Written by Anthony The Travel Tart
One side effect of emigration is that cultures bring their own habits to another part of the world which greatly enrich the new place that they turn up at! Especially when it comes to food!
As an example, after World War Two, many people places like Greece and Italy were just sick of the baggage that two European wars across a few decades had left, so many of them, including my own family, decided that enough was enough and left to go to the other side of the world, without knowing what would await them, and without knowing the language!
I think that’s a pretty gutsy move, and whilst you try to assimilate into the new place, it’s inevitable that you’re going to keep some old habits, such as the Italian Culture that I grew up with.
As an example, there are truckloads of Italian Stereotypes out there, and the reason that they exist is because there is at least an element of truth in them! I’ve gone back to Italy in the past to rediscover my roots, and can confirm there are a lot of stereotypes that are somewhat true, but regardless, I had a great time hanging out with my *distant* relatives and seeing what it was all about.
I’m sure that expats who live in Italy would also appreciate ‘La Dolce Vita’, or the sweet life.
But as a tribute to the transplantation of Italian Culture to other places around the world, for example, the United States and Australia, here is a tribute of fifty and a bit things that you will probably appreciate if you grew up with some sort of Italian influence!
Here we go! If this brings back a lot of childhood memories, have a good chuckle!
You know that you’ve grown up in Italian Culture when…
- Biscuits dipped in coffee was a suitable breakfast for your grandparents. And you sometimes joined in!
- Every Sunday afternoon of your childhood was spent visiting your grandparents and extended family.
- You have at least one relative who wore a black dress every day for an entire year after a funeral. Sometimes, this relative wore one for the rest of their lives!
- Your family dog understood Italian words only and looked confused when English was spoken.
- You’ve experienced the amazing phenomena of 150 people fitting into 50 square metres of yard during a small family cook up to celebrate a birthday, wedding, funeral, or other Catholic ritual.
- You were surprised to discover that nutritionists recommend you eat only three meals a day, not seven. Mind you, lunch and dinner would consist of seven courses.
- You thought that having salami, capacollo, pancetta and prosciutto hanging out to dry from your shed ceiling was absolutely normal.
- You ate pasta for dinner at least three times a week, and every Sunday. And for most of the time, it was home made.
- You grew up thinking no fruit or vegetable had a fixed price at the local markets and that the price of everything was negotiable through haggling. Even at the supermarket, where prices were actually fixed.
- You were as tall as your grandmother by the age of seven. And you towered over her by the time you reached ten.
- You thought everyone’s last name ended in a vowel. If their surname didn’t end with a vowel, you just simply added one.
- Even though your parents cooked great food most of the time, they still insisted that you eat offal like tongue or pig trotters because ‘it was good for you’.
- Your mother’s main hobbies were cleaning and cooking up a banquet at short notice.
- Your non Italian mates practically begged you to invite them over to your place because they knew they would have a much better feed than at home.
- You were surprised to find out that wine was actually sold in liquor stores. But your family still only drank their home made stuff anyway because the stuff from the shop was rubbish.
- You thought that everyone made their own tomato sauce.
- You never ate meat on Christmas Eve or any Friday for that matter. You only ate fish.
- You ate your salad after the main course in a separate bowl, and never on the same plate!
- You thought Catholicism was definitely the only religion in the world, and that every home had a picture of the Pope mounted on the wall.
- You were beaten at least once with a wooden spoon or broom by one of your relatives for misbehaving.
- Your 3rd or 4th cousins felt like immediate relatives. In fact, these distant relatives were probably included in your parents will.
- You thought every meal had to be eaten with a hunk of ciabiatta bread in your hand.
- You can understand a lot of Italian but you can’t speak it – except for the swear words.
- You have at least one relative who came over on the boat. If not, all of them did!
- You spent your entire childhood thinking what you ate for lunch. And your friends also thought about what you had for lunch because it was so much better than what they had!
- You thought lunch was pronounced ‘sangwich’, not ‘sandwich’
- You have at least six male relatives named Tony, Frank, Joe or Louie.
- You have relatives who aren’t really your blood relatives because they are really good friends with your parents.
- You have some relatives you don’t speak to because of some trivial falling out.
- You drank wine before you were a teenager with your meal because your parents and grandparents thought vino was actually a food group to be combined with your seven courses at lunch or dinner!
- You relate on some guilty level, to the Godfather and the Sopranos. There was always an offer you couldn’t refuse!
- You grew up in a house with a backyard that was chock full of fruit and vegetables that could supply the whole street for a year.
- Your grandparent’s furniture was as comfortable as sitting on plastic. Oh that’s right! You were sitting on plastic!
- You thought that talking loud at each other without being aggressive was totally normal.
- You also thought talking loud with hands moving all over the place was normal as well (what does an Italian have if he has one arm shorter than the other? A speech impediment!).
- You thought sugared almonds were common at all weddings until you were invited to a non Italian wedding.
- You thought that a small wedding consisted of only 400 people, give or take a few hundred.
- You didn’t know either the bride or groom to a wedding you were invited to.
- You thought everyone was pinched on the cheeks and money stuffed in their pockets by their relatives every time they visited.
- Your mother was overly protective of the males in the family no matter what their age.
- There was a crucifix in every room of the house, usually above a bed.
- Wakes were sometimes held in someone’s living room.
- You couldn’t date a boy without getting approval from your father if you were a girl. (Oh, and he had to be Italian!)
- You sometimes called pasta ‘macaroni’.
- You dreaded taking out your lunch at school. Because everyone wanted to ditch theirs and eat yours because it looked way more tasty!
- Going out for a cup of coffee usually meant going out for a cup of coffee over at your aunt’s/uncles/fifth cousin’s house.
- Every condition, ailment, misfortune, memory loss and accident that you ever experienced throughout your entire life was always attributed to the fact that you didn’t eat something.
- If there was too much food, there were always leftovers placed in the fridge. If there were too many leftovers placed in the fridge, anything remaining would be placed in the fridge… located in the garage!
- You made pasta with your grandmother… and
- You still answer the phone with ‘Pronto’!
There you go!
If you’re laughing at this, it’s because I’m sure you’ve experienced these bits of Italian Culture yourself, or know someone who has!
What other things do you remember growing up as a child with Italian heritage?