Another day, another set of statistics appearing to contradict each other as well as the day before’s: this time, it’s the “shock” European study that found eating lots of processed meats, like sausages and bacon, makes dying younger more likely.
This appeared to contradict a European comparative health study the day before. The “contradiction”? Italians live longer than Brits despite consuming huge amounts of Parma ham, salami and pancetta. The sun or ambivalence to paying taxes? Can bunga bunga really be better than yoga?
Of course there are obvious contrasts between sipping a glass of Chianti at dinner and quaffing industrial quantities of vodka Red Bull. But, a caution. Italy is a culinary country of two halves: the processed meat, dairy, ragu and risotto-loving north, and the fish-eating, olive oil rich, vegetable and chilli-centric south.
That said, Italians once smoked much less than us – a situation now reversing. They are only now learning to binge-drink. As ever, balance is key. Fruit, vegetables and oily fish are a huge help, as is a dogged resistance to ready meals.
Living with both cultures I feel Italians have a better work-life balance, with a greater emphasis on family, food, meal-times and simple pleasures. To sit for an hour with a small cappuccino at a cafe in Rome, watching haughty women and peacock men stroll by is to learn the bliss of bella fa niente (the art of doing nothing).
Many fine minds (most notably Joseph Heller in Catch-22) have sought the secret of Italian joy in the face of adversity. My tip: don’t sweat small stuff, and toast those you love with wine: Cent’anni!