America, 1914, destination Ellis Island. June 29 marked the beginning of my Italian family in the United States; the day Paul Vittori married Nina.
Odd to outsiders, our Italian culture is constructed of a peculiar menagerie of food, jokes, and discipline.
Experiencing a life-long food romance, Italians know there is nothing quite like waking up to the aroma of garlic and onions frying in a pan of olive oil.
Dining out rarely happened. When it did mom declared she could make it cheaper and better at home. She was right.
Most Italian kids have been hit by a wooden spoon. Conversely, as a child, if you got hurt and cried you either had an ice cream cone or cookie in your hand a few minutes later.
On holidays friends ate turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce. We ate those things, too, but only after we killed the antipasto, soup, salad, home-made ravioli. Always a baked ham ready in case someone didn’t like turkey. Only home baked goods – cookies, cakes, pies – never store-bought.
I can cook for 150 people – no problem. We’re sad for those who must eat holiday meals at non-Italian homes.
I had to warn my non-Italian friends my family is not yelling, that is just talking.
We often heard mom shout, “What’d you break now?” when something was dropped. I thought I could catch a cold from a draft and bats could lay eggs in my hair.
Each generation keeps some and discards other of Paul and Nina’s traditions. Thankfully our kids have not been hit with a wooden spoon.
My grandparents were Italian-Italians, my mom was Italian-American, I’m American-Italian and my children and grandson are American-Americans. I think that’s how Paul and Nina dreamt it would be.