On December 16th my husband and I are going to the US for the holidays. We’ll be staying for a few months to take care of some business (don’t worry I have dozens of posts saved and will post them regularly. Plus, I’ll be writing about importing my Italian husband and his experience in the US . Cannot wait.) We’re insane so we’re bringing Oliver with us. That’s right. This asshole:
In the meantime my husband, F and I are staying with his parents in the great city of Cassino for TWO WEEKS. Someone bring me a Xanax laced with vodka, please. I mean, things are better since The Great Battle Of Boundaries, and his family has calmed down considerably in the sense that they mostly stopped poking my “tiny” boobs or screaming “but why you do dis to us!?” while jabbing an accusing finger in my direction. Things are better. I love them, they’re family, but being in a house with them is like taking twenty hits of acid and then crawling into a trunk filled with rats.
The worst thing is that my husband awesome husband turns into a spoiled brat here. He’s not sexist at home and he’s all about 50/50 chores and he’s not lazy at all. When he’s here it’s like he reverts to being in utero. He doesn’t do his own laundry because his mom does it (she sneaks in and steals my underwear to wash too and I have to wrestle them from her which is super awkward and not really what I pictured myself doing at thirty-two). He doesn’t cook or help clean, he doesn’t do the dishes, he doesn’t cook for himself or get up to walk five feet to the fridge for wine. His mom does it all after spending a full day teaching children that if they mess up Jesus will shoot them in the ass with a lightning bolt (she’s teaches catholicism). She comes home for lunch, cleans the house, cooks lunch, cleans, goes back to work then returns home in the evening, cooks dinner, cleans, and then while my husband stretches out on the couch from a long day of doing NOTHING she irons his shirts until midnight. “Italian children are spoiled,” she tells me while she wipes the sweat from her forehead after carrying my husband to bed at night. “I can’t imagine why.” I mumble. I try to motivate F to help her more but he just stares blankly at me, grunts, makes weird hand gestures I can’t understand and stays attached to the couch. “My mom is nuts,” he’ll sigh while she runs across the field nearby with a dagger slaying dinner with her bare hands. “I wonder why.” I’ll mumble, again.
Right now tensions are extra high with us leaving for a bit but even more so because the parents are planning a large southern Italian lunch tomorrow afternoon. It’s the kind of southern Italian lunch that lasts for six. fucking. hours. They do this particular lunch every year for F’s friends. The lunch is in Cellole where my mother-in-law is from which is kind of like a Mississippi hick town. The lunch is supposed to be fun but everyone is so worried about being judged that they don’t seem to be enjoying it. It’s the sad result of everything being about appearances. The preparation has the whole family so stressed out that my father-in-law has only eaten Chamomile tea for two days. They’ve ordered every meat imaginable from multiple sources making sure to get the best deal (they do this by calling everyone they know and asking if they’ve seen deals lately). They’ve pre-ordered cheese and wine. Lamb heads are floating in some giant pot on the balcony. The cow testicles and cheese with worms will arrive in the morning. “I am not eating any food that will be served at the same table as worm cheese, lamb brains or any form of testicle. Have you seen testicles? I don’t want them near me when they are attached to someone.” I tell F who can’t understand why I am “so picky when it comes to food.”
Maybe that’s because I don’t understand food. According to my father-in-law, my purpose in life is to cook and I
am failing at it miserably. Honestly, I’m not an amazing chef but then again I’m not that fond of cooking. I can entertain if I need to and I know some basics and thanks to a few lessons I can follow a recipe. Cooking is actually F’s passion though he’s embarrassed by it and refuses to admit it to his father who seems to think that one must have a vagina to cook. Something about the labia improves kitchen skills, supposedly. Aside from the fact that I’m American, my Italian sucks, and my dog is annoying, my shitty kitchen skills are probably one of the top things he doesn’t like about me.
“You have to learn how to cook!” He tells me every time we sit down at the table.
“I don’t like to cook.” I reply every time.
“YOU HAVE TO LEARN!” He’ll scan Francesco desperately. Surely thinking that his son will surely starve to death if I don’t learn how to perfect a frittata.
“I know how to cook. I don’t like it. He likes it. He can do it.” I gesture to F.
This inspires the dad to roll his eyes and glare at me for the rest of the meal. Then we’ll go through the same conversation again the next time we eat.
The other day after he lamented for a particularly long time I broke down and offered to make lunch for everyone the following day.
“Cosa!? CHE FA!? TU? Che Voo Di!? Eh? Poi Fa KIST!?” Which is part dialect, part heavy accent, and a lot of NOT ITALIAN which means something like, “What!?” You!? YOU DON’T KNOW HOW TO MAKE ANYTHING!? CAN YOU MAKE THIS!” He gestures to what I think is dandelion weeds that he found in a field nearby (he’s known to forage).
“No, I can’t cook that. But I can cook other stuff.”
“No! You can’t! We have to use the beans!” The mom pitched in.
“Easy. Beans. I make. I make good. Chili! It’s good!” I stumble in Italian.
They argued for a moment amongst themselves and it was settled that I would do it. The next day F and I spent all morning making chili. I am no master chef but it was good, I thought.
“This is garbage. What the fuck is this shit!? You need to learn how to cook! This is spicy RAGU!” The dad barked after he slurped down the first bite.
In all fairness it was kind of like spicy ragu. I mean, we only had a handful of beans so it was pretty much just sauce and beans. The flavor wasn’t bad but I probably wouldn’t have won an award for it either.
“It’s good!” F argued.
“It’s better than your minestrone.” I mumbled to my father-in-law. For the record, F’s mom is an amazing cook but the dad totally sucks. His go-to dish on a rare meal that the mom can’t cook is minestrone with frozen vegetables, uncooked legumes, and usually callimari and oysters that he tosses in for no fucking reason at all. Even more annoying is that he takes credit for his wife’s cooking as though she’s good because of something he’s done. Marrying a great cook doesn’t make you a master chef, guy.
“It IS better than your minestrone.” My mother-in-law chuckled.
“KIST! KIST e MONEZZA! CHEEELLLEEH !” He added in dialect which means “this is garbage,” while he mopped up the last bite of chili with his bread.
“I no cook for you again!” I tell him.
“GOOD!” He grumbles.
- MIT Teaches You How to Speak Italian & Cook Italian Cuisine All at Once (Free Online Course) (openculture.com)
- My Persian Father And My Italian In-Laws Part 1 (survivinginitaly.com)
- Eat: Remembering Marcella (nytimes.com)