There’s a reason we all seek out our heavy duty ice cream scoop whenever life gets us down. That creamy deliciousness is refreshing and filling and full of hope. The softer, fluffier, more sophisticated gelato practically reaches out and hugs you when you’re trying to fill that emptiness deep down inside of you with cream and sugar. And it works every. single. time.
Simply put, gelato is the feel-good dessert of forever. That’s why I believe it is a year round dessert. In fact, I’ve learned to make gelato and ice cream myself, and this time of year my relatives demand expect pumpkin and gingerbread varieties as often as possible. My devotion to gelato has had me thinking about Italian desserts. The truth is that other than gelato, I’m not the biggest fan of popular Italian sweets. I hate coffee, so tiramisu doesn’t do it for me. Some of the pastries are all right, but I’m not as devoted as others I know, who can’t miss a holiday or Sunday as an opportunity for sampling one (or six) of those babies.
Then, I started digging deeper and thinking about the everyday treats Italians enjoy that I was taking for granted. These are not the stars of the holiday feasts, but they are tasty and they show up often for breakfast or Sunday lunch. I realized most of the people outside of Italy – even Italian Americans – don’t really know or appreciate these desserts. That led me to write “4 Italian Desserts to Brighten Your Holiday Table” for the Our Paesani column on ItaliansRus. I thought, “Why not let these guys be the star of the show for once?” Indeed, they will be and you’ll be happier – and more fulfilled – after learning about them. Take it from me. These desserts made me realize I’m not an Italian desserts hater, after all.
Okay, okay, social media has its flaws. I’ll be the first to admit that reading about my friends’ perfect lives has made me hate myself on more than one occasion. There’s nothing like a video of your friend’s 2-year-old reading a book better than most college students to make you feel like a failure as a mother. Of course, the ignorant fools, who leave four-letter words, racism, sexism, and inappropriate language in general on the comments sections of stories or posts are a common nuisance of anyone in media. And we’ve all felt our privacy invaded, thanks to Facebook or Instagram or some other platform, plenty of times already, and I’m sure there’s more to come. Hurray – note sarcasm.
But – and this is a big but – you have to admit that social media keeps you connected in ways you never imagined. Here are the top reasons to quit hating on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and all the rest:
You can easily promote anything and everything good in your life. This includes your genius child (even if it can get annoying), wildly interesting cats, adorable puppy, and all that work stuff (startups, awards, promotions, or stuff you write). As a writer trying to get eyeballs on my words, I have no place putting down social media. With one click, I can reach a large group of people, who potentially could share my stories with even more people.
You can get support when things go wrong. It’s no secret that I’ve been a bit of a mess since March, when I was with my grandfather as he passed away. In the days following, I wrote about what he meant to me and our family, and the response was tremendous – at least for me. Lots of people shared the condolences, their own memories of Grandpa Rocco, and gave me a lift when I needed it most. I’ve witnessed this kind of support with others, who were remembering loved ones, dealing with difficult injuries and illnesses, or going through the emotional turmoil of having a miscarriage or going through a divorce or a slew of other challenges and obstacles.
The pictures are so pretty. C’mon, your best friend from kindergarten has some cute kids, even if they are presented as geniuses. Those cats are fluffy and adorable, too. And the food porn makes you hungry at least once a day. It’s all easy on the eyes, and a lot of it is even inspirational.
You can stay close to family and friends near and far. Without Facebook, I would never know that my cousins in Italy helped host a neighborhood festival in the homeland or what my cousin in France’s wedding was like. I probably wouldn’t even be talking to my friends from elementary school, never mind watching their kids grow up and their careers blossom. I keep in touch with old teachers, old friends, and even new family. And I can talk to my readers in real time as they are reading and commenting on my stories. That trumps all.
I still remember the days of my early youth when my parents and nonni would wait for a certain Sunday each month to call one relative in Italy to catch up. They would have to be able to get an open phone line, which wasn’t always possible because everyone tried to call their relatives back home on Sundays. Sometimes, it would take hours to get through, and you would have only minutes to get in a jam-packed conversation that the designated relative would then have to relay to everyone in the piazza. For me, the ability to stay connected with social media – with everyone at once – far outweighs any negatives.
Still, I’m an observer of people, so I felt compelled to relay the differences between how Italians – particularly young people – use social media versus everyone else I know. You can read all about that in my latest Our Paesani post, “How Italians Use Facebook.” If you like it, be sure to share it with your friends on social media. Emoji wink, emoji wink!
Italians take dining seriously. That’s why they don’t permit students or aspiring actors to wait tables in restaurants. You have to be trained. You have to know food. You have to be a service professional. It’s a whole other level. Trust me, this is not like heading to the local Applebee’s. You can read all about the Italian dining experience in “How Professional Waiters Make Dining in Italy an Experience,” my latest Our Paesani column for ItaliansRus.
Don’t let the headline fool you. I would never profess to be the best mother in the world. I’m the furthest thing from it. Let me explain. I’m not neglectful or abusive. And I’m full of love. Actually, I’m oozing the gooey, mushy stuff most of the time. But I make one mistake after another (unable to keep him in time out, giving in when he wants a cheese cracker instead of kale, never knowing what to do when he has a tantrum, worrying about balancing time with him and my work, and the list goes on). To sum up, I’m never quite sure I’m doing the right thing despite my best intentions. Still, I’m fairly certain that every mother the world over feels the same at one time or another. That makes us all the best moms. After all, that feeling – a mix between guilt, disappointment, and so much love you believe your heart is about to burst into flames like a car in a Die Hard movie – is a terrific motivator to try and do better. So, we march on. And we try. And we do better at least half the time. The good news is that the other half the time we’re building character in our kids. Or at least that’s how I like to look at it late at night when I can’t sleep because I’m wondering if I’m ruining his life.
While I think we’re all the best moms we can be, I am most familiar with one breed – Italian mammas. They are my people. They raised me, and I am the mother I am because of them. That’s why I recently wrote down the reasons I love ’em and think of them as the best mammas out there for an Our Paesani column on ItaliansRus.com. No one else should take offense. These ladies are just the best for me. I know your kind of mamma is the best for you. And you are indeed the best for your kid. Happy Mother’s Day to all!
Nonno – otherwise known as my father – loves to give his grandchildren a loaf of Italian bread each. He gets a kick out of how the two boys chew on it like it’s the greatest thing since, well, sliced bread. I know. I know. This is anti-everything healthy. But it’s so very Italian of us to hand our kids Italian bread as a snack. And ain’t nobody stoppin’ Nonno, although I’d love to see one of the moms in the Kale Chip Gestapo try. Now that would be a match for the ages!
Once these little guys are talking in complete sentences, their complaints about belly aches post bread will be very Italian, too. This week’s installment of Our Paesani on ItaliansRus will have you laughing out loud with its assessment of indigestion among Italians. It’s a cultural phenomenon, akin to Topo Gigio, that rarely gets the attention it deserves. So, grab your belly and hang on ’cause it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
I felt like having a little fun today. I wrote up a little ditty based on the holiday classic, the “12 Days of Christmas.” I tried to come up with the Italian version, and I think I did a pretty good job. Give it a read on the ItaliansRus site, and let me know what you think. Except for the Latin lovers calling, I think I wouldn’t mind getting these gifts. (Some of them I’ve already received many, many times; you Nonnas ready to share “advice” know who you are.) Buon natale!
It’s no secret that I am not a fan of doing laundry in Italy. Ok, so who’s a fan of doing laundry in general, right? Well, I am pretty certain Italian women are fans of it. I’ve mentioned before that if ironing was an Olympic sport, the Italians would win gold every time. And in my latest Our Paesani column for Italiansrus, “Italian Laundry and How It Divides Us,” I explain how dirty clothes can unearth cultural differences that you may never have known existed. I unintentionally provide a tutorial on how to become an Olympian of laundry, too. Now, I’m going to avoid ending this entry by referencing the cliche, “airing my dirty laundry.” I guess the temptation was too strong. Sorry.
I’ve given in and forgiven Ischia, Italy for all its flaws. In the spirit of the holiday season, I’m giving the beautiful island a second chance at my love. Granted, I am not nearly as naive as I once was and my eyes are wide open at 35. I don’t think we’ll ever reach the level of passion I had for the place when I was a twentysomething, but our relationship can evolve. There’s no way I want to live there. Ever. But I owe the place a lot, since it’s the home of my ancestors and my husband with whom I have my most precious gift, our son. You can read all about why I was on the outs with Ischia and why we’re making up in the “Gift of Second Chances” for the ItaliansRus.comOur Paesani column. Besides, how could I resist those gorgeous sandy beaches come summer time or the yummy food year round?
Discover the 5 beaches I think you should visit in Ischia, the island off the coast of Naples that is the home of my ancestors, my husband, and for the time being me. While the beach in the photo above – the one we go to most often out of convenience – is briefly mentioned in the story I wrote for ItaliansRus and Las Vegas’ La Voce newspaper, it is not among the 5 best. It is, however, among my personal favorites because it brings such joy to Baby Boy. He merrily spent one day last week at San Pietro Beach throwing sand in the air as though it was confetti and investigating and throwing rocks and pebbles into the water to see how big a splash they would make. It is days like that one that make being away from home far more tolerable. Di Meglio is the author of Fun with the Family New Jersey (Globe Pequot Press Travel, 2012) and the Guide to Newlyweds for About.com.
My gift to you on this Mother’s Day is a funny list, “20 Signs Your Italian Man is a Mamma’s Boy,” which I wrote for my ItaliansRus column, “Our Paesani.” Check it out. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry (well, only if you truly are with an Italian mamma’s boy). I hope you had a very happy Mother’s Day.