Thursday, July 26, 2012

Italian Mama

I was just posting to my cousin Antonio's Facebook wall, and thinking about family and connections and celebrations.  Tonio's mother is my "Aunt Anne" who is really my mom's cousin, so we're second cousins but being Italian, we just say "cousins".  In our family, you wouldn't get introduced as, say "this is my mother's cousin's stepdaughter" which is who one of my "cousins" actually is!  When you're in, you're in.

It's funny, I'm only 1/4 Italian, which thins down to only 1/8 in Lauren's blood, but if you ask her what her cultural background is, she 'll proudly say "I'm Italian!" because it's the most fun part.   It's the side that throws big elaborate meals with her favorite cheeses and pestos and lots of laughter and grown-ups drinking wine and talking in big boisterous voices with lots of hand gestures.

Lauren's Nonna's Nonna came from Italy.  The family recipes we make the most are from that side.  My great-grandparents came here over 100 years ago but they're the most recent immigrants in our lineage.  We still have cousins that live in Parma,  we visit and correspond with them.  There is a town named after the family (or the family was named after the town, we're not sure!)  I've been there twice and I've been welcomed into their home both times.  Lauren longs to "go back".  (She was there in utero.)

We have food words we use from Parmigiana (the dialect my great-grandparents spoke).  We say "boo fa" which means to blow on something when it's too hot, and "poo cha" which means to dip the bread in the olive oil.  We have a song in Parmigiana that my grandmother used to rub my eyes and sing to me, about the rain.  I've never seen any of this written down.  I don't know how to spell the words.  Our traditional foods for the holidays are (to me) much more interesting than "American" fare.  Lasagna at Easter, not ham.  About 10 different kinds of antipasti.  And all of those desserts, would make my mouth water just to type about!

If you have an Italian mama, you never go hungry.  Italian mamas love to see chubby little babies and love to kiss cheeks.  I've got a lot of (especially male) grown up cousins who still live at home.  Or bring piles of laundry to their mamas on weekends.

I never thought I would turn into one, but now when I look at those little chubby cheeks and KISS them and KISS them, I think  "Lauren, William, you can still live with me when you're thirty, that's just fine!  Mangia!"

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