Five Things You Can Learn from your Italian Friend


If you are expecting an article about how to wax your moustache – this is not that kind of thing….

It’s about something way more important than hair removal!! It’s about food!!

Because I grew up in town filled with Italian people, many of which spoke broken English and Italian at home, I thought that was what all of America was like.

Until I went to highschool, I figured that every town in the US had a few people of different cultures and backgrounds, but that Italian was the primary nationality of the America.

My mother grew up in the same town that I did except that she was Irish.  When she began dating Italians, it was very scandalous.  These hairy tan beings were like a new type of person for my mother’s pale Irish family.  This Irish family was raised by my grandmother who looked at cooking as only a means to keep her seven children alive.  There was no regard for flavors or enjoyments during meals. Ingredients were thrown around haphazardly and spices were limited to salt and pepper….and then some more salt to make the food taste like something.

When my brother and I were little she would put an onion in a pot and pour a bottle of Ragu over it and serve it with elbow macaroni.  This was fancy Italian cooking for her.

My mother began dating an Italian whose parents had immigrated from Italy and things got pretty serious.  Marriage was in her pending future even though she was in highschool.  Her soon to be mother-in-law saw the writing on the wall, and fearing for her son’s life and stomach, she demanded that my mother come to her home and learn how to cook.  They ultimately broke up and she married my Italian father, armed with an arsenal of some of the best Italian recipes you could ever imagine.

This woman (the almost mother-in-law), who I now consider an angel sent down from heaven, saved my father and my brother and I, and my husband and my kids, and who knows how many others, a life of tasteless roasted chickens and instant mashed potatoes from a box.

She taught my mother how to make a red sauce that is so delicious that friends ask me for the recipe all the time.  Even though it’s not a long-time family recipe that goes back for generations – I am still possessive of the secret recipe.

“This is my mother’s ex-boyfriend’s mother’s recipe!!” I will answer in horror, “No way!!”

Recently one of my very best friends convinced me to teach her the secret recipe, so I agreed.  She told me to come to her house this morning to start the Sunday sauce.  I said I would bring the necessary ingredients like tomatoes and the meatball ingredients, assuming foolishly that she had the basic necessities.


I was shocked.  This is my good friend!! Am I actually friends with someone who doesn’t own oregano?? Is this how people live in America??

I am still shell-shocked that I am not surrounded by Italians, even at the ripe old age of 21   30  35 😉

I agreed she should join me this morning for the sauce making in my kitchen.  As we worked together I realized so many things that I take for granted – regular pale Americans have no clue about!!

When she arrived I handed her a garlic bulb and a knife and cutting board.

“Ok, just chop this up and I will start the sauce,” I said casually as I poured olive oil into the pots.

I looked over and she had the knife in her hand and looked scared and confused.

I looked at the garlic bulb on the cutting board and even he look offended.


“I have never put real garlic into anything before,” she confessed.

What the fuck?

I had no idea.

Throughout the morning I realized every minute that passed that I took for granted so many things.  Being Italian is a blessing that I just regularly assume grants me a tan and an unruly moustache and beard.  However, today I realized that I am so lucky that my taste buds are groomed to appreciate and enjoy delicious foods!!

Here are 5 Tips from your Italian friend! for those of you that would like to cook dinner for your precious little ones that expands beyond a chicken finger or a box of Annie’s macaroni and cheese:

Five things you can learn from your Italian Friend:

#1 – Grated cheese does not come in a canister on a shelf next to the Soy Sauce:



Now think about this for a second.  If you had slices of fresh cheese, would you put them in a bottle and then put them on a shelf for 500 years and expect them to taste good or not poison you?

So then what the eff is in this canister?

I think possibly sawdust or cheese flavored sand?

Do not purchase this.  Go into the deli area and find a fresh and refridgerated bag of fresh grated pecorino romano cheese.  It will cost you.  But it will be worth every bite.

#2 – Spices are your friend:

When we were making the sauce, I kept handing spices to my friend and instructing her to dump the spices into the pot of sauce.  She took the bottle of oregano and shook it a couple of times and handed it back to me.  “NO! Fill the pot!” I instructed handing the bottle back to her.

We covered the top layer of sauce with a bunch of spices.

She peered into the pot, “I have never put this many spices into anything in my life!” she said with concern.

Spices add flavor! Don’t be afraid!! Your tastebuds will thank you.


#3 – If you won’t drink it – don’t put it in your food.

Once when I was just married and poor I discovered that the grocery store sold “cooking wines” and I purchased one for like $5 and called my mother to tell her of my inexpensive cooking solution.

My excited announcement was met with silence on the other end of the phone

“Lady, if you wouldn’t drink it out of a wine glass then it doesn’t belong in your sauce.”

She was right.

Even if it’s a $7 bottle of merlot it’s better than a “cooking wine” from Stop and Shop.  Splurge people.


#4 – If you have a good Italian recipe – you must only share it with close friends and family.

Is there anything better than someone biting into your meatball and exclaiming it to be delicious?

For those of you who serve frozen waffles to your children for dinner, you are not familiar with this satisfaction.  For Italians, if someone announces that your food tastes good, there is nothing better. This is the type of victory that makes up for the breadcrumbs everywhere and the sauce splatters all over your cabinets.

If someone is nice enough to share a good recipe with you – treat it like gold and keep it to yourself.

#5 – MANGIA!!!

This word means “eat” in Italian and it’s probably one of the first word I ever knew.  My grandmother and great-grandmother would make lunch or dinner or a snack or another snack for me and my cousins and if we didn’t eat every morsel they would scream “Mangia” in our faces.

There was no option not to eat the food in front of us. Most of the food in front of us involved carbs and cheese.

It was fucking delicious.

In our world food equals love…

This may have caused me some confusion down the road with relationships….


Now in a world when nobody eats and everyone is dairy-free, gluten-free, and carb-free is it any wonder that everyone is fucking miserable??

A friend of mine from the Bronx who I would describe as way more hard-core Italian than me, recently lost a family member.  Her friends were kind enough to drop off food during her mourning period.

She texted me – “I hate to sound ungrateful – but now I know why everyone around us is so skinny.  If we cooked like they do – we would be thin too.”

Your children deserve something more than a processed chicken nugget.  Cook for your children. Enjoy a family dinner – at the very least on Sundays…..quickly before their mother swears at them and tells them she’s busy blogging!!




2 thoughts on “Five Things You Can Learn from your Italian Friend

  1. “This is my mother’s ex-boyfriend’s mother’s recipe!!” I will answer in horror, “No way!!”

    HAHAHAHA! My mother’s sauce recipe came from two little old ladies in the Bronx that were fresh off the boat. Under NO circumstances were we allowed to share the recipe. We held true to that, until she passed away and now we give it out right and left as her legacy.

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