It's no secret that I have a soft spot for veal sandwiches. I've written about it in this spot in the past. So, to say that I enjoyed a recent conversation about the relevance of veal to Italy's culture, with Professor Michael Lettieri, who has taught every level of the Italian language program at the University of Toronto, would be a bit of an understatement.
You can learn more about Professor Lettieri's amazing academic accomplishments by clicking here. For the purposes of this humble blog posting, all you need to know is that I am lucky enough to say that he is part of the family (married to a cousin). So it is that we had the opportunity to catch-up at a recent family wedding and it was a true pleasure to soak up every anecdote and bit of information, about various aspects of Italian culture, that he was willing to dispense with. Not the least of which was how Italy got its name.
It's a little known fact that Italy is, in fact, named after veal! The origin goes back to ancient times before the Roman Empire. The name Italy (Italia) is an ancient name for the country and people of southern Italy, coincidentally where my family originates from (Calabria). Originally, it was spelled Vitalia, probably from the same root as the Latin vitulus (a one-year-old calf), thus literally meaning 'calf-land' or "Land of Cattle". According to various academic texts, the area was rich with bovine, and as such, the people took the name as it identified them with their land. Eventually, the "V" was dropped, and it became just "Italia".
So, their you have it! It's only fitting that a country and culture that is so influenced by it's cuisine, would have a name that is also.