Christmas Insanity: A COSI Post

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Ah, the holidays in December, the wonderful time of year when you accidentally jam your mother-in-law’s head in a hair dryer, that lovely month where your mom gives you a framed family picture that she’s photoshopped your dead brother into. Oh, December, oozing with spiced wine, hot toddies and cheer. And the house is filled with threatening music as your Italian husband dances around singing “you better watch out,” over and over again because he only knows that one line from Santa Claus Is Coming To Town. And guys, you had seriously better watch out. 

I don’t know about all of you but the holidays are always pretty damn crazy for me. Let’s take this year, for example. Tonight kicked off my holiday week with Yalda, or the Persian Winter Solstice. We ate about 9 billion things that my aunt cooked. Then, my dad blasted Persian music and commanded us to all dance in the center of the living room while my aunt filmed it, then I had to chase my frosting covered dog around to clean his face after my brother realized that the little shit had been sneaking sugar cookies out of a bowl. All the while a woman in a white suit with enormous shoulder pads shaked, and shimmied on the t.v., singing some Persian song about love. My 11 year old little sister asked, 

“Will you give me a baby for Christmas?” Because she wants to be an aunt again. 

“No, because it’s illegal to gift babies. And it would be kind of suspicious if I gave you a box with air holes punched in it.” 

She’s been asking me to have a baby for months. A few weeks ago she offered to help me look into “buying a cute one from someone.” Because she’s my sister so she creepy like that. 

Then my dad chimed in that we will never have a baby so Francesco shouldn’t get his hopes up. My aunt, looking very cute and modest with her head scarf on (she’s visiting from Iran), laughed and said, “oh, but tonight is the longest night of the year, you both can have a lot of opportunities tonight.” 

My other sister added, “just eat a bunch of pomegranate sis.” 

And then we all laughed, because in our family it’s apparently way normal to coax each other into a night of heavy mating with the help of aphrodisiacs. 

This is just getting started. This week will be interesting. 

On Christmas Eve, Francesco will make a traditional Italian fish feast of Baccala, clams with spaghetti, and possibly sardines or something, even though this Christmas we’ll be in Utah. I’ll feel anxious about over-fishing and empty oceans while F labors intensely over the meal. Holiday meals are a big deal in Italian culture but especially near the south. Food is huge. His mom has called every day for two weeks to ask, “but what are you making for Christmas Eve dinner?” Then F explains, again, and she’ll quickly jump in with ideas and directions (the same ideas and directions she’s already given 9 times). Then, right before they hang up she says, “and lasagne for Christmas?” And when F says “no ” again for the many-ith time, she switches to a sad tone and with crestfallen eyes goes, “oh,” loud sigh, “okay.” Then F will sometimes tell her to come here to make it for him and she’ll remind him that last year when she came to the US for Christmas, she’d hated it. Like all of it. 

On Christmas this year we will go to my dad’s house followed by my mom’s house. At my moms house my parents will be hungover from their cookie-making tradition, where my stepdad straps on an apron over his bare chest and sings Christmas carols while sipping whiskey and baking 14 dozen amazing cookies. My mom watches him mix batter, pounds Bud Light, and giggles. A jolly night, followed by a “oh what the fuck,” day. Glorious. My little brother and his girlfriend will bring over one of my nephews at some point, and I’ll spend the remainder of my day trying to stop Oliver and the baby from maiming each other, because small dogs and fiesty toddlers don’t mix. Meanwhile, my mom and stepdad will look drained and nauseous in their recliners. My mom will briefly come to life when we open our gifts to declare herself an elf and laugh with Joy about the magic of Christmas. 

After this, Francesco and I will go to the home of my stepdad’s parents, and I’ll gorge myself on delicious food and way too much wine. Then, more likely than not, I’ll say random, weird things, often useless facts about animals, or spout off sex research I recently read in Mary Roache’s book, Bonk. Or, worst case I just drink too much wine and stare off into space or uncomfortably at someone. Francesco and I will arrive home around five and I’ll wonder just how weird I acted and hope that nobody noticed (they notice). 

Francesco and I will crawl into bed and I’ll mumble, “next year we are going to Hawaii because this is exhausting.” 

But next year will come around and we’ll choose family, insanity, and exhaustion again. Because it’s too weird and too important to miss. 

Check out these awesome Holiday COSI Posts From My Badass Friends. 

Rochelle, Unwilling Expat – A Panettone Story

Georgette, Girl In Florence — 10 Holiday Fails From Around The World

Rick Zullo, Rick’ Rome-Christmas In Italy

Furbizia: The Italian Art Of Being Sly

sneaky

Image: http://mobilesecurityreport.com/

When my in-laws were here last Christmas (some of you remember that insane three week period of my life), Francesco and I took them to Las Vegas for a few days. After our hotel lost our reservation, twice, and gave us a room without pillows (WTF!?) Francesco complained and the hotel gave us a discount. The moment my in-laws heard that we’d complained and therefore been given a discount their eyes all but burst out of their sockets. My God, the possibilities! My father-in-law joked, “We should go to a restaurant and say we’re sick so we get free food! We should tell them that all of their food made us vomit!” The ideas started to flow. How could we get everything for free in the US from that moment forward?

“But how are businesses still in business?” My father-in-law asked, “doesn’t everyone just lie to get everything for free?”

“No.”

“Why?”

“Because complaining about stuff has consequences and people could lose their jobs?” I responded, confused, “I mean, I guess dirtbags do it.”

“This would never work in Italy. The business would go broke!”

“If they had good customer service they’d go broke?” I asked.

“Yes! Everyone would lie to get it for free and nobody would pay for it anymore. It would be stupid for the business” he laughed.

My father-in-law is a man who loves rules, is an upstanding citizen, and a retired detective. This is a man who runs his home like a military camp, and yet he was thrilled that his son had been “furbo,” by getting a discount at the hotel. When I told him that Francesco wasn’t doing anything clever or sneaky, he was simply letting the manager know there were problems, and that in the US it’s normal to do that but not to exploit it, his mind was nearly blown.

I’m not sure that another scenario could better sum up the Italian sub-cultural phenomenon of Furbizia than that conversation. By definition, Furbizia is basically a quality of “achieving goals using ingenious tricks,” according to the Italian dictionary. Clever, cunning, sly, are some other synonyms. One could also call it being a massive douche bag, but often in Italy, within certain groups, it’s considered smart.

A common perception is that the person being sly is a badass whereas the person being screwed over is a moron who deserves it for not paying attention or not exploiting the opportunity themselves. If you think about it, it’s a genius way to be a dick and take zero responsibility for it. Sadly, it contributes to a cultural layer of manipulation and distrust. The sly trick can be as small as making a business agreement with someone then “accidentally” fudging it, feigning ignorance when caught, or it can be as large as Bettino Craxi who famously embezzled taxpayer’s money and then fled to Tunisia. How clever. It’s not necessarily lying or cheating, rather, exploiting possibilities. It is a game of who can cut all the angles or out sneak their opponent and by opponent I mean the rest of the world.

I’ve been overcharged for drinks, screwed in business deals (also recently, note: we bloggers all talk, bad idea to play sneaky with our crowd, asshole businesses), ass-raped by landladies, all in the game of furbizia. It’s not uncommon, especially if you’re foreign and speak Italian like a drunk toddler. It’s a lot more difficult to pull one over on a local because they are so damn prepared for it that they are constantly on guard. Even my eight year old niece is skeptical of the world already. My husband seems to think that everyone is trying to sneak one over on him and unfortunately it’s because people often are. He’s the kind of guy where someone will try to give him a free sample in Costco and he’ll back away nervously wondering what they want in return. When Francesco and I first started dating he wondered if I had ulterior motives, that I was furbo because “nobody is this honest, you’re trying to trick me.” I actually thought he was insane until I noticed that a lot of his friends approached the world with the same doubt. It isn’t to say that everyone in Italy is trying to screw each other, that’s not true at all, for example most of our friends couldn’t be further from this type of behavior, but sometimes it can feel like the whole country is trying to bend you over (without lube).

The “art,” of furbizia is basically the art of pushing all the boundaries and some people are pros. You’ve seen it before in every soccer game where an Italian player will throw themselves to the ground and pretend to be injured to buy time. Francesco’s teammates used to do that during games and the Europeans from the other teams wanted to kill them. “Just play an honest game mate!” they’d yell. The Italians would smile after the match, “Did you see what I did,” proud of their contribution to the win. It’s a bit different in soccer than the other examples but the idea is still the same.

Every country has liars and thieves, assholes, and douchebags. In the US we have it all, probably more of it, but it seems a bit different. In the US these sneaky types are usually either blatant criminals or involved in white collar crime (arguably much worse) but I’ve never worried that a Starbucks employee might over charge me for a coffee so they could pocket the change (not because Americans are better people, but because people would lose their goddamn jobs and their minds. And surveillance cameras of the all-knowing big brother are pervasive in American culture). Until now, I probably just gave everyone an awesome idea. Great. I’m onto you, Starbucks. 

You would think that after so many years i’d be used to it but I’m not sure that’s possible. Not because I’m gullible or naive but because I’m lazy. I don’t have the energy to check, double check, triple check to see if people are pulling one over on me or not. If I do notice, it pisses me off and I’ll end that relationship immediately (especially business relationships) but I can’t seem to get into the mindset of wondering constantly if there’s a loophole to take advantage of or if I’m being screwed. It just seems exhausting, although, if I did hop on the bandwagon of furbizia I might save a lot of euros here or there, and in a culture of the  cunning, with politicians playing the same game, and economies failing, we could all use an extra buck and an extra boost.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is a COSI post! The fun never ends! Check out what my fellow bloggers had to say about the same subject.

Girl In Florence: Why Being Furbo In Italy Is Anything But Cool

Rick Zullo: What Does It Mean To Be Furbo?

Unwilling Expat: Italy’s Cheating Heart

Englishman In Italy: Furbizia

Sex, Lies, And Nutella: Tourists Beware Fighting Furbizia In Italy

Married to Italy: Furbizia- a blessing or a curse

The Florence Diaries: A life lesson in Con-Artistry

What Does It Mean To Be Authentically Italian?

“Yeah, but does the place have real Italian food? I mean, is it authentic in your opinion?” my friend asked when I told her about this new restaurant that was opening in our home town. Since moving to Italy in 2009, I’d been deemed the Great Authenticator by people back home regarding anything related to Italy. No, chicken alfredo is not “Italian.” Yes, I suppose being romantic might be an Italian thing depending on your definition of “romantic.” No, bbq chicken pizza is not really a thing. Yes, real people drive scooters in Italy.

us

My husband is proudly, authentically Italian. I am proudly not (I’ve got enough crazy up in my life). This is us, in Naples a few years ago. Naples is debatably not “Italian,” depending on who you ask.

Where Italy is concerned, the struggle to pin down what is “authentic” versus what isn’t can be a full time job. Pretty much everything is up for debate and not even Italians can really agree on what makes something Italian or not.

“Prada isn’t Italian anymore, they have Chinese workers in their factories,” my hairstylist said to the old lady with the hot pink lipstick sitting next to me. If a foreign national touches it, it’s no longer authentic, and it’s probably contaminated with icky “otherness.”

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Valentines Day: Seducing Your Partner The Italian Way

“If you fill a room with women, Italians, and men from the US, the American men would have no chance. That’s just a fact.” -My Super Humble Husband

BUY ME PIZZA

I wouldn’t say that all Italian men are romantic because that wouldn’t be true and “romantic,” implies a lasting quality (many spouses and long term partners will tell you that the romance is short-lived), but I feel confident in saying that Italian men are pretty damn good at seduction, maybe even the best, rivaled only by the French in both skill and dedication.

Whether or not you are into grand romantic gestures, there’s a chance that whatever they’re up to will still work, especially if you’ve had a glass of wine or two. Both cynics and romantics alike have fallen for the Italian man’s swagger, shameless ability to go way over the top, and magical gift for making their potential partners feel very, very special, even if they aren’t. I’ve spoken with both women and men who’ve said that they believed they would marry their one-night-stand, all the way up until they never heard from the guy again.

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Happy (Late) New Year! What I’ve Learned

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE! Are you guys having the best time EVER!?

Happy New Years! Revisiting The 1920's, booze, guns, wine, and jazz!

Happy New Years! Revisiting The 1920’s, booze, guns, wine, and jazz! I HAVE A FEATHER!

This year has been crazy. I feel more like myself than I have in a long while. I’m hopeful and I feel like my goals, while scattered, are actually coming together. My book is quasi finished. It took me 6 months longer than planned but I guess that’s life, right? I’m okay with it (or at least I’m trying to be, if I say it over and over again I might be…).

For New Years we were going to stay home with the in-laws but decided around 11:30 p.m. to go out for a few hours. By then everyone was already drunk or asleep but we found a Gatspy party in Phoenix that F was totally determined to go to even though it was practically midnight. We only stayed for a short while but we saw friends, a few fire breathers, some samba dancers. Everyone decked out in their finest 1920’s attire. I was practically naked and totally freezing but that’s what champagne is for. 2015 started with us on a hotel roof, champagne in hand, me, clad in fishnets and black fringe, F wearing a mobster outfit and gun holster.

I think that this year is going to be a big year for us and hopefully it’s totally BADASS.

Resolutions: my entire life is a giant resolution. I make them daily, weekly, and monthly but I only accomplish them about 9% of the time. I usually skip the New Years resolution but I think this year I could use an extra boost. We have a lot of decision to make, we’re on the cusp of so many huge projects coming to fruition. Holy shit! It’s pretty scary. I want to finish my books, get more articles published, blog more, and do more things to make the world totally badass so we don’t die. The world needs a lot of help, guys. Did you guys make any resolutions this year?

What I’ve learned this year: The only way to accomplish goals is to take the steps necessary to accomplish them every, single, day. There is never a right time to do it. Don’t think about it, or talk about it, just get on it and get it done. Don’t try to do it all at once, just do it a little at a time. Put everything you have into everything you do. I wish I’d learned this earlier. What life lessons have you learned? Put it in the comments below. I’m a slow learner and could use any help I can get.

What else I’ve learned? Go to Hawaii for the holidays from now on.

The holidays have been insane and have taught me a number of hard lessons like this gem via my MIL, “You’ll die if the house is warm and you go outside. So, you have to keep the house cold or wear three puffy coats, a hat, scarf, and hypothermia prevention blankets to venture out into 60 degree weather.” I might be slightly exaggerating that one, but not by much.

I’ve also learned that if I want to have any kind of a future, I should quit writing to “learn how to give pedicures at the beauty school,” again, according to my MIL. I should also get pregnant, like tomorrow, so my in-laws can punch my kids because good parents “smack their children a lot.”

We’re getting closer to starting a family. This year could be that year if I can get over my Tokaphobia (it’s a real thing) and be cool with having a freeloading sea monkey in my stomach for 9 months followed by it ninja-killing my vagina. Mostly. Having my in-laws here is kind of like baby repellent for me.

Another thing I learned: Multi-cultural families are very, very difficult. Approach with caution. They can be amazing, enriching, and wonderful but they can also be exclusive, prejudice, and confusing. A lot of the American expats I know find everything Italy related to be blissfully perfect (including nationalism and bigotry mistaken for “pride”). I don’t. I think that every country has its pros and cons and an ideal situation would allow you to pick and choose the best cultural things to create a whole lot of awesome. For example, I like the “Go Get It!” culture in the US, but I dislike the individuality and selfishness that can come with it. I love how family-oriented Italian culture is, but I dislike that appreciation and respect can quickly become controlling and manipulative.

After I gestate our mini-us, it’s going to have to be a person (and given the way my dog turned out my mini-person is going to awesome and a total terror). Also, this person will be related to my husband’s family. They’re not the worst people in the world and they have a lot of good things to offer our kids if they could just chill out a little (or a lot). It’s not just that they were raised in a tiny town, it’s not abnormal that they are traditional, a little narrow-minded, and not at all accepting of anything that isn’t from small-town, Italy.  They are also type A personalities, Italian nationalists, and people who have been married for forty years and dislike each other a lot which is probably common and is sad but they’re a little bitter and have some insane arguments on the reg that I’d prefer my kids not to witness, ever.

In addition, everything we do is always up for family debate. We once had a 40 minute conversation about what color of underwear I was wearing with tan pants and another time they carried my pap-smear results around the house talking amongst themselves about my vagina. I don’t mind the intrusion when it’s because they are concerned or just want to help. I loathe it when it’s a, “this is how we do it so you must or the world will end,” thing aka, “you can’t drink coffee before you shower,” or, “real men don’t do dishes.”

This attitude will be problematic for me because my idea of child-rearing is a bit different from theirs. Their parenting sounds like an 80’s rap song, “Just hit it… preferably in the head. If you can’t reach it to punch it, then scream in its face in public.” It’s not that I was never spanked, I definitely was, but I’d like to do things a bit differently with the fruit of my loins. What I’ve learned from having a dog around them is this: Regardless of how much I’m against hitting dogs, if I’m not around they’ll go ahead and do it for me. This worries me because if someone take it upon themselves to “spank” one of my kids I’ll break their damn arm off and beat them to death with it. The real problem is that my husband has “perfect son,” syndrome and he has a hard time telling them, “no,” and standing up to them. It’s not that he’s scared, it’s that he doesn’t want to hurt their feelings. I get that. I love my parents, a lot, but I’m okay with yelling at him, when he says something homophobic. Same with my mom. Franny, on the other hand, tunes it out and goes to his happy place somewhere deep inside his weird/brilliant engineer brain. Which is okay, but it leaves me yelling things at his parents like, “STOP POINTING AT BROWN PEOPLE AND SCREAMING, “MEXICAN!” WE ARE NOT IN A ZOO!” It’s awkward and not something I want to deal with as a parent. I might explode the first time my three year old plays, “Spot the Morrocan,” with it’s grandparents. I feel helpless because I feel alone in dealing with it. I also feel like it’s not my place to yell at someone else’ parents because I was taught not to yell at old people.

Even talking about children in front of them gives me anxiety. They have this idea that our children will only belong to Francesco. They’ll be HIS kids, completely absent from myself or my people. “You cannot raise your children to be multicultural. They must be Italian! THEY MUST BE ITALIAN” They told my husband, hysterically, as he tried to explain to them that our kids will be Persian, American, and Italian. Their view that anything that isn’t Italian is inherently bad is just depressing and it makes me sad to think that our kids will be “tainted,” in their minds. How will my kids feel being told they are only half “good?” My husband and I are in love and we’re happy. You would think that that alone would be enough for any parent.

Other words of wisdom from my in-laws regarding kids, “Your dog would be better if you hit him! HIT HIM! You can’t do like this with children! You’ll have to hit them”

“We believe that if you don’t baptize babies, if they die, they’ll go to purgatory.”

“Pasta is not a carb.”

“It’s healthier to eat donuts for breakfast than eggs.”

What I’m Trying To Learn This Year: How to navigate difficult personalities in a loving way without ruining relationships or murdering anyone. Hopefully it will be on my list next year of “Things I’ve Learned. If you have advice, I’d love to hear it.

Family aside, I want this year to be a year of accomplishing things without bullshit. I’m a procrastinator. I self-sabotage and am probably more afraid of getting what I want more than anything else. I hope this year I can kick my own ass and accomplish things I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Such as, FINISH MY DAMN BOOKS, travel more, possibly bake a mini-us, paint and draw more, and train Oliver to walk on a leash. Also, to be more romantic with my husband (on days I don’t want to put forks in his eyes). By “romantic,” I don’t mean “have more sex.” I mean, like, surprise him with dates, buy him flowers, and stuff. You pervs.

Another thing I’ve learned this year: We don’t have that much time. Time goes so fast and before you know it you’re 90 and haven’t done shit that you set out to do.

I hope you guys have a wonderful new year filled with magic, love, and accomplishments. Thank you for all the support, for the fun stories, the great advice, and the new friendships. Tanti baci, from us to you!

THIS IS A VERY LATE COSI POST! CHECK OUT MY FAVORITE ITALY BLOGS AND THEIR ITALY NEW YEARS STORIES ON COSI!

 

 

Foraging, Toxoplasmosis, And Eating Until You Die In Cassino, Italy

One morning while visiting my in-laws I sat on the balcony sipping an Americano while watching my father-in-law forage in a nearby field. I could make out a bundle of something under his right arm, on occasion the sun would reflect off of the scissors in his other hand. He’d bend down, pop up, take a few steps and repeat. The man must have been getting one hell of an ass workout.

The foraging field in Cassino

The foraging field in Cassino

“Francesco!” I yelled,” I think your father is foraging random greenery from that field nearby. Can you make him stop?”

Francesco appeared in the balcony doorway, cradling our poodle, “Why would I stop him?” He squinted towards the field, “it’s for dinner.”

“Nooo!” I panicked, “We’re going to get toxoplasmosis. That field is home to about six-thousand feral cats. There was a dead one just lying here the last time I took Oliver out to pee. Which reminds me that Oliver pees and shits there.”

Francesco shrugged and reached for my coffee cup, “Don’t be so dramatic! He’ll wash them and cook them. I had toxoplasmosis when I was younger. It’s not like it would kill us.”

I was no longer looking at my husband, rather, I was looking at a man who had a disease associated with ingesting cat shit and he was slobbering all over my coffee. How had I not known about his infestation of icky before I’d signed legal documents to bind myself to him.

“Why are you glaring at me?” He smiled, “Is it because I had that and now you’re grossed out?”

“Yeah, exactly. Get your hands off of my coffee. You’re lucky you weren’t pregnant. You would have had a Toxic Avenger baby.”

“Huh?” He went back inside.

I really wasn’t that surprised that my husband had contracted a crap disease since at that very moment his dad burst onto the balcony with his glorious bounty, chest puffed out, arms full of green bushes. “You eat the poops of cats,” I mumbled as I walked inside.

When I first moved to Italy I thought, “Pasta! Pizza! Wine!” but that was before I realized that pasta and pizza were just the two Italian dishes that were easier to market to the rest of the world. Some of their other dishes just didn’t catch on in the same way and rightfully so. I was surprised the first time I found Baby Bird Stew, on the menu at a friend’s house, a dish that is exactly what it sounds like: Baby birds, in their entirety, in tomato sauce. Another time a restaurant served us Illegal Boiled Baby Fish that looked more like boiled semen. Then there’s the horse, the pigeon, the cow balls, the stuffed lamb brains, sheep intestine panini, and stomach lining soup. I could now add, “Cat Crap Field Greens,” into the mix of things that I just couldn’t convince myself to try. It’s not only because the food is “weird,” but also because I was vegan for ten years and animal products just kind of scare me. Plus, brains are gross. Zombies eat brains, not people.

Mmmm. Lamb brains (yes, seriously).

Mmmm. Lamb brains (yes, seriously).

Francesco’s family finds my weak stomach both hilarious and puzzling. But how did I know I wouldn’t like cheese with worms in it? Come on! It’s a specialty from Sardegna! I agreed with them that there was no way to know for sure but I certainly wasn’t willing to try. Yes, it was probably because the food in my country is weird. Yes, it’s probably because I grew up eating Kraft Mac And Cheese. I agreed that yes, that’s exactly why I couldn’t possibly know anything about good food. 

Most of the food is quite delicious in Cassino and the surrounding cities. The food in the south is, and I say this expecting people to get really regionally defensive, my favorite food in Italy. It’s surprisingly diverse and very “comfort food,” in it’s simplicity. My favorite restaurants in Italy are in Cassino. You have Al Mulino, an impressive, incredible restaurant with super fresh dishes made from scratch that surpass many of the restaurants I’ve eaten at abroad. There is also Bianco/Noir, a fish restaurant that serves dishes like Branzino packed in sea salt and spaghetti alle vongola. In Cassino, as with much of Italy, everything is seasonal. In the Autumn we eat a lot of Zucca (pumpkin), squash, greens, simple cooked proteins often simmered in tomato sauce or lemon and oil.

Oysters on the half shell

Oysters on the half shell

Pasta with clams and parsley

Pasta with clams and parsley

My mother-in-law is an amazing cook and can whip up a fifty-course meal in three hours which takes another 7 hours to eat and I leave sick, heavier, tired and grumpy. The seafood in Cassino is often fresh and prepared with minimal ingredients and processing which is delicious, perfect, and totally created another culinary complication for me. Fish is served intact with it’s head or legs or whatever still attached. The first time I ate shrimp with my in-laws I stared at it for a long time trying to figure out what to do with it. I stabbed, poked, and pulled at it for twenty minutes. My husband eventually felt sorry for me enough to pull my plate over to his to help me. He had a look on his face like I’d just asked him to teach me to write my name. My father-in-law shook his head at me, stabbed a shrimp head from my plate, and popped it into his mouth. “Crunch, crunch, crunch, kist americana…”

Most days in Cassino we eat pretty typical things. I start the day with a chocolate brioche-which tastes like heaven and is usually freshly baked that morning-and Capuccino. It’s a sugary, caffeinated combo, a rush followed by a terrible crash, and withdrawal, similar to meth. Probably. For lunch if we’re lucky my mother-in-law makes roasted potatoes, broccolini (ideally not from the cat field), and meatballs or some protein followed by fruit and walnuts (that have occasionally been filled with a worm or two as they were pulled from some random tree nearby). If we’re not lucky my father-in-law makes some perverse version of Minestrone: Water, frozen vegetables, clams and calamari (no broth, flavoring, salt or pepper). Dinners are usually light, a homemade pizza made with broccolini and kalamata olives and occasionally sardines or Zuppa Di Fagioli e Verze (soup with beans and cabbage). Holidays or special occasions are when the hours of eating, and the random weird are brought to the table. You’re moving away? BALLS! Come to our house! GUTS! That’s when the “statement” dishes are busted out along with the delicious, less “bold,” recipes. It’s important to make an impression.

Ricotta And Spinach.

Ricotta And Spinach.

Food is something you give to people you care about, food is how you connect, how you impress, and how you love. You adore your family by stuffing them full of anything and everything you can buy or possibly find.

That one day that my father-in-law was stalking the nearby fields for edible greenery was for a party we were having with friends. He wanted the best cuts of meat so he called all of the butchers personally, he wanted the best produce so he and his wife visited a number of markets, and he wanted fresh so he spent the day out in the sun picking what nature provided. The Mozz Di Bufala was made the day before, there were homemade canned and pickled vegetables, meats from animals raised just down the road, and cheese from a place not even 15 minutes away. There were also other random body parts that in the US we often toss away. That’s the beauty of Cassino cuisine, really. They still have that old mentality that food is food, food is currency, everything that can be consumed, should be, nothing should go to waste, and if the toxoplasmosis doesn’t kill you, the fields are ripe for the pickin’.

THIS IS A COSI POST! CHECK OUT WHAT THE REST OF THE GANG IS SAYING ABOUT FOOD THIS WEEK ON MY COSI PAGE.

COSI: Ferragosto! Pirates, Family, And Eating Until You Explode

Ferragosto is celebrated on the 15th of August. It was originally a pagan thing like most of the holidays we celebrate (What!? I’m SORRY! It’s TRUE! What does a giant bunny with treats have to do with Jesus? Nothing! That’s what!). Ferragosto was celebrated clear back in Roman times as people thanked Goddess Diana and the God Vortumno for awesome crops and all of that. Woot! Now, Ferragosto is a day of picnics, fun, and family time. In our family it is often the day of stuffing your face for four or five or ten hours until you pretty much barf, or try to barf but can’t, or just eat , sleep and dream about barfing.

For me Ferragosto signifies something even cooler than crop celebration (although celebrating food is kind of a big deal, too). It also signifies the beginning of summer vacation for many of us. In Italy, a good number of citizens get around three weeks of vacation per year. Two weeks in August and one week in December. It’s kind of amazing and probably why the homicide rate is lower in Italy than in the US. I’d be less inclined to kill people if I got to go on vacation every August, too. Last year my husband and I went some friends to Barcelona and the south of France beginning on Ferragosto. We drove from Cassino all the way to Barcelona and back. We had a blast. We danced in a nightclub that was on the beach. I convinced everyone afterwards to go “kind of skinny dipping” in the Sea. Drunk. Which is basically the only way you can get me near water because SHARKS. Then we went to some other city that was really amazing that I can’t remember because I’m not a travel writer but it was cute. We rented a paddleboat with a plastic slide on top where I sat -perched like a dog on a floating door after a flood-surveying the area for SHARKS while the guys swam. In the south of France we visited Arles, Ax-En-Provence, and Montpellier. In Arles around 1 a.m. I dragged my husband out for a hot date (me in a leather skirt running up and down the back streets making motor boat noises and summoning sailers) and we almost became Pirates. Which was like a dream come true.

Ferragosto to me is a reminder that there is more to life than work and productivity. That there is family, friends, places to see, things to do, outside of an office and without deadlines. Much of the world could learn something from Ferragosto itself and the following weeks of vacation that allow people to be people again.

AAAAND!

This Post Was Part Of Così (The expat mafia).

Check out what the other members of C.O.S.I had to say on the same subject.