Judge not, lest ye be judged, as the saying goes. Just as you cannot tell how good a book will be by its cover, you cannot judge a reasonable person from a one-chance encounter. I have always been aware of how people pronounce the word ricotta. The national mispronunciation of this cheese bothers me more than the incorrect pronunciation of our farm name. I think one out of a hundred people will pronounce the name of the farm correctly. I am okay with that, it is any body’s guess whether the vowels are long or short in our name, Miolea, which comes from the previous owners and represents the beginning name of the son – Mike, mother – Olive and daughter Lea.
The farm name is a confusing mix of potential enunciations and inflections. We pronounced the name wrong when we first visited and a couple more times after that. When we took stewardship of the land, we decided to change the name of the farm in pronunciation to invoke an Italian theme. We changed some vows to long while others were changed to short. Over the years, if a customer mispronounces the farm name we have given up on correcting the mistake. They can pronounce it anyway they like if it helps them remember us, all the better. For some odd reason I care more about how to say ricotta, this creamy-sweet, beautiful sheep’s milk cheese than I do our farm name. For the record, My-Oh-Lay-a, is how the farm name is the way we pronounce the name.
I grew up in a predominately-Italian household with my grandmother being the last generation to speak Italian. Her children and grandchildren did not learn Italian from her as much as we learned the Italian emphasis when pronouncing words. Much like the way we pronounce words from other cultures, with their own intonation and enunciation, we as an American culture do not pronounce Italian words with an Italian articulation. I can think of Chinese - General Tao and Mexican - Fajitas as two examples of how people will use the correct pronunciation when saying these words. In Italian "P" is pronounced like a "B", so pasta would sound like "basta" in our family and millions of other Italian households. This leads me to my pet peeve.
As a nation, we had no problem pronouncing words from other cultures. My best example is Fajita. Nationally the pronunciation of that word with the correct Spanish enunciation happens all the time. Take Chinese, French, Greek and Indian culinary delights, we order these cuisines and generally pronounce them with the correct intonation, cadence and inflection. I feel that Italian cuisine is getting a short shrift in the "foodie" world when it comes to pronouncing Italian words correctly.
To that end I present these facts, most people pronounce fajita correctly, and most people pronounce ricotta wrong. Italian, much like Spanish has its different inflections and dialects. I do not know where we missed the boat on pronouncing ricotta correctly but it is almost universal. Pasta, okay, I will concede pasta instead of basta or managot for manicotti. Nevertheless, a sheep’s cheese as noble and diverse as any of the best cheeses known to humans deserves the foodies reverence relegated to other delicacies such as Foie Gras, or the more mundane like Tortilla.
Fajita is the example I use to draw my conclusions, however misguided. I have never heard, okay I once heard, a person ask for a (FA-GEE-TA), in a Hispanic restaurant. It is most always pronounced (FA HEE TA), The "JI" has a "hee" enunciation instead of a "jee or ji". You do not order FaGEEtas or Fa-jI-tas; you order faHeetas, when asking for the delicate flour tortilla. I bet you pronounced the last word of that sentence like (tor tee a) not (tor till a). You are starting to see the pattern of neglect Italian pronunciations suffer.
In my family when talking of Italian things the letter "C" was pronounced as a G (ga), the letter "P" came out as "B" and there were other slight variances. I did not get all the Italian variations, which is why I can only be the least bit indignant.
However, ricotta, pronounced correctly with the proper inflection, tone and dialect would sound like Ri- Gaw-ta. The "i" is silent the "C" sounds like "Gaw". When we hold cooking classes, if we are using the cheese I make a point to pronounce ricotta as part of the class. It is just because it sounds so much better pronounced correctly.
Rigawta is used in main dishes as well as deserts. It is a bit nutty with a creamy texture suitable for Tiramisu or in delicately stuffed ravioli. I am not asking for much, just a simple “g” when saying the word rigawta. As far as the farm name, pronounce it however, you see fit.
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