Thursday, April 06, 2006

Andiamo Italia!

Published April 6, 2006

My mother in law just returned from Italy. She took J.D.’s brother Tom with her on this trip home to the land of her parents. Tomaso studied the Italian language of his ancestors for several months prior to their departure, and apparently spoke mostly Italian while he was with a la famiglia. Coming home after only 10 days seemed but a sip from the chianti that must have passed his lips at the table of Zia (Auntie) in Talamona, a village in the north Italian Alps where Nonno Giuseppi was born. I remember that my husband was sorry to leave in ’95 after an incredible Easter vacation and upon his return, would only respond to us if we called him by his Italian name, Giovanni.
I had my own adventure with mia suocera (my mother in law) several years ago which lasted three weeks and included a family wedding and a private audience with the late great John Paul II. Some memories seem like dreams. I wonder if Tom has woken up yet from his Italian dream. I expect that it won’t be long before he takes his wife and children to the land of his parenti (relatives). When you walk into Zia’s house, she’ll cook for you a meal which has been prepared over a wood stove which she stokes herself all day long. She has a girth which embraces the whole family and a smile that could melt ice. When she walks through Talamona, people stop on the street to greet her because everyone in Talamona knows who she is. When you are in your 90’s, you command that kind of respect.
Italians eat their meals together because it is at the table where the family comes close to each other. They are rarely distracted by the television, unless, there is a really important futbol (soccer) match. Otherwise, it’s a three hour pranzo (lunch) which is the high meal of the day and a short cena (supper) before a stroll outside to meet and greet your neighbors and friends. Let there not pass a day without a proper siesta after pranzo, because rest is as important as work, because night is for cafés and gelato. We buy everything from our supermarkets. Italians buy bread from il fornaio (the bakery) and prosciutto from il pizzicagnolo (the deli). They prefer to walk rather than drive, and most meals are served in courses, rather than buffet or family style. Vegetables are fresh and canned in the cantina, which is below the house and wine is drunk from a 6 ounce table glass. After dinner, some will sip their amaro to aid digestion and enjoy espresso. The only time Italians have milk in their coffee is in the morning (latte) in a bowl. I guard the Talamona family tiramisu recipe with my life, and because of my trip there, I make my béchamel sauce myself when I serve lasagna. My kids eat risotto rather than rice, and we like our pizza on really thin crust.
The flowers are brighter, the fruit is sweeter, and the gnocchi divine in Italia. The family will welcome you, love you and nurture you until the time that you most bid them all farewell. But not for long are the goodbyes, because like many good meals, as you enjoy them, you plan the next one. MoMaher is headed back in May for another wedding, and Piero will be here in October to visit. I love when the family comes from Italy. I have a dream that Giovanni (J.D.) and I will live there one day, not too far from Lago di Como (Lake Como) near Fulvio and Luciana (his cousins). Ah, but I digress. Until next time, Arrivederci.
Tammy Maher is a resident of El Dorado Hills and a bi-weekly columnist for the Mountain Democrat. You can reach her by email at

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