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Una Mamma Italiana
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by Tiffany Longo
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All my childhood memories seem to revolve around everything being Italian. We lived in a close knit neighborhood, where many other Italians had settled once they reached their new country, where everybody knew everyone else. My entire family, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, those we called aunt and uncle, even if we weren't related but just because they were paisani, all lived within a few blocks of each other. I remember walking to my grandmother's house on Sunday afternoons, and she would be sitting on the front porch with one of her neighbors and as I'd get closer she'd say to her friend "…ricordate la mia nipota?" (do you remember my granddaughter?) and the standard response was always a "Ciao bella" with a bone crushing hug and kiss. Grandma was always more comfortable with her native tongue and although she did her best at English, sometimes forming her own language of half English, half Italian, all the grandkids understood what she was saying. She was the matriarch of our family and every event revolved around her recreating her Calabrese traditions in this new land. So as I've said before, every birthday, feast day and holiday was celebrated with all of us together at Grandma's. If you were married, there was no question where you were spending the holidays, there was no splitting your time between Grandma's house and your in-laws – you showed up at the appointed time and you brought the in-laws with you because you wouldn't find a better meal anywhere else.
As my family has grown and become even more diverse my Thanksgiving table is surrounded by my non-Italian husband, my very Italian father, and various other nationalities that my cousins have married into. The thing is, we still only have the "token turkey" as everyone patiently waits for the most important dish. Well, last year I decided to go all American with my Thanksgiving meal and decided that we would honor the holiday as it should be – turkey being the centerpiece and opting NOT to serve pasta. My husband carved the turkey while I placed all the other dishes – stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, corn and applesauce – on the dining room table. As the turkey is set center stage, the adults start to dig in and I notice my cousin's 8 year old daughter sitting there with a pouty little face and I say to this half Asian, quarter Italian, quarter Nordic girl "What's the matter Isabel?" and she looks at me in utter disgust and says "Where's the pasta?" So I guess the moral of this story is, no matter how many different nationalities enter this family, the Italian in us will always prevail.
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