Growing up I never thought that my family was any different than any other family. My dad worked and my mom stayed home to keep the house, took care of us kids and prepared for the Sunday feast. Did I mention that we’re Italian? Sicilian to be more specific. This meant that every Sunday, my relatives would come over and we would have gravy (sauce to most).
Dinner was always a loud production that lasted for hours. My grammar school memories were not of many friends, but of many cousins. They were everywhere and we would spend a lot of time together. This again, seemed normal to me.
It wasn’t until I went to high school that I realized something was different about me and my family. I invited a girl from school home for Sunday dinner. She sat quietly at the table as my loud family barked questions at her. They treated her like she was an alien from another planet and wanted to know everything about her.
She spoke slowly and pronounced her words completely. My family was shocked that she spoke so softly and didn’t understand what she was saying. In their judgmental way, the question on everyone’s lips was “cosa ha ditto” or “what did she say? We no hear her downa here.” To project one's voice, over multiple conversations, to the opposite end of an Italian table is truly an accomplishment.
Her eyes widen when she realized that before her was enough food to feed a small country and asked politely who else was coming to dinner? She then volunteered that in her house the plates are dressed in the kitchen and her Mom presents them to the family. The loud gasp at the table let her know that was unheard of and not accepted in this house! It’s family style and you take as much as you want with no limitations.
I noticed that my friend had a tiny waist and cute designer jeans on and I sat there with elastic waist, over sized stretchy jeans. Maybe having the plates dressed in the kitchen wasn’t a bad idea after all.
She survived the meal and was gracious enough to ignore the question of “does your family eat white bread in your house?” implying that only Italians eat Italian bread. We concluded dinner with enough homemade sweets to fill a bakery and the espresso/cappuccinos were prepared. If the culture shock didn’t get the girl, the sugar high would have done her in.
She never returned to my house for dinner again. In fact, I never brought anymore of my friends home. Is my family loud, rude at times and judgmental? Are we pleasantly plump with a scream that can shatter glass or make a dog’s ear perk up? Yes, but I wouldn’t change one thing about them. After all they are Mia Famiglia and we are always be there for each other, no matter what.