Thursday, November 15, 2007

Cosa si mangia stasera?


A photo of my boys helping us make ravioli in our former restaurant


Ever since I lived in Italy, returning to the US to find the Italian language battered and trashed, particularly the words of Italian language that deal with food, has been a source of amusement for me and my family. I moved to Italy in 1992, and back then all that was Italian wasn't quite so chic as it is today. The Mediterrenean diet and Starbucks hadn't quite taken hold, so each year as I came back to the US for a visit, my blossoming Italian vocabulary would make things seem funnier and funnier. From paninis to baristas, from lattes to focaccias (the Italian speakers out there know how truly scary these linguistic concoctions are), I would stumble around in US coffe shops and bars, where my correct Italian pronunciation would receive dumbfounded stares from waitresses and baristas... excuse me?


The Italian way of eating has been dissected and celebrated, and ruefully mangled. My children and husband, being the Italians that they are, have yet to find one single decent Italian dish in the United States. Their Italianess inherently also makes them food snobs, and I learned a long time ago not to even attempt ordering anything touted as an Italian dish in the US. I must even admit that my fifteen years in Italy and running a restaurant there has spoilt me for anything that isn't the real thing. We just cook at home.


But the Italian way of eating, in my most humble opinion, isn't what it's cracked up to be. Cosa si mangia stasera? is the question that makes me sprout fangs... When I hear the chorus of praise for "sitting down together and eating a relaxed healthy meal like the Italians do", I rememeber that behind those languorous meals, someone is actually cooking. Someone is shopping. Someone is cleaning. Someone is actually deciding what on earth to serve for two full course meals every single day...

When my husband chats wth his mother and sister in Italy, these women literally spend half of their conversation taking about what they had for lunch and dinner the day before. And they are fervently thinking about what they will cook the next day, and the next day after that. My sister-in-law is so obsessed with her weekly menu that she writes it all down on Sunday. Seriously. The food thing is serious work. Toil, even. And the women are martyr cooks, slaving away when they probably would rather be enjoying the sunset.


Around here we eat well, mostly because both my husband and I are good cooks. We make our own ravioli and pizza and minestrone. We cook polenta and pot roast. We bake tarts and cakes. But we also know how to get down and dirty American when called for. Last night when my son asked his usual Cosa si mangia stasera? he took one look at the expressions on his mom's and dad's faces, which were in that lackluster, exhausted after working all day, zero inspiration mode and immediately answered his own question...


OK! Tonight's an American Express night!



Something best left to your imaginations...

8 comments:

Jenn in Holland said...

I have run the spectrum of emotions while reading this post. From empathy to jealousy ending up a complete salivating mess thinking about that lovely food you make.
That's not my best thing, cooking and I am truly awed by those who do it so well and write about it well too!
Enjoy American Express night! I can only think that has something to do with a meal out of the freezer or even *gasp* a drive-thru!!

anno said...

When I hear the chorus of praise for "sitting down together and eating a relaxed healthy meal like the Italians do", I rememeber that behind those languorous meals, someone is actually cooking. Someone is shopping. Someone is cleaning. Someone is actually deciding what on earth to serve for two full course meals every single day...

Precisely. And even if it's fun to do once in a while -- and boy, I envy you those homemade ravioli, pizza, and other delights you have described -- it's nice to have a choice. That's why Domino's and Middle Kingdom are programmed into my cell! Enjoy your own version of American Express night!

Jennifer said...

Another great post!

We went out for pizza Wednesday because I was done for the day even before dinner got planned.

Last night we had a first course and homemade torta con le pere, so my husband didn't ask if there was any cheese, which is what he does when he's antsy for a nonexistent second course.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Cooking is always a many-sided thing. You just caught me determined to be positive about all my plates, but they DO crash down occasionally and cooking is definitely a big crash. I love cooking when I have the time, the leisure, the energy to be creative, and like you and your husband, I'm a good cook and it's not as hard as it is for some folks.
But then there are nights when American Express is just perfect! What a great quote, too. ;-)

Goofball said...

what a lovely story...what a great love for food, express food or not.


If you ever end up in Belgium...can I invite you over to come and show me what real Italian food is? You made me hungry :)

Karenkool said...

OK--I'm officially starving now and have a real hankerin' for some true "NY" Italian food. My favorite place is il capaccinos here in Sag Harbor. How about you move out here and open up a place to offer a bit of competition?

Rebecca said...

Indeed. Cooking all those glorious meals would very quickly become a huge burden if I had to do it night after night. As you said on my blog - it's fun when you're inspired and in the mood - but the day after day after day-ness of it all can be quite tiresome!

Candace Dempsey said...

Finaly, someone has said it. A "real" Italian meal is a ton of work. I know, because I grew up in a big Italian-American family. Nine people to feed every night! We always ate well and I adore the food. It was fresh and healthy. But the cook never gets to sit down! It's even worse on holidays. Fun but exhausting. My mom is always up, passing the plates. Her mother was the same.

 

© New Blogger Templates | Webtalks