Sunday, July 4, 2010

O, dici puó vedere... My 4th of July in Italy

Have you ever looked up what American food is? It's embarrassing really. The lot of our food, as you most likely already know, is taken from other countries. We are unoriginal in every sense of the word. It's okay. We're a new country, I'm willing to cut us some slack. However, this fact made it extremely difficult to cook an authentic American meal for the family I am nannying for.

A couple weeks ago I realized that July 4th was coming up. I mentioned it to Monica and offered to cook and American meal for them. She absolutely loved the idea, and we decided to make it a party. We invited her parents and her aunt that taught in the States for a year to come and eat the American meal.

After looking online for ideas I gave up. Monica asked what I was thinking about making and I told her that America is a thief and steals every one else's recipes. She laughed and then said maybe I could just make what my family normally has on July 4th. Oh. Never thought of that.

I told her that we grill hamburgers, and explained the concept of the hamburger bun:

"You have the hamburger between two pieces of round bread"
"Do you put the bread on the hamburger before you grill it?"
"Oh no, you put it on after, and then you can add ketchup and stuff."
"Ohhhhh. Like the pictures from McDonald's"
(Embarrassed) "Yea..."

I said I could also make banana bread (which they had never heard of), and Monica and Igor were both very convinced we needed corn if we were to have an American meal. Also they suggested salad with bacon bits. I went along with it, and also tried to explain what corn on the cob was. You must understand that we eat almost nothing with out hands here in Italy. Pizza is cut, hot dogs are without buns and cut, even watermelon is cut and eaten with a fork. Monica and Igor are such good sports.

A couple days before the 4th, Monica and I went to the store to get the food we needed. We were both equally excited about the meal. I was nervous however about her mother attending. Think of an old fashioned, proper Italian grandmother and you have the spitting image of Mari Maggio. She's a sweet old lady, but loves to do things the way she has always done, and doesn't often appreciate anyone doing differently. I could just envision her face when she realized she would be eating the entire meal without the need of a fork. I was sure World War III would break out.

The day came quickly and after getting ready I started making the banana bread. Now, I don't know why, but there are NO measuring cups or spoons in this house. So all of my measurements were complete guesses. In addition to this, there was not enough brown sugar, and it was a different kind than the states. I tried to balance out the other ingredients so it wouldn't mess with a lot. Well at least they hadn't had it before so they wouldn't know if I screwed up.

Soon the Monica's grandparents and aunt arrived to the house. Monica had dressed both kids in red, white, and blue, and the grandfather was conveniently wearing a very red, white, and blue button up shirt. Along with them was Monica's aunt, who lives in Milan.

When it was time to eat I brought out the food I had cooked and the family started clapping. Being the sometimes socially awkward person I am I didn't really know what to do so I looked at Monica for help like I usually do and she came to my rescue and started telling people in Italian what the different foods were and how to eat them. I chuckled to myself when a murmur passed over the table as they were told you were to butter and salt the corn, and then pick it up by the sticks on the side and bite into it.

As dinner began, the aunt, who was dressed in a bright blue shirt with a bright floral button up over it, started reciting the things to me she knew about the War for Independence. I told her I was impressed, and she sheepishly replied she had studied before coming over. Then she went to her purse, grabbed a leaf of paper with writing all over it, and continued with the history lesson in a mix of English and Italian. She began talking about why the war started, and with an absolutely stoic face, looked at me and confidently stated: "The War for Independence occurred because the British invaded the American colon." I felt my eyes widen and my mouth threatened to explode into an amused smile. Don't think about it Alysha, don't think about it. Hahaha oh crap I'm thinking about it! Stop. Focus.

And face was saved.

The grandmother that I had so worried so much about pleasing proved my worrying to be useless. When she ate the banana bread she asked where I had bought it. When I told her I made it she exclaimed that I was not allowed to leave Italy without giving her the recipe. She even ate the corn on the cob. I glanced over a couple times and smiled when I saw the grandfather eating his hamburger, bread, ketchup and all with a fork and knife. Later on the grandmother smiled and told me that she had brought mozzarella with her just in case things didn't turn out, but that she didn't need to put it on the table because everything was so good. Oh, Italy.

The rest of the evening included an impromptu board game, laughter, and lots of pictures taken by Monica's aunt. I saw her aiming her camera at me and made the mistake at looking into the camera. "No, naturale, naturale." so I didn't look into the lense, and decided to get comfortable and pulled my leg up onto the chair with me. "No not like that, the camera makes you look fat." And I burst into laugher at her bluntness. Hey, not many people would tell you that you need to switch your pose to better flatter how you look. I shifted, she took a picture and demanded that I "show my boyfriend" her photograph. In fact, the picture is sitting next to me right now because she had a print made and sent it to the house for me. She may be one of my favorite people I have met here so far.

There were no fireworks here, but my time with the Maggio family is something I will always remember. You seem to appreciate your own country more when you are not in it. I celebrated the 4th with a genuine pride in my nationality. I was able to offer a piece of the American culture to the people I am living with here, and they took it with enthusiasm and curiosity. I could not have asked for a more interesting, amusing, and Italian 4th of July.

Peace in Christ


  1. picture: quiet, pristine office with people in a conference room and Barbara sitting outside reading a delectably-written blog. Suddenly, after seemingly nothing, Barbara begins hacking on her laughter so hard that it disrupts the gentle quiet of the office. Why did Barbara laugh? Simply because she read that the British had invaded America's Colon. fantastic.

  2. alysha, this sounds like such amazing fun! it's definitely the most interesting fourth of july celebration i've ever heard of! :)