Food And Sex: Italian Stereotypes Discussed

Food and sex may seem completely seperate, yet the two have many cultural aspects in common.

The taboo topic of food and sex, specifically in Italian and Italian-American culture, was explored in the presentation “Linguine and Lust: Food and Sex in Italian/American Culture,” on Thursday, Nov. 6 in Lecture Center 104.

Distinguished Queens College and John D. Calandra Institute professor of English and Italian American Studies, Fred Gardaphé, created the presentation.

Gardaphé talked about an experience he had at an Italian restaurant with some fellow professors.

At this restaurant, he made so many comments about the food that one of his colleagues asked, “Where did you study food?” Before he could even answer, another professor said, “Don’t you know? He’s Italian! It’s in his blood!”

Although he had found that encounter humorous, it made Gardaphé ponder on the different stereotypes of his Italian-American background. This lead to Gardaphé researching food and stereotypes of Italian-American culture and creating this presentation.

While doing his research, Gardaphé discovered two main stereotypes of Italian culture: their love of food and their love of sex. Gardaphé started to ponder on the relationship between food and sexuality, how it is different between Italian and American cultures, how these two cultures portray their relationships with food and sex and how the media portrays their relationships with food and sex.

Gardaphé then read a poem by Victor Buono. Its ending line stated “eating is the oldest sin of all.”  This poem referenced the story of Adam and Eve tying sex and food together through religious sins.

Gardaphé said people are judged by the way they eat, and that there is a big difference in calling someone a “pig-eater” compared to saying that a person “eats like a pig.”

Gardaphé said the way people eat is often used to categorize people. According to Gardarphé, Italians categorize Americans as, quite frankly, “dog-shit eaters.” Gardaphé even quoted his grandfather who said, “Don’t be an American, you’re better than that.”

He went on to say that sexual relations in cultures could be seen through language.

Gardaphé gave many examples of Italian words that are related to sexual lingo, such as the Italian word for fig, fico, can also be used to reference a vagina. Many Italian foods and pastries, such as the picoli peni di angeli, which means the small penises of angels, are named after sexual body parts or sexual innuendos, which shows the ties between food and sex in Italian culture.

Attendees were able to get a better understanding of Italian culture through a humorous presentation that included a discussion as well as visuals such as video clips from famous movies like The Godfather.