I was shocked on the one hand and on the other hand curious with wonder if this would really transpire.
For better or for worse, Francesco’s statement came true for me 6 months later when I found myself on a plane from Bari, Italy (pop. 27,00) to Los Angeles, California. I wondered how I would hold on to my Italian heritage, traditions, and family values while becoming integrated into American life.
Being in America has forced me as an Italian woman to examine the epicurean and cultural differences in food.
After being here for 11 months what have I learned from being transplanted?
The Main Shocks
- Meals on the run: food in Italy is the heart of the people and food preparation is full of passion and dedication to taste and beauty. Although there are many who take time to prepare beautiful meals made with love, I noticed that meals are generally rushed and not as leisurely as in Italy.
- Pre-packaged foods as a norm: in Italy each meal is prepared with fresh items with very occasional pre-packaged foods. Most Italians spend 2 hours a day in food preparation, consuming most of their meals at home rather than at restaurants.
- Jumbo meals: portion sizes are considerably smaller in Italy, with each meal having two courses – one with vegetables and pasta and other with fish or meat and vegetables.
The Main Differences
- In Italy, the family is the center of the social structure and provides a stabilizing influence to its members. Americans seem much more independent which I respect, whereas Italians never cut the umbilical cord.
- When having dinner guests in Italy, they help with meal preparation and cleanup, which allows for ease with regular company invites for meals instead of it being too much effort.
- On Sundays only 5% of Italians eat out and most enjoy their Sunday meal at home with immediate family and relatives.
- Fast Food is rare: Italian take-out food could be pizza, pasta or a simple Panini made with local prosciutto, with are all made fresh in front of you with minimal sauces and ingredients.
Although being in America has been a huge adjustment for me, I’ve learned to navigate the differences in culture while holding on to my history, passion for food and love for cooking.
Although I miss my family, I am grateful to Francesco for encouraging us to come here since I have learned more independence and a different perspective on how other parts of the world operate.
I will always hold Bari in my heart but I now know I had to leave there to evolve into the person I was meant to be- for better or for worse.
This blog was co-written by Susan Dopart and RD Intern Antonella Rica