79. You Are Who You Eat

We spent the morning at Mercato di San Benedetto in Cagliari, Sardinia. I had previously learned that even though Sardinia is an island, the cuisine is not seafood-based because up until the 1950s, malaria was a problem in the low-lying, swampy areas near the sea. Therefore, people lived up in the hills, eating meat and dairy that came from their flocks and livestock.Sure enough, I saw plenty of evidence of that at the Market. Although it is the largest indoor food market in all of Italy, there was not one stand selling seafood of any sort.

Beautiful zucchini flowers

I wish I could dive into the vats of ricotta.

But boy do they eat animals, and very obviously so at that. In America, our meat typically comes from the supermarket, clean and stored under plastic, sometimes even with a slight whiff of disinfectant. You can almost be forgiven for forgetting that what you’re eating once ran around, reproduced, had a beating heart.

But in the Cagliari market, there is no room for doubt. There were all types and sizes of heads, feet, eyes, full carcasses. There were rabbits, little pigs, roosters and quails. There were gigantic cow stomach linings and feet. There was donkey and horse meat. Even the garbage, in full view, left no doubt as to what you were buying.My favorite sight was the ad campaign for horse meat. “Estrogen? No thanks! For a healthy diet, eat horse meat.”Maybe not coincidentally, I’ve seen more vegan offerings in restaurants and stores, following the trend that started a few years ago of gluten-free items, in the land of pizza and pasta no less. Will it catch on? We’ll see.

4 thoughts on “79. You Are Who You Eat

  1. The zucchini flowers are gorgeous. And as for horse meat, when Kathie and I were in Verona in December 2010, we took our B&B host to a restaurant she said was frequented by locals–and she urged me to try the horse meat. Anything different is an easy sell for me, so I considered three or four options and settled on a pasta dish with what was described as braised horse meat.

    When my entree arrived, it was a combination of penne pasta with thin strands of what looked like a browned meat that had been forced through an extruder. Puzzled by the “braised” description–which normally involves brief sauteeing or searing followed by hours of low-temp cooking–I asked the waiter how long it had been braised.

    He said he would check with the chef. When he came back, he told me he wasn’t exactly sure what I had asked. So he informed me that “It was braised for five minutes … and the horse was eight years old.”

    “Did it finish last?” I retorted.



  2. That’s so interesting about the seafood. But I would imagine malaria is no longer a problem – do they now avoid seafood out of habit/tradition? Also interesting about the way the dead animals are presented. As one who’s been moving away from meat-eating, I respect the fact that at least they’re not trying to disguise what they’re eating! Finally: Seeing squash flowers always sparks memories of my mom’s mom, who called them “ca-goots” and prepared them deliciously, in a batter of egg, cheese and flour. I’ve tried to duplicate it, but eventually gave up.


    1. I don’t think they actually avoid it. It’s just not a part of their traditional local cuisine. Restaurants that make a point of featuring local Sardinian dishes are entirely meat and dairy-based. “Italian” restaurants there serve plenty of fish, spaghetti with clams, mussels, etc.–Gigi


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