Return of the Schiscetta

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When lunchtime rolls around in a Milanese office, workers are divided, between those who do out to eat lunch and those who have brought their own food, in their “schiscetta”. The schiscetta, an iconic steel lunch box, traditionally carried by the city’s industrial workers and full of hot food prepared by their wives or mothers at home. The practice became ubiquitous in Milan during the post-war industrial boom where workers travelled daily to work in factories and while the iconic steel container, not dissimilar to India’s iconic tiffin, is rarely seen these days, the practice of bringing your own lunch to work is still referred to as “la schiscetta”, and is an affectionate remembering of a local tradition, whose name has origins in the Milanese dialect, derived from “schisca”, or to squash, so-called because the contents inevitably were crushed in the container.

Now it seems the term schiscetta may be invoked in another way, this time as a Milanese reference to the doggy bag, the practice of bringing home your leftovers from a restaurant to feed your ‘dog’. The restaurant doggy bag has only become common practice very recently in Italy, but it may be about to become a mandatory practice, if a recent proposal by the Italian government becomes law.

The provision proposes a fine for restaurants that do not provide recyclable containers for guests to bring home their food upon request. It has illuminated the January news cycle here, if admittedly it is a slow news month, but restaurateurs are understandably exacerbated by an evidently unending rise in costs and overheads.

The idea, however has merit and the practice of taking leftover food home should only be encouraged. Food waste is a major problem, with as much as 13% of all food produced being wasted between farm and fork. It must be noted, however, that the majority of that waste occurs in the home and restaurants, and particularly chefs have always waged a war on waste.

At Stendhal, we welcome all requests for a ‘doggy bag’, or as we like to put it, you can take your leftovers home in a “schiscetta”.

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