzantium and the Levant. These commercial and family ties are the causes for Venetian food to look and taste so different. Just unexpected but so tempting !! It makes you long to explore further, promised !!

From the 7th century AD, Venetian merchants traveled alongside the Venetian fleet down the Adriatic Sea, towards Dalmatia, Greece and the Black Sea, to Egypt and the Middle East. rom the 13th century they reached China, India and South-East Africa (Zanzibar!!).

Lagoon cuisine was soon integrated with sophisticated spices that Venetian merchants brought back from their voyages. But Venetians not only sold these spices all over Europe – they refined them, creating their own mixtures (sacchetti veneziani spice mixtures). In some public and also private libraries of former Venetian noble merchant families, we can still find books describing these recipes, their origin and history.

Passiflora
We use passion fruit to make jam

As Venetians have always been open and curious, foreign merchants were invited to settle in the Lagoon. First, Greek, Dalmatian, Albanian, Armenian and Jewish communities moved to Venice. The Venetian sestiere di Castello became the first example of a globalized community when many inhabitants from Constantinople resettled here in 1453.

Soon a melting pot of tastes and scents developed in Venice, unique in Europe. The first “fusion kitchen” in the world was created, integrating Ancient Roman and Greek, Persian, Syrian, TCM and Ayurveda elements.

The 14th century was the heydays of the mercanti di spezie – Venetian merchants: They created an exclusive commercial network with trading posts in the Levant (South-Eastern Mediterranean cities and islands, from Alexandria to Constantinople and on the Black Sea). By the year 1380, Venetian merchants also included the Western Mediterranean and regions beyond into their standard trading routes.

Uva fragola – naturally strawberry-flavored grapes

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