Italian moms are not normal moms. The more you travel and meet people from other countries and talk about their families, the more you realise that there are some features that distinguish italian moms from all the other moms in the world. They are the result of a genetically modified experiment that combines, in ONE person, the love for food of 100 chefs, the strength of The Hulk, the investigation skills of an FBI agent, the perseverance of a Buddhist ascetic monk and the care of a million nurses… Foreigners think this is a stereotype, but if you are Italian, you have experienced it and you know it’s all true: the way Italian moms show their love is through their food.
For this reason, you know that a mom is a typical Italian mom when:
1…she loves cooking. It’s not just love. The typical Italian mom has a mix of love and obsession, for cooking really, cause she would cook even when she is too tired even to stand up, even when she’s got the flu. Even when you explicitly said “I am NOT HUNGRY!”.
2…she gets upset if you don’t want a second portion of her pasta. The typical Italian mom thinks that if you like a dish, you should at least have two portions of it. After finishing your first portion she would ask “ancora?” (“more?”). She says it as a question, but in reality it’s a statement. And you know that because if you say “no thanks, was lovely but I am fine”, she would turn and ask someone else at the table “he doesn’t like my pasta, does he?!”.
3…she asks “what would you like to eat for dinner?” while you are eating lunch. That’s all an Italian mom thinks about. When you are having lunch, you can talk about anything, but when the end of the meal approaches, the brain of a typical Italian mom gets the “alarm” signal: DINNER! So she asks what you would like to eat. Sometimes you are so full that you don’t even want to think about having dinner, but that is not an option.
4…she calls you over the phone and the first question is “What did you eat?”. If for example you go on holiday, the typical Italian mom doesn’t want to know how cool is the tropical island you are visiting. When you call her, she just wants to know what’s the food like in the place you are visiting and if there is someone in the world that can cook better than she does.
5…she sees you for the first time after weeks and she immediately exclaims LOUDLY “You slimmed down so much!”. The typical Italian mom suffers from some body-weight perception disorder. No matter how fatter or slimmer you are since last time she has seen you, she would always think you have outrageously slimmed down as she was not around to feed you properly. So if you are visiting her for a short weekend, e ready to run a food marathon of 6 course meals every 5 hours… the only way to survive it is to starve for a week just before visiting her.
6…she would suddenly say “I am not hungry” when there is little food left. The typical Italian mom gives up food when she thinks there is not enough for everyone. Even when there is plenty, she would play cautious and have just a tiny little portion and give a large one to all the others. So many times when she prepares a whole roasted duck or chicken for just the four of us, she would give us the leg or the breast and she would take for herself the neck (the neck of the chicken!!) and she would say “I SO MUCH LOVE THE NECK! It’s the tastiest part…”, pretending she is really treating herself, while all she is doing is leaving the best bits for you. Same for the cakes…if there are 3 cake slices and 4 of you at the table, she would panic and suddenly say “I’ve never liked cakes. You eat the cake while I’d rather have another bite of this incredibly delicious…(then she desperately looks at the table to find ANY alternative)…slice of white bread!”. Really…?!
7…she wants to be (and often is) the best in the kitchen. If you go out for a meal and eat something very, very good, and then you tell your mom, she would first get upset for 5 seconds (cause you are telling her you ate something amazing but it was not something she made!) but then the competition spirit overcomes and all she wants to match the dish you tried and do even better than that. So she would start asking you “what was in the dish exactly? Were there any particular aromas? It was more or less cooked than the one I usually prepare?”… the questions would continue until the typical Italian mom has finished her investigation and has got enough information to try to replicate that dish. An advice? When she has finally cooked it and she asks you to try it and give her your opinion, the ONLY answer is “wow mom, this is SO MUCH better than the one I had the other day at the restaurant!”. You will make her VERY happy !
8…she brings home-made food when she visits you. If you don’t live with her anymore (you don’t necessarily have to live abroad. An Italian mom thinks that you live far away even if you moved across the street from her), the typical Italian mom would cook something when she visits you: a cake, home-made pasta, lasagne…something. But she has to cook to show how much she loves you. When my mom comes to visit me from Italy, her hand-luggage becomes Mary Poppins handbag: she manages to stuff it with sausages, home-made lasagne, cakes (not one, several…), home-made bread, pizza, fruit from the family garden… she would leave at home even her beauty-case if that would allow her to put an extra piece of parmesan in the luggage.
9…she only eats Italian food when she travels abroad. The typical Italian mom doesn’t think that Italian food is one type of cuisine. She thinks Italian food is THE ONLY FOOD; all the other cuisines are mere attempts people make to survive when they have nothing better to eat. An Italian mom would suspiciously look at something that doesn’t look Italian, would make a weird face when smelling spices she doesn’t know (curry, cumin, even soy sauce makes my mom almost sick) and she would rather eat plain bread for a week than try some local foreign dish.
10…she always makes an observation on your clothing. This is not really related to food, though this characteristic is too peculiar to be left out: Italian moms have a sort of obsession with your body being too warm or too cold. In Italy we have several weather-related disease that, apparently, other Countries don’t have. Like “colpo d’aria” (literally…hit y the air): you get a colpo d’aria when you are sweaty and warm and there is a cold wind that hits your body causing a temperature shock. Italians (including myself) can be in pain for days after being hit by the air, and for this reason we use scarves, fluffy winter jackets and layers of clothes. For this same reason, we don’t like much air conditioning, as the cold air can hit you any time, especially if you walk in an air-conditioned room after a run outside on a hot summer day. For all these reasons, the typical Italian mom would always scan you when she sees you: you can hardly pass the mom-exam, and most of the times she would say something “isn’t it a too light jacket in such a cold day?”. Or “you are going to sweat a lot with this jumper, you’d better get a t-shirt instead”.
Image: my mom proud of her simple, though outstanding cake.
Italian moms are something everyone should experience at least once in a lifetime. Even the Wall Street Journal, just three years ago, featured an article titled “Why italian moms are the best“. We didn’t need a newspaper to confirm that, but it’s quite something to hear that everyone agrees on this point :). Italian moms are the most stubborn but caring, lovable creatures. If you are Italian, you surely know what I am talking about. If you are not Italian and you have Italian friends, ask them to invite you over to their parents for a week-end and get the full (intense!) experience. An advice? Don’t eat for a week before going, never say “no thanks” when more food is offered to you, even you are stuffed, and always say “this is the best dish I have ever tried”: if you do so, an invitation to come to visit the family again is guaranteed!
While waiting to have an “italian mom experience” you can have a taste of what’s going to be like just cooking some authentic italian dishes, like penne alla norcina pasta or the vegetarian destructured artichoke-carbonara pasta.
Also…here there are some funny episodes about me and about my mom in the kitchen…you may wanna check the picture of me as a HUGE chunky kid. I looked more like a little balloon really… :)