Ciao! As may of you know I have some Italian roots through my dad’s side of the family. I have always known that there were people I am related to living in Italy, but did not believe I would meet them. After some heavy ‘Facebook researching’ I found some of my relatives.
I was surprised to learn one of these relatives works in the city where I am studying abroad! My excitement could not be contained…Torino, of all of the places in the world! I have always thought the world was small, but now more than ever, I believe it. After contacting my relative, we set a date to meet for lunch.
As an American, I think of lunch as having a sandwich or maybe a small entree. Lunch in America isn’t too extravagant. I was excited to meet my family for ‘lunch’.
I innocently did not realize what Sunday lunch meant in Italy. My apartment buzzer beeped and I immediately became nervous thinking, “What do I do?”… I did not want to buzz them in and I did not know the Italian words for ‘be right there’, so I decided to sprint down the stairs from the 6th floor. I arrived outside and immediately received hugs and kisses on my cheeks. I couldn’t believe it, I barely had met these people and they were already kissing my cheeks. I realized my uncomfortable feeling was just a culture difference.
We piled into their tiny Fiat and within the first ten minutes, I spoke all of the Italian I knew. They told me we were headed to the country side. I could just barely understand the Italian they spoke. I sat there silently for a few minutes, then did my best using Google translate to speak Italian as they spoke in broken English. They claimed their English was bad but they could hold conversations, so I thought their English was great! I said I speak very little Italian and actually mean it! For example, I know how to say I’m American, my age, what day of the week it is and how to order an espresso… that is it!
Another 30 minutes went by and we pulled onto a dirt road. Through the fog, I saw fields and chickens running around. There was no doubt we were in the country. We parked next to a little simple red house and walked inside. To my surprise, it was a restaurant!
There were only a few tables and as soon as we sat down, I knew I was the only English speaker in the place. Who needs language when you can relate over food??? The wine was first to arrive; white and not too sweet or acidic, one of my favorites!
The first plate served was a traditional Piemontese dish. It consisting of raw meat with lemon juice. At first, I did not realize the dish was raw meat (who serves meat raw??) However, it was very tasty! The next course was a chicken salad made with small pieces of fresh chicken with olives and celery mixed with a bit of olive oil. American chicken salad with mayonnaise, cannot even compare to this savory dish. The olives and oil never overpowered, instead they added different dimensions of taste to the combination. I am still not sure the name of the next plate we were served, but the best way I can describe it is a mini quiche or vegetable flan, very delicious.
The waitress came over with new plates and started serving risotto with prosciutto. Well, welcome to the awkward life of Caroline, I was the first served. The waitress had a huge dish of risotto and spooned rice on my plate…. and she kept scooping… after the third and half scoop, everyone was looking at tiny me and then at the filled plate.
I gave the waitress a concerned and nervous look, trying to ask, Why are you giving me so much food? I believe she understood my look because she finally stopped scooping. I watched my family tell her how many scoops they wanted and also telling her when to stop. (Ahhhhh!) How come I did not think of that??? Now I know for next time.
The following course I opted-out because I continued to eat the mound of risotto on my plate. The course was also not gluten free; it was a meat filled pasta, like ravioli. It was another traditional Piemontesse dish, it looked homemade and wonderful.
The waitress gave us new plates…again. we were served potatoes and herbs with pork and beef slices. This time I knew exactly what to say telling the waitress when to stop. Everything was mouth watering, but I was so full I thought I could not eat anymore! When I thought the dinner was over, the waitress came back to the table and took dessert orders. I decided on berries with chocolate.
Seven courses and over three hours later, I realized my initial thought of a simple lunch was way off. My family was so generous and welcoming. I was so happy I finally met them. This was a crazy opportunity that helped me understand Italian culture within the family. Meeting my family was priceless, and learning the italian word for ‘stop’, Basta, is only going to help me in the future!!