Visiting the Italian Mother

Despite everything you've heard about Italian mother-in-laws, mine is actually a very nice, super-Florentine woman in her late 60s and could care less about how well I "take care" of her son- as long as he's eating. Unlike the stereotypical Italian mother-in-law (suocera) who is convinced no one can take care of her grown-ass son as well as she can, Barbara is super cool and doesn't even try to break into our apartment to clean it (yes, this happens, there are some real horror stories out there). Even though one could assume I'm just another loose American woman who likes to put ketchup on everything, Barbara and I get along and she approves my relationship with her son. Elia, my husband, and I split the housework, and when I'm swamped with work he'll step in and do most of it. However, I always cook for him and the dog is fully cared for by me. It's like we're a team or something. Today it was Barbara, my suocera, who cooked for us. We go to her house for a meal about once a week, a tradition Elia's maintained since he moved out at the age of 30. Listen, it's normal here, but I still think moving out of your mom's at 30 this deserves derision; I'm dying just writing this. Anyway, Barbara lives alone, so it's sweet that Elia makes an effort to keep her company and has included me in the tradition since I moved in with him five years ago. Barbara likes to cook, she's a pretty traditional Tuscan woman and sticks to what she knows and is great at it. One time she made a French cake though, that really threw us for a loop. Elia and I actually announced our engagement at one of these visits. Just like in America these days, not many Italians around our age choose to marry and for many of the same reasons. So, no one really expected that of us and would have possibly opposed us for a number of reasons- our nationalities being just one of them. We had been strategically planning to drop the bomb on a specific day for over a week. There was a lot to consider if she hated the idea and we told her at the beginning the lunch would have been really awkward. We decided it was best to act casual, and kind of just slip it in at the end, but before coffee, so it didn't look like we were announcing it and running- which we kind of were. We were psyching ourselves up on the way there and on the elevator up to her apartment convinced we had gone over everything. As she opens the door she looks at me and says "Allie what a pleasant surprise, Elia didn't tell me you were coming!". Luckily forgetting to tell his mom I was coming on the day we announced our engagement was the only thing that went wrong when we were planning our wedding. Today, however, was less eventful. Barbara cooked a bean soup with tiny, round pastas for the first course, then beets and cheese for a side dish. Then some fagioli all'uccelletto, a Tuscan bean and tomato dish. Then some involtini, little pieces of rolled-up meat with cheese in the middle. Then... that's it actually. Sometimes she makes dessert, but believe it or not, Elia had to ask her to cut down on the amount of food she made for us, so today was quite restrained.

Secrets of the Kitchen- *1 hr

Between each course she walks the 20 ft (??? meters) back and forth between the living room and the kitchen changing out plates with our dog at her heels. It's actually really sweet to watch them alone together. Nike always sits under the kitchen table slowly wagging her tail as Barbara moves dishes and stirs pots. She talks to Nike quietly the whole time. They're the kind of family that has the TV on during meals but talks over it anyway, completely the opposite of my family. Barbara is more chatty than the both of us put together, so we listen to her talk about the books she's reading and what movies we should watch and exactly how they end just so we know what we're getting into. Before leaving and after coffee she plays with the dog while whispering "don't return home with them, they're awful people and I treat you way better". She then packs up all of the leftovers for us to eat later. Really sweet, she doesn't have to give us the leftovers, but I think it's still habited from when Elia lived alone and only ate pasta. On our way out we used to let Nike run around on the grassy, gated area in front of the wide apartment complex, but lately, she has been refusing to leave and makes it impossible for us to catch her. I'm starting to think Nike's learned Italian better than she's let on and has started to favor Barbara.

The Great Escape - c. 45 minutes

That's it. That's our routine. Elia then goes to work at his tiny indie cinema, and I slog away at the computer fighting my food coma with Nike asleep on my feet.

What I'm Working On

Graphic design work. Currently an online greeting card/Invitation company; I mostly work on the blog, but I'm working on their site's banners right now.


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