Thursday, December 17, 2009

Francine Segan Shares the Joys of Italian Desserts

Author, lecturer and food historian Francine Segan spoke at 92Y in NYC on Tuesday, December 15, 2009 on the fun and flavors of Italian desserts. Fresh from her most recent Italian trip researching her upcoming book, Segan entertained us with recipes, anecdotes and several desserts that she made for the occasion.

One of the memorable quotes from the evening was something an Italian chef told her about the philosophy behind Italian desserts: “we are always thinking of ways to keep you at the table”. When you think about it, this explains so much about Italian cuisine in general, whether in a restaurant or at your Nonna’s house. So much attention and love put into each ingredient and stir of the pot, all designed to keep you at the table, keep the conversation going, keep the laughter ringing through the house.

Segan presented the history of Italian sweets from the Renaissance to modern times. She included desserts designed to be enjoyed with luscious liquores such as vin santo. She discussed the history of chocolate in Italy while circulating trays of Italian chocolate gathered on her recent trip. She enlightened us about the baking and uses of Panettone and Panforte. She fed us wonderful desserts that she made from these ingredients and sent us home with Panettone and Pandoro di Verona, compliments of the Bauli company.

True to the spirit of the season. Segan discussed St. Nicholas and Santa Claus and how they are so differently perceived in the US and Italy. In the US, Jolly Old St. Nick and Santa Claus are synonymous, while in Italy they are very different. St. Nicholas is a saint whose feast day is December 6. He is most famous for tossing gold coins into the empty shoes of poor people at night. On the other hand, Santa Claus is Babbo Natale, or Father Christmas, a wonderful but distinctly different character. And then of course there is La Bufana, who brings sweets to children on the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6.

Learn about Francine’s upcoming talks at

Click here to hear Francine’s Essence of Italy podcast, Italy & Chocolate – An Affair to Remember.

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