Monday, February 02, 2009

Growing up Italian!

I received this in an email, and was surprised at how accurately (though not totally) it portrayed my childhood. My comments on each follow in parentheses:
A nice reflection back to the way things used to be...

The Life Of An Italian Child

You spent your entire childhood thinking what you ate for lunch was pronounced 'sangwich.' (Check)

Every Sunday afternoon of your childhood was spent visiting your grandparents and extended family. (Double-Check. And watching Lawrence Welk, Bonanza, and Mannix, to boot!)

You've experienced the phenomena of 150 people fitting into 50 square feet of yard during a family cookout (Check (though mostly on my mom's French side of the family; my Italian father's family was relatively small)

You were surprised to discover the FDA recommends you eat three meals a day, not seven. (Check)

You thought killing the pig each year and having salami, capacollo, pancetta and prosciutto hanging out to dry from your shed ceiling was absolutely normal. (Semi-check--although we had all these goodies, my grandfather operated a neighborhood grocery store. All the meat preparing was done there)

You ate pasta for dinner at least three times a week, and every Sunday. (check)

You grew up thinking no fruit or vegetable had a fixed price and that the price of everything was negotiable through haggling. (check--my father was the king of haggling, and the king of produce. He could tell if a cantaloupe or a honeydew was ripe from a mile away)

You were as tall as your grandmother by the age of seven. (Semi-check; actually by the age of five. To this day I believe that my grandmother was Steven Spielberg's model for Yoda).

Your mom's main hobby is cleaning. (semi-check; although my mom kept a clean home, she was a working mom).

You were surprised to find out that wine was actually sold in stores. (Check: To this day, we have our grandfather's 150 year old, 200-pound wine press)

You thought that everyone made their own tomato sauce. (Check. And their own pasta. And their own Italian sausuage, and their own eggplant appetizer, and...)

You never ate meat on Christmas Eve or any Friday for that matter. (Check; well, almost. On Christmas Eve we invariably had homemade pizza, Italian sausage, cannolis, and a special bread with cauliflower and Italian sausage that I don't know the name of, but I certainly loved. Fridays (and Wednesdays during Lent) were either scrambled egg days, or fish if my parents could afford it. Never. A. Crumb. Of. Meat.)

You ate your salad after the main course. (not necessarily; the myriad dishes were passed around the table between a lot of people. Your food would go cold if you were to wait around for everything to be passed your way).

You thought Catholic was the only religion in the world. (Check: When we were kids, there were actually two different kind of kids: The Catholics (who went to our parochial school) and "The Publics" (who went to public school).

You were beaten at least once with a wooden spoon or broom. (Actually our parents for the most part spared the rod; although my brother (whose gift of annoyance is to this day legendary) once got hit in the head by a set of flying keys).

You thought every meal had to be eaten with a hunk of bread in your hand (Check)

You can understand Italian but you can't speak it. (Check; lucky for us Italian kids, most high schools in the Chicago area had Italian foreign language classes. We had to go to high school to learn to speak the language. Despite the fact that our parents and grandparents provided us with plenty of examples of the more "colorful" aspects of Italian. My grandfather used to say, "Now that we're in America--we speak American!!).

You have at least one relative who came over on the boat. (Check: For us, that relative was my grandfather. He came over dirt poor (back in Italy as a boy, he had to follow the wagons that carried food for the pigs, so he could hopefully get a piece of what fell out as it travelled down the road). He died a millionaire.

All of your uncles fought in a World War. (Check--my grandfather fought in WWI; my dad in WWII).

You have at least six male relatives named
Tony (check), Frank (nope), Joe (nope) or Louie (nope). But we did have male relatives named Salvatore, & Leo (dozens of them). Actually, the name "Leo" (my name) was a derivative of the name, 'Liborio' (Americanized now to its present form).

You have relatives who aren't really your relatives. Yep. Uncle John from Rhode Island comes to mind.

You have relatives you don't speak to. Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!! (Check. My grandparents could hold grudges like a drowning sailor holds onto a bouy in the middle of the ocean. Luckily that family trait has died).

You drank wine before you were a teenager. (Check Again. And Again. Wine was a mainstay at meals at Grandma's).

You relate on some level, admit it, to the Godfather and the Sopranos. I maka a meata ball you can't refuse! .
Forrgetttabbboutit! Badda bing! (Check: I get a sentimental lump in my throat every time I watch The Godfather Trilogy).

You grew up in a house with a yard that didn't have one patch of dirt that didn't have a flower or a vegetable growing out of it. (Check, sort of. We did have a bit of lawn as well as a garden. But true that each patch of dirt did have some kind of vegetable or flower growing from it--except for the path laid by the dogs as they raced around the garage to the alley from side to side to ward off possible intruders).

Your grandparent's furniture was as comfortable as sitting on plastic. Wait!!!! You were sitting on plastic. (Check, check, and double-check. We thought it was a natural state of furniture to be covered by plastic. Getting up from a seat at Grandma's during a hot summer day was akin to receiving a body wax).

You thought that talking loud was normal. (Check)

You thought sugared almonds and the Tarantella were common at all weddings. (Check. Not to mention three different types of pastas, garlic breads, and a zillion pastries).

You thought everyone got pinched on the cheeks and money stuffed in their pockets by their relatives. (Checkeroooni!)

Your mother is overly protective of the males in the family no matter what their age. (My mom was French, so this didn't necessarily apply; my grandmother and my dad, however, was a different story).

You couldn't date a boy without getting approval from your father. (Oh, and he had to be Italian) (See above--though my dad did brandish a shotgun once when my sister's boyfriend got her home a bit too late one evening).

You dreaded taking out your lunch at school (Generally, we got a baloney 'sangwich' and a Hostess Ho-Ho or Ding Dong. Lunch was pretty good).

Going out for a cup of coffee usually meant going out for a cup of coffee over Zia's house. (Actually, my mom's French relatives--she grew up in a family of ten kids-- were the coffee drinkers; and going out for a cup of coffee meant going to Aunt Claire's house, and playing Tripoley til 5AM. This was fine with us kids, who relished not having a bedtime on Friday or Saturday nights--and all the French curse words we learned was an educational bonus!).

Every condition, ailment, misfortune, memory loss and accident was attributed to the fact that you didn't eat something.
(Check, and check again. My grandmother's favorite words? "Mangia! Mangia!")

(See--I wasn't lying about the plastic!)

Perhaps J-Roosh or Learned Foot could relate?