Friday, October 07, 2005

Ode to My Family

You know, in this work of observing the Holy See, it really helps to have an understanding of Italian culture.

A friend just sent this along, and the top line says "Sounds wonderfully crazy, doesn't it?" I replied back that "Crazy? I have a name for it -- MY LIFE."

So, with thanks to my 35 first cousins (and their 30-odd children to date), 18 aunts and uncles, my sister, my parents and my two Italian grandmothers (still kicking at 81 and 89), and the cultural understanding they've gifted me with in the exercise of my job, I share this with all of you:
Italians have a $40,000 kitchen, but use the $259 stove from Sears in the basement to cook.

There is some sort of religious statue in the hallway, living room, bedroom, front porch and backyard. The living room is filled with old wedding favors with poofy net bows and stale almonds (they are too pretty to open). A portrait of the Pope and Frank Sinatra in the dining room. God forbid if anyone EVER attempted to eat Chef Boy-are-Dee, Franco American, Ragu, Prego or anything else in a jar or can (tomato paste is the exception). Meatballs are made with Pork, Veal and Beef. We are Italians, we don't care about cholesterol.

Turkey is served on Thanksgiving, AFTER the manicotti, gnocchi, lasagna and soup. If anyone EVER says ES-CAROLE, slap 'em in the face -- it's SHCAROLE. If they ever say ITALIAN WEDDING SOUP, let the idiot know that there is no wedding, nor is there an Italian in the soup. Also, the tiny meatballs must be made by hand. No matter how hard you know you were going to get smacked, you still came home from church after communion, you stuck half a loaf of bread in the sauce pot, snuck out a fried meatball and chowed down you'll make up for it next week at confession. Sunday dinner was at 1:00.

The meal went like this... Table is set with everyday dishes...doesn't matter if they don't match...they're clean, What more do you want? All the utensils go on the right side of the plate and the napkin goes on the left. Put a clean kitchen towel at Nonna's & Papa's plate because they won't use napkins. Homemade wine and bottles of 7up are on the table.

First course, Antipasto...change plates. Next, Macaroni (Nonna called all spaghetti Macaroni)...change plates. After that, Roasted Meats, Roasted Potatoes, Over-cooked Vegetables... change plates.

THEN and only then (NEVER AT THE BEGINNING OF THE MEAL) would you eat the salad (HOMEMADE OIL & VINEGAR DRESSING ONLY)...change plates. Next, Fruit & Nuts - in the shell (on paper plates because you ran out of the other ones).

Coffee with Anisette (Espresso for Nonna, "Merican" coffee for the rest) with hard Cookies (Biscottis) to dip in the coffee.

The kids go play...the men go to lay down. They slept so soundly you could perform brain surgery on them without anaesthesia.. the women clean the kitchen. Getting screamed at by Mom or Nonna - half the sentence was English, the
other half Italian...

Italian mothers never threw a baseball in their life, but can nail you in the head with a shoe thrown from the kitchen while you're in the living room.

Prom Dress that Zia Ceserina made you...$20.00 for material. Prom hair-do from Cousin Angela...$Free. Turning around at prom to see your entire family (including Godparents) standing in the back of the gym... PRICELESS!

.The true Italians will love this, those of you who are married to Italians will understand this, and those of you who are friends with Italians will remember and will forward it to their Italian friends.



Blogger Gene O'Grady said...

A question and a memory:

Do you East Coast Italians call the red sauce that goes on pasta "gravy" like they do in California?

I remember Roman grandmothers (a foot and half shorter than I am) on buses with elbows that beat anything a division I athlete ever threw at me. I also remember once when three giggling Roman teenage girls were sitting on a bus while my blatantly straniera wife stood holding the baby I watched an older Italian woman become increasingly upset as they did not give my wife their seats; after some language about loss of national honor she finally took her umbrella and rammed one of them in the stomach and demanded that we sit down with the baby.

But be thankful you're Italian. My late mother-in-law was a Swedish immigrant. After seeing Cries and Whispers my wife said "It's just like my family growing up."

7/10/05 20:38  
Blogger Rocco Palmo said...

Gene -- Whatta story from that bus! Rome's good for more than its share of chronicles of the kind.

And, per your question -- yep, that red stuff you put on spaghetti "gravy" to us.

7/10/05 20:49  
Blogger Jimmy Mac said...

My partner's grandmother was from Croatia and SHE called the red sauce for pasta, gravy.

8/10/05 00:21  
Blogger Ephraem said...

As a reformed food writer...Great fun Rocco!

8/10/05 00:36  
Blogger Marco, Trumphalistic Papist said...

What a post! Could I relate to that, Rocco. I just lost my last Italian grandmother---at age 97! She had a huge statue of your namesake, St. Rocco, in the basement kitchen. It was a cast-off from a local parish. Cousin Frankie mounted it on wheels so she could move St. Rocco around in case he got in the way. And yes, at least here in northern New Jersey, it's always "gravy." My late Uncle Rocco ate a pound of pasta a day his entire life, no matter what the main meal was. On Christmas Eve there was so much fish, everyone went home with trays. And if you criticized Nanna's gravy, she clocked you in the head with a wooden spoon.

8/10/05 01:56  
Blogger Tony said...

Hilarious, Rocco. I tracked it. I remember my grandmother would yell half in English and Half in Italian. I learned all my Italian swear works that way.

9/10/05 00:10  

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