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     When exactly Italy and the United States began a cultural exchange is debatable and real historical scholars would probably point to other points of departure, but for Cookicletta, the most important initial exchange started with Christopher Columbus’ voyages to the Americas in the late 15th and early 16th centuries.  Though technically Columbus, an explorer from the Republic of Genoa, traveled further south in the Americas than what was to become the United States proper, his journeys began an important trend in which certain crops from the New World were taken back to Europe and eventually grown there, while others were imported to the New World from Europe and subsequently cultivated there.  Tomatoes, pumpkin, potatoes and corn literally didn’t exist in Italy, or what was to become Italy, before 1492, and wheat, which takes up not only a massive amount of farming land in the United States(49 million acres as of 2012), but is also the primary ingredient in all of those carbs Americans love, didn’t arrive until Columbus brought it.  Therefore, many of the recipes that we will demonstrate on Cookicletta are only possible thanks to the tenacity of an Italian explorer, whose original aim was to reach the East Indies.  

     Eventually, two wars were to have a massive impact on what Columbus started: the American Civil War and World War 2.  The Civil War fueled immigration to the US from a newly unified Italy because the high level of casualties on the American end demanded new, able bodies. This immigration wave came primarily from southern Italy, which after years of foreign mismanagement and new, crippling taxes was overly populated and poverty-stricken, so much so that the new Italian government actually encouraged emigration. Between 1870 and 1914 alone over 4 million Italians immigrated to the United States and today Italian Americans comprise roughly 5% of the US population.  In fact, 9 million more Italians settled elsewhere during this period, primarily Brazil and Argentina, making Italy the launchpad of the greatest mass exodus in recorded history, something to remember as she now sees enormous waves of immigration to her own shores.  When World War 2 arrived, this same area of Italy, the south, more specifically Sicily, was the location of the Allied invasion codenamed Operation Husky.  Mussolini had appointed people to eradicate the Mafia from Sicily prior to World War 2, and while he hadn’t completely succeeded, the murder rate had dropped dramatically and many Mafia bosses had left the island, some eventually ending up in the United States.  All of that changed when the Americans arrived.  Not only were many former Mafia participants released from jail, several were given prominent positions of power by the US in the crackdown on fascism.  In essence, the island exchanged one kind of dictatorship for another.(1)  This shift in power changed the trajectory of history for both Italy and the US.  For better or for worse, it was a collaboration between two entities that, as history moved forward, continued to shape politics and policy for years to come.  

     Thus, tomatoes made pizza possible.  Civil- War-fueled immigration made the first pizzeria in Manhattan, Lombardi’s, possible. Lucky Luciano, an imprisoned US mafioso who helped the Allies, made the easy invasion of Sicily, possible.  World War 2 and the resurgence of the Mafia made the agromafia possible, which now exports vast amounts of fake extra virgin olive oil into the US. This cultural, historical, economical collaboration runs deep.   

     While the aim of Cookicletta, in general, is to promote and celebrate the more positive aspects of the American - Italian relationship, one must never forget that while history binds us together in many happy ways, there are some troubling events, both past and present, which prove this to be  a real relationship of both ups and downs, zigs and zags. From exploration to food, politics to pizza, we here at Cookicletta are dedicated to documenting and furthering the ongoing relationship between these two countries.  We hope to do it in a way that entertains and inspires you to think of the world beyond your living room, your home town or your country, and to realize that we are all intertwined, and that going forward together is the only option there has ever been, or ever will be.  

Research Sources
*** Cookicletta credits her favorite Italian filmmaker, Pierfrancesco Diliberto, or Pif, for much of the history above regarding Sicily and the Allied invasion, thanks to his film, In Guerra Per Amore

*1. In Guerra Per Amore. Dir. Pif. Perf. Pif, Andrea di Stefano, Miriam Leone, Stella Egitto. Wildside and Rai Cinema, 2016. Film.

*Avey, Tori. “Christopher Columbus – Foods of the New World.” Tori Avey. Tori Avey, Web. 21 April 2017.

*"Italian Americans". Wikipedia. Wikipedia. Web. 21 April 2017.

*"Wheat". USDA Economic Research Service. USDA ERS. Web. 21 April 2017.

*”ChristopherColumbus". Wikipedia. Wikipedia. Web. 21 April 2017.

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