My Inner Italy, by Amy Bloom

A friend and fellow blogger sent me a the weekly newsletter from Gourmet Magazine. This week’s feature is Italian food and cooking.
As I was looking through the newsletter, a title at the bottom of the page caught my eye: My Inner Italy. I have a huge crush on Italy, as anyone reading my blog knows, and this title grabbed me. The rest of the story lived up to the title. It did everything a story should. I was captive to the words, and wanted more when I was done. I felt as though, just maybe, I have more than a little in common with the author.

I, too, grew up with Italian neighbor, who cooked pasta for me. Apparently, I was anemic as a child, and that was the only thing I would eat. Unfortunately I don’t recall her name, but I will be contacting my brother soon to ask him, as he is old enough to remember. I do remember her incredible pasta.

My family was not Catholic, but I often went to mass with my Catholic friends – another thing I have in common with this woman.

She said Italy is heaven on earth and I have to agree. I hope you enjoy this short story, obviously written from the heart, but with fun and wry humour too.

Here’s the first paragraph – My Inner Italy

1959 I have just really started noticing the world around me, my neighborhood, my town, the sea in which I swim. I notice that no one minds where or what I read as long as I am not in my father’s chair or my parents’ bed, that my father’s cigar smoking is something everyone complains about but no one can stop, that my grandmother is the smallest adult person I know and smells like her own kitchen (schmaltz, boiled chicken, rye bread, and schnapps) and my mother is tall and glamorous and smells like Ma Griffe, a cloud of sultry flowery scent that still gets my attention, 50 years later. In her wish to get away from the boiled chicken, boiled flanken, boiled potatoes (rolled in schmaltz, hold the parsley) of her parents, my mother embraced the time- and energy-saving foods of the New World. If there is a stronger word than embrace, imagine it here. My mother was a mediocre cook, not only from lack of talent but also from a furious lack of inclination (as I came to understand). I remember one celebratory dinner of incinerated lamb chops, Stouffer’s frozen corn soufflé, Del Monte canned green beans with Durkee French onion rings crumbled on top, and a Sara Lee cheesecake, barely defrosted, with a couple of spoonfuls of Cool Whip ladled over it; that was as good as it got. My mother liked entertaining; she was brilliant with improvised hors d’oeuvres, charades, and fruity drinks—she just hated housewifery—and I think now, “Who can blame her?”

Read the rest of the story.
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