My family is Italian. This has led to some awkward moments in my life. The first was when I was about eight, and I joked to someone about “those people that eat Ragu.” Imagine my shock when that person blinked at me then said “my family eats Ragu,” in a very offended tone. When I told my mom about it, she broke the terrible truth to me that most people eat jarred pasta sauce. Also that if I mocked Ragu regularly I would be left with few friends. I did not heed this advice as I should have.
I made poor life choices and moved from California to Northern Virginia for college. A friend invited me to their home during my freshman year. It turned out this friend was also Italian, and his father made us the most delicious lasagna. Homesick, I wept as the lasagna was set on the table. This was the moment I lost all my dignity.
My husband’s family is from Jacksonville, Florida. They are not Italian. My entire world was shaken upon the knowledge that the traditional Christmas dinner is not lasagna, ravioli, or stuffed shells but ham or turkey or steak. I have several problems with this:
- Ham is fine, but not as good as lasagna.
- We JUST HAD TURKEY for Thanksgiving, and no one really loves turkey.
- Steak is acceptable, but you need a side! A side of pasta!
My family is no better. My sister and I have long conversations about how to tell the difference in homemade and store bought pasta sauces by scent alone. My mom actually makes lasagna, freezes it, then brings it to me in her suitcase when she flies to see me.
My mom also will fly me tamales made by their angelic Mexican neighbors. The only thing I miss more in the world than my dad’s gnocchi and Sunday creations are tacos.