Yesterday, a friend left the following quote on my Facebook wall: “You know, there are two kinds of people; Italians and those that want to be Italians.” ~ Mario Batali
Thanks to my awesome family lineage, I have the heritage of the conquered European continent. I am one half “kitchen soup mix of all European countries” including German, Welsh, Scotch-Irish, and more from my mother’s side of the family, one quarter “British Isles” with quite a bit of proper English thrown in there from my Nana, and one quarter Italian from my grandfather. When Nana and Gramps married, WWII ended. Ok – that’s a joke. In fact, both of my grandfathers were American soldiers during WWII.
I rarely think of my lineage except for the fact that I’m Italian. Consider the possible adjectives and nouns that come to mind when someone mentions the word “Italian,” and then think about me.
Passionate – check. Talks with her hands – check. Has a temper – check. Loves good (Italian) food – check. Talks loudly – check. Laughs louder – check. Screams and yells and storms around the house when she is angry – check (not so much anymore…I am a pastor’s wife!!!!). Crazy – yep, without a doubt! Spontaneous – check. Disruptive – you know it!
Stereotypes tend to come from somewhere even if they are exaggerated. When it comes to Italian stereotypes, my family fits many of them. My nana, who learned how to cook Italian food before she married into the Italian family, cooks some of the best food ever. Chicken cutlet and lasagna are two of my favorite dishes. Her meatballs and gravy (it’s not sauce if it has meat in it!) with some penne pasta really hit the spot. Her lasagna has little meatballs in it – because they taste better, of course. We love our food! Nana knows which bakery has the best bread, and she knows where and on what day to buy the fresh ravioli – Venda, of course, “on the hill” in Providence, Rhode Island.
I have an Uncle Vin and a Great-Uncle Vin. My great grandfather went by several names. Let your imagination run wild with that one! If I looked hard enough, I am sure that I would find some questionable history, but that is only fun until you realize that those people are your relatives. That’s when you stop looking. We fight hard, we play hard, and we love hard.
I would say that having a quarter Italian blood in me is just about enough. It seems that having a quarter pretty much dominates the rest of my lineage, so any more would just be a waste. My first psychiatrist told me that Italian is a definite ingredient in many a bipolar diagnosis. “We should medicate the whole lot,” I believe were his exact words.
Growing up in North Dakota as an Italian was quite fun, so is living in Minneapolis now and having an Italian colleague (from Jersey, no less!). Midwesterners are a much more reserved people. There is a lot of quiet and caution. That is not so with Italian personalities – we are a loud people who throw caution to the wind. And I think that some around me are a little jealous of that.
Honestly – if I were at a wedding with all of my cousins and had no idea what was going on, I would jealous of all the fun we have. A tradition started at my wedding that has continued into a few other weddings. To be fair, the tradition was started by my Auntie Ann. And to be true to the story, I was not super thrilled about it at the time. I have gotten over that, though, since it became cool. The tradition (pictured below at sister Meg and cousin Karissa’s wedding) is that Nana let all of her grandchildren put olives on their fingers at the dinner table … to keep us from being naughty. We now have pictures of us at weddings…all grown up…with olives on all ten fingers. What memories!
And our response to the onlookers who question us?
You know you want to be…