"We don't yell, we talk".
So, what is Vita Italiana?
The direct translation is "Italian Life". Whether a person is Italian, Italian- Canadian, Italian-American, or one of the hundreds of other combinations, they are somehow experiencing Vita Italiana. Among many things, Vita Italiana is filled with passion, traditions, and community. In this blog I will be sharing with you my travels to Italy, food and beverage hotspots in the Toronto area, and all things Italiana.
I remember the first time I found out that I was Italian. My kindergarten teacher was encouraging us to describe ourselves, and where we come from. There were a couple girls in my class that looked a lot like me-- dark features, similar skin tone, so I figured our cultural backgrounds were similar. One of the girls mentioned she was half Mexican, and the other was half Italian and half Greek. I realized, I didn't know what my background was. I knew that Nonna and Nonno were my grandparents, Zia's were my aunts, and Zio my uncle, but no idea where it came from. That night, I was sitting at the kitchen table with my mom, and I asked her what our background was. She said "We're Italian", and pulled out a map. There was so much excitement in that moment, and I couldn't wait to learn more about my culture.
For Italians, the importance of food is taught at a very young age. One of the first things we learn is the art of making tomato sauce. Everyone comes together with bushels of Roma tomatoes, and gears up in homemade aprons. It's a family affair that everyone looks forward to for two reasons: the first meal you are going to eat with that sauce is absolutely amazing, and everyone can finally stop feeling ashamed for settling for the jarred stuff in the grocery store. There's also pasta making, which takes place in our Nonna's (grandmother's) basements. Nonna is the boss, and she doesn't employ any staff. In our eyes, she is the most passionate chef that has ever lived. We as grandchildren are there to watch, and if we're lucky, maybe attempt to roll one gnocchi.. that is, before she sends us off so she can re-roll it her way. Wooden spoons are the most iconic tool found in our homes, and they even have a dark side. Italian kids know that if you step out of line for one second, you're getting a nice little whack with that thing. That's where my family saying "Fa la brava" (be good) is most appropriate.
The social aspect of Italian culture is one that will undoubtedly get passed on through generations. Each of us appreciate being surrounded by family, and friends. However, we often have a love-hate relationship with family gatherings. Although uniting with all of our cousins is something we look forward to, we all dread the end of the night when it's time to part ways. The reason being is that it takes us at least 30 minutes to say goodbye. Get a bunch of Italians in the same room, and you'll know exactly what I mean. We talk, A LOT. In addition to that, we speak at a very high volume. Our friends are quite accepting of these qualities, as they're usually just as talkative, and they understand that we're not always angry when our voices get louder. Running out of topics for conversation is never a concern, and neither is deciding on an activity. If all else fails, there's always coffee, or a meal to be enjoyed. Aside from those that are already close to us, there's one more crowd Italians love to be surrounded by, other Italians. There's no other feeling like going to a party where you know absolutely no one but your best friend, and meeting another one of "your people". We look at that person and know right away, they get it. Automatically we find ourselves asking which region and town in Italy they're from to see what else you have in common. Funny enough, if they do come from the same town, you bet our Mom or Zia could tell us how we're connected.
And now, I'd love for us to stay connected! Be sure to check in for my next post on Vita Italiana!
Fa la brava,