Most of what is written here is a deeply inside joke, so, in the tradition of David Foster Wallace, I’ll be footnoting extensively. (as this is a Fb rough work in progress, footnoting will come later) I live in Tuscany, and have bred two italian girls- to be exact, two half italian, quarter German, quarter English girls. Yes, those two mutt quarters are my input. I recently returned from a trip with them ( I took them to my ancestral home in Ohio). Last night I woke from a dream. I know most people consider dreams to be confusing, and surrealism has done nothing to change the popular view. I usually don’t: when I wake from a vivid dream I wake feeling, knowing, exactly why I had that dream and what it means to me. Please, don’t send me your dreams and expcet me to interpret, it doesn’t work that way. If you don’t understand your dreams, don’t expect someone with a book on symbolism to do it for you.
A good working tittle for this essay is I’m “more italian than you,” On my trip, I cooked pasta al ragu, (al sugo, alla bolognese) insomma, meatsauce, once for my immediate family and once for my extended New Bremen family. In my dream, I was supposed to cook for everyone, but ended up almost eating my meal with an unknown man of apparently italian/american descent. I say almost ate it, because he immediately got up, said “you don’t mix the sauce with the pasta”, left the table and proceeded to the kitchen to make his own sauce. Here’s a great mix of cultural confusion. See, my mom (decidely not italian) never mixes the sauce with the pasta, she serves the spaghetti in one bowl and the sauce in the another. Should you go to any Italian restaurant which is serving your pasta immediately upon draining it, this is how your pasta comes, a pile of yellow noodles with a ladeled dollop of sauce on top. But in the italian family, its always mixed before taking it to the table, to keep the noodles from sticking together. So what my would-be dinner companion says is straight from an exchange with Mom, but what he does is thoroughly italian.
No, no italian is so rude to get up from the table and make his own sauce, but this is exactly is what every single one of them secretly wants to do. And here, for fellow non-italians, is a great word of advice: when eating with italians, never, never, NEVER ever ever ever (I cannot ever never this point enough) never volunteer to make the sauce. Italians are sauce people, they have a sugo gene pumping through theirs hearts. It is impossible for them not to know how to do the sauce better than you. It does not matter if you learned form the greatest italian chef, or if Nonna Viola from Sicily taught you her recipe. There is one and just one true recipe for any italian to make sauce, and that is the way thier mamma made it. Typically, italians who have immigrated for more than one generation consider themselves to be italian, and native born Italians consider themselves italians, but its impossible for italians from any region (with perhaps the exeption of the bilingual german speaking northern zones who have for years longed to seceed) to not consider themselves more authentically italian than any other zone. And this does not stop at a regional level. every city is inherently more italian than the one next to it, and every neighborhood in every city is so complexly more italian than any other. But, the soul of italianess really resides in yet another subgroup, la famiglia, the family. Naturally, an outsider may now find defining a true italian difficult. Not me. Its their is the innate ability to know the best way to make the sauce.