It’s a running joke between Christian and I, the difference between my family and his. My family gets together, they have heated discussions of politics and religion. His family get together and conversation revolves around…food. We discuss spices and pie crusts the way my uncles and aunts bicker over health care reform.
You don’t believe me, do you? You think I’m exaggerating the importance of food to my Italian family?
Well, doubters, consider this. Conversation at the holiday table revolves around restaurants, recipes and where we found them, Rachael Ray and Giada, the subtle variations different cooks impose upon family recipes, and a detailed analysis of the meal being eaten. (Sometimes a critique!) Eyes light up, cheeks get flushed, hearts pound. Food is exciting stuff. Family members have been known to leave the table in a huff, but more often it’s simply a lively debate.
Is this the only thing the family talks about? No. But it does form well over 50% of conversation. The question is, is it nature or nurture? The answer is…yes.
Alex was a late talker, but among his very first words: “Bony ah-keem” (brownies and ice cream” and…are you ready for this? “Kembalay” (crème brulée). When he and his cousin Gianna, both new conversationalists at the age of two, got together, they made friends by discussing…you guessed it—food. “I like ice cream and cookies and brownies and pasta and strawberries…”
When my mother-in-law came to stay with us after Nicholas was born, she taught Alex to play “restaurant.” They gave their restaurant a name—“Zenkins Good Tastes Restaurant”—and drew up a menu. For weeks, it was the only thing he wanted to play with us. We had to order and he would cook and serve. Julianna thought we were nuts. Whenever Alex set something on the table in front of us, we’d pretend to eat. She would put the cup to her lips, give us this look, and hurl it across the room.
Yesterday morning, Alex asked me to play with his train set. Thomas and “Toby” (we don’t have a Toby, so he makes one up) were going to haul chocolate and strawberries and cream to the ice cream factory. Trains, people! We were playing with TRAINS!
And then I think about how much I loooooove good food, and I realize: What a great family for me to have married into.