Italians like to eat. But few of the ones I know in Ischia, a small island off the coast of Naples that is home to my husband and my ancestors, are adventurous when it comes to food. I’ve had them try Chinese food; most of them hated it. I’ve had them try Mexican; most of them complain it’s just too spicy. I’ve had them try sushi; most of them find it disgusting (I’m actually not a big fan myself, so I can’t gripe much about that one). My in-laws and my husband, however, are willing to try my American fare — and a few of the desserts they rather like. In the past, apple pie and chocolate chip muffins have been big winners with them.
This year, I decided to bring a Duncan Heinz lemon cupcake mix (from a box, which is sacrilege among southern Italians, who cook and bake everything from scratch). Well, my niece and I made the cupcakes and handed them over. After one bite, we earned a standing ovation for the cupcake’s moistness and the flavorful lemony zing. Friends, who visited the house, tasted the cupcakes and said they tasted better than some other Italian treats on hand. All the while, these gourmet Italians, who believe in only homemade goodness, had no idea what they were eating came out of a box, and I just had my niece add eggs, oil, and water and mix. Who knew entertaining could be so easy? Gotta love it!