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  • Being Italian in America
    Una Mamma Italiana

    by Tiffany Longo

    Being Italian, there are a few unspoken rules that we would never dare to break. Don't buy jarred pasta sauce, pre-made lasagna is taboo, men don't move out of the house until their 35….you know, the really important life rules. Every Italian knows them, and any self respecting Italian lives by them. Unless, of course, we are trying to live in a world that is both Italian and American.

    For example, my brother lives on his own now. (Yes, he already broke one rule.) He's a twenty year old guy trying to adjust to life without my mother's cooking. (Note: for the purpose of this article, we'll ignore the fact that my mother still cooks large batches of meatballs and leaves them in his fridge when he's not home.) So, naturally my brother spends all his hard-earned money on fast food and take-out.

    "Poor guy, he's not eating well," family cries out in despair, "he's going to wither away to nothing….for goodness sake, get the boy some spaghetti."

    Oh, but my brother's not that bad. He has spaghetti in his pantry…he just (gasp) buys jarred sauce to pour on top. Now before we all fall to our knees to beg forgiveness on his behalf, let's re-evaluate the situation. He's a young guy, he's living on is own, and let's face it - he's a guy! Not for a minute would I expect him to make his own sauce from scratch at 10:00 at night after a long day at work. And with a schedule like his, things like friends and the gym take precedence over Italian family faux pas.

    As a result, my brother has suffered what we all have been cursed with in this generation - Americanization. That's right. How do we expect to keep the passion for homemade sauce alive in a society of fast food and microwave dinners? Have you seen the frozen lasagna in the stores? Sure the packaging boasts bubbly mozzarella cheese and zesty tomato sauce with all fresh ingredients (whatever that means). But when each bite tastes more and more like chili with a pinch of pepper and a dash of dirt, we're thankful to be Italian.

    It is precisely this gift that we must cherish. We could have been born a variety of different ethnic backgrounds. The world is a big place with a whole lot of diversity. But somehow, we were fortunate enough to be brought up Italian. And if you weren't, consider yourself fortunate to even know an Italian. Naturally, that's the next best thing.

    After all, no one can argue that the Italian culture is one worth preserving. Even with the Americanization that happens with each generation, we have to hold strong to our family traditions and memories. And if that means making your own marinara, then so be it. We must band together and continue celebrating everything Italian so that our children and grandchildren can have the same wonderful memories that we do.

    I want my children to look forward to Grandma's meatballs. I can only hope they have the same love of holidays, food and cooking that I do. And it brings me joy to see them get on the accordion with my father and my grandfather. These are the memories that my family get-togethers thrived on, and so it will be for my kids. So take every day and every meal and sit down as a family. Because as important as it is to make your own sauce, it's not really about what you're eating, but who you're eating with - and La famiglia makes for the best memories.

    Article Published 10/16/2008


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