While I was born and grew up in Italy until I was nearly 18, I’ve lived in the United States almost 2/3 of my life, and yet, there is something magical about Italy I can’t shake off. Something about Italy and Italians and they way they think, eat and do things that resonates with me in ways I can never really explain. I am what I am and I don’t want to change a thing. Yes, even though I assimilated fairly well in the American culture (if I do say so myself) I am still Italian at the core and I refuse to “shake it off”. 😉
Just last week for example, at a cooking class, the teacher, my friend Damiano, who was born and grew up in Italy himself, started counting in Italian and I had to chuckle. I do the same thing! The multiplication tables for example? 7, 14, 21, 28 etc… I can’t count like that in English. I memorized it in Italian as a child and I just can’t do it in English! Why should I?
Another baffling thing I still can’t understand is why Americans do not use the metric system. It’s so much easier! Add a zero or take it away. 1000 meters is a kilometer. I don’t even know how many “feet” is a mile ’til this day. What’s this “Yard” business… who came up with 3 feet equaling a “yard”? It makes no sense to me. Sorry!
Here’s another thing. Clothes. I realize Italy is the capital of HIGH fashion, and I was never a fashionista (not even close), but even I think that wearing a t-shirt, jeans and sneakers together is downright boring and lazy. I only wear sneakers when I exercise or if I know I am going to walk A LOT that day. Even if I go to an amusement park I wear sandals. In the winter-time I am your quintessential boot queen. I love boots!! This is how you can spot an “American” in Italy BTW, sneakers!
I wear most of my t-shirts around the house. Only if they are “cool” I may wear them out and about, and only now and again. Most of my “tops” tend to be cutesy and I like them that way. I don’t mind jeans though, yeah, bring them on. I guess a little of the American culture has grown on me, but to be fair, Italian love jeans too!
Ok, now I HAVE to talk about the food. FOOD!!! I will preface this by saying that the first time I had a hamburger, french fries, hot dog, tacos, burritos and any of what Americans would consider “Fast Food” I was nearly 18, and… I was not impressed. At all.
Let’s first address this notion of “Fast Food”. While I realize that there are now McDonalds and such in Italy (there were none when I was growing up there), Italians don’t do “fast” when they eat. They take their time. They enjoy. It’s the country of the “Dolce Vita” after-all. They linger after each bite. They have fresh baked bread every day. They have pasta every day. And espresso. In the grocery stores, instead of having a whole aisle for potato chips, they have 3 aisles full of cheeses, and one of different kinds of salames. Take a look at these pics I took in an Italian grocery store a few years ago…
Food is an experience in Italy. It’s not just something you do so you won’t be hungry. It’s really hard to explain it unless you go there and live it. I think the book (and movie) “Eat, Pray, Love” describes it pretty well all things considered.
I always get the question of how Italian people stay so skinny eating pasta, bread and cheese every day. There are many answers to that. For one, portion control is huge. HUGE! For two, the main meal of the day is lunch. Dinner is usually something small, like a soup for example. Italians don’t eat much fried stuff, and their favorite snack or dessert is fruit. I rarely eat potato chips, I just don’t care for them so much. However, I will devour a bowl of cherries or grapes! I have a fig tree in my backyard that is about to give me the most delicious figs and I am salivating in anticipation! Italian people don’t eat as much steaks as they do here. Someone told me it’s probably because they don’t have the availability, but I beg to differ. It’s just not part of the culture. Italians love fish… understandably so since Italy is surrounded by the sea.
So, even after 33 years in the United States, I still eat like an Italian. Go figure.
Just the other day I had a Doctor’s appointment and I was seen by a new Doctor who came into the room, looked at my chart and said: “There must be some mistake, it says in this chart you’re 51? Am I in the wrong room?” I don’t know if he said that to be flirtatious or funny, but he seemed sincere enough. “Thank you for the compliment”, I told him, yes, I am 51. “What year were you born?” he still insisted. “1964” I replied. “Hmmm… you must eat very well and drink a lot of water”. I loved how he could see that just by looking at me. It made my day. Of course lathering my face with oils every day seems to help too. 😉
I am lucky all in all. My grandparents had a mini-farm, so I grew up eating vegetables and fruits and now I won’t eat anything else. Your childhood will follow you everywhere, remember that, so think about what you feed your children! 🙂
Ciao a tutti!