I grew up in the South, to a dad from South Arkansas and a mom from North Minnesota. That makes me the strange mix of redneck squirrel-mulligan-eater and ja-sure-ya-betcha Scandinavian farm girl. My last name, Hartley, was solidly English. The only time it ever caused me problems was between-countries in Central America. “Ana ElisaBET!” was what I answered to when the bus driver returned everyone’s passport. (No Spanish speaker I’ve ever met enjoys attempting the “rtl” jumble of consonants in Hartley.)
And then I met, and married, a half Italian with the last name of Fasolino. We did just fine in Latino Houston, but David’s job moved us closer to my roots in Arkansas. (David made sure we stayed over in East Texas, of course, because he’s more a Texan than an Italian.) I now answer to Mrs. Fazzuh-Lion.
Oh, well. It sets us apart, anyway. Pretty sure I’m the only Anna Fazzuh-Lion in the county, and maybe in the country.
So, how did my life change when I married an Italian-American boy? Most of the ways my life changed revolved around one thing: FOOD!
Ways My Life Changed When I Married a [Half] Italian
1) I stopped saying spaghetti was a meal.
My mom always said we were going to have spaghetti when she meant she was going to brown some ground hamburger (or deer, because we lived in Arkansas), dump her home-canned tomatoes in with a jar of sauce from the store, and serve it over noodles.
David set me straight. “We’re just having spaghetti? Are you going to make sauce?”
Umm…what? Apparently, spaghetti squash does NOT count as spaghetti, meat-and-sauce is something DIFFERENT from spaghetti, and meatballs are the preferred mode of meat in the sauce. Spaghetti is just a noodle, not a meal. And angel hair, penne, and ziti must all be named and not lumped together as spaghetti.
2) I learned how to make sauce…and meatballs.
I still run out of time sometimes and brown up a bunch of meat instead of making meatballs. Also, I still sometimes supplement with Prego when I feel I don’t have enough for all the guests who are coming over. (Shhh…) But sauce is no longer the great boogeyman. Why? Because I, dear people, have a stick blender! (Why did so much of my life go by without an immersion blender’s wonderful way of turning lumps to velvet?)
Am I a great sauce-chef? Nope. But it gets a little better each time I make it! I figure by the time I’m 60, I’ll be able to make some mouthwatering sauce-and-meatballs.
3) “Eat some more,” is no longer part of my daily conversation.
When we first got married and David was telling me, “Mangia, mangia,” with his fingers pinched together like a stereotypical Italian restaurant owner from the movies, I thought he’d made the word up. I shrugged it off as one of my new husband’s idiosyncrasies. Goodness knows I had enough of those for him to get used to.
Then came the first non-wedding-related meal with all the relatives, and everyone telling me (the then-pregnant mama), “Mangia, mangia!” (Eat, eat!)
Wait–that’s a real word?
4) My food budget grew.
Part of that is because David makes a lot more moolah than I did as an AmeriCorp volunteer teacher. But I found out that he appreciated my thriftiness right up to the point where it cut in on his meat and tried to stick some cabbage into his diet.
I actually don’t think that’s an Italian thing, because plenty of Italian recipes in the cookbooks I’ve been reading use cabbage.
I think that’s a David-thing.
However, I hear that prioritizing food quality is a common Italian habit. (Maybe it’s also a common American habit?) I am still determined to wait on expensive food until AFTER the house is paid off.
5) My family grew.
I’ll admit, it took some time to get used to how interconnected the Fasolino family web is. I often felt that there was no such thing as our own small, private, nuclear family.
But, you know what? I found out that I love it! My mother-in-law came and took care of me for over a week after Baby J was born. David’s aunts regularly send me encouraging text messages (or I can call any of them for a recipe I need TONIGHT for guests). The cousins immediately treated me like one of them. I feel constantly engulfed in love and kindness by the whole group of relatives. (A lot of that has to do with the fact that most of them are Christians in more than just name.) What I lost in privacy and my English-Scandinavian reserve I gained in overflowing love. And I’m so happy to be Mrs. Fazzuh-Lion! 🙂
How about you?
How did your life change when you married into a different culture? By the way, it counts as a different culture if you’re from Maryland and your spouse is from North Dakota or Arizona! Or if one of you is a city kid and the other a farm kid.