i married an italian…and i’m learning about food guilt

I grew up where dinner was optional. If you didn’t want to eat what was provided…well, there’s breakfast in the morning.

When I started playing basketball and came home late from practice, dinner would be waiting on the stove for me to eat. Or not.

Food was never really THE MAIN EVENT.

There were a few times during the year we’d look forward to certain things. Our birthday, for our favorite cake of choice – mine being a gigantic chocolate chip cookie cake with this thick, fudgy frosting….and Christmas morning. For Christmas EVERY YEAR since I can remember, my mom bakes sausage balls and serves us little bowls of the warm, cheesy treats with orange juice while we’re checking out whatever Santa brought us (yes, Santa still makes his rounds here…nothing wrong with the man, he’s just a little fat and outdated).

Now, if you’ve never had my mom’s sausage balls…you’re really missing out (that DEFINITELY came out wrong…but you get the point). We still have them. On December 25th, I already know what to expect for breakfast.

Tim thought I was crazy…sausage balls. Those had to be just on the right side of hideous.

My mom made him try one a few years back. She is all about TRY IT. YOU’LL LIKE IT. I KNOW. He did, because you just cannot tell a mother-in-law “no.”

And he loved them. To date, she has successfully gotten him to eat and admit to liking both brussels sprouts AND zucchini…vegetables he used to do the whole throw out the fingers in an X formation and start the whole gagging bit anytime even a hint of their aromas wafted near his nose. Anyway, that’s beside the point.

The point is that during twenty-some years of my life, food wasn’t top priority.

Enter Tim. Member of an Italian Household.

The first time Tim and I went to his parent’s house together in Upstate New York, I made my way down alone for breakfast, thinking I’d just have some coffee…and was immediately asked what I’d like to eat.

My response? “I’m fine, not really very hungry…thanks though.”



Both his parents began trying to find something…ANYTHING where I’d say yes. When I kept politely refusing, they started asking if was sick…if I forgot how to swallow…if I recently had my stomach removed and was only accepting liquids directly from a tube….

When Tim came down a few minutes later, they were all, TIM! SHE DOESN’T EAT. WHAT’S WRONG WITH HER?”

He tried to explain to them that I didn’t eat….well, AS FREQUENTLY as they believed was healthy for any sensible human being.

And I’ve learned since – that “not hungry” doesn’t compute with an Italian. You can always eat. If you can’t, something’s-a-maddar wid you!

An Italian will keep pushing. Until you eat. And you better CLEAN YOUR PLATE.

Or else, you didn’t like it….something was wrong with it…

This was all completely new to me. An adjustment that I’m still not sure I’ve completely made. Whenever we visit, I have to train my brain to think like an Italian and eat…because there’s food.

I still hold out on breakfast, though. I have a hard time eating something with any real substance in the morning…

However, Tim’s dad wouldn’t stop until he finally found the ONE THING he knows I’ll never refuse in the morning.


So he makes a huge pot whenever we’re there and no matter if there’s bagels or eggs or pastries covering the table…he’ll only ask me ONE THING:

“Jess! How ’bout some coffee? You like Spenda, right?”

And I say yes.

Every time.


17 Responses to “i married an italian…and i’m learning about food guilt”

  1. 1 chrystalrose August 21, 2009 at 9:51 pm

    Hahahahahaha!! I love it! I’m Italian and I know food guilt all too well.

    My poor boyfriend grew up on processed and fast food. So now I cook pretty much every night. My guilting extends to FREAKING out if he hasn’t begun eating the second I place his plate in front of him. It’s going to get cooooolllllld!!!!!!

    That was unacceptable in my house. You start eating the second you are served and you clean your plate!

    Food is very important to us Italians. We see it as an extension of our love. Just. Let. Us. Love. You.

    • 2 Jessica August 22, 2009 at 7:06 am

      Chrystal: That is EXACTLY what it is. An extension. It’s like you’re putting your heart on the plate and if you don’t EAT….you’ve broken it. 🙂

  2. 3 joz1234 August 21, 2009 at 10:58 pm

    My grandmother was German and exactly the SAME way! The kitchen was the center of the household and if you sat down, she attempted to serve you. CRAZY! I gained so many pounds when I visited her.

  3. 5 kittymomma August 21, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    I love sausage balls! I cannot remember the last time I had one. Thanks for commenting on my blog. I love yours. Your family sounds fun. 🙂 How many cats do you have?

    • 6 Jessica August 22, 2009 at 7:03 am

      kittymomma: You know sausage balls! You’re one of the few! We’ve got three cats – Alegre (white, acts snooty but really a big goofball), Chloe (aka “moose) and Gracie (the food-hound…even though she’s a cat). 🙂

      So glad to see you stopped by -hope to see you again! 🙂

  4. 7 Livia August 22, 2009 at 6:30 am

    I know, but there’s so much I can do to make them stay, you see…and that’s why we sort of need to learn how to be independent. It’ll still hurt, but you’ll get over it quicker- or at least learn how to keep it in the back of your mind!

    My boss’ Italian…she is always worried about everybody eating, makes her cleaner stop working to have lunch and buys me particular food that she knows I eat every single time I go over. She’s the sweetest!

  5. 9 kath August 22, 2009 at 7:38 am

    Just like my Jewish sister!!! There’s always too much food … thanks for visiting our blog yesterday!

  6. 11 thebakerbee August 22, 2009 at 9:18 am

    Awww… I love in-laws.

  7. 12 mcwillis August 22, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    Lol. My ex’s family was Italian. And the VERY first time I ever met them, I was brought food. I was not asked if I was hungry, they just brought me food. I didn’t want to be rude so I ate some, but then they asked if I wanted anything else, and proceeded to list off everything that they currently had in their kitchen somewhere.It was hilarious. But I have Italian in my blood anyways so I ea=at like a beast. I quickly fell in love with that family and their food.

    • 13 Jessica August 23, 2009 at 10:46 am

      mcwillis: I KNOW. How they learn to cook so well…I have no idea. I am not blessed with the cooking gene – which is probably a good thing – because if I could make lasagna like Tim’s mom…I’d weight a thousand pounds.

  8. 14 mrssoup August 24, 2009 at 10:59 am

    What a great story!! Sometimes I think my mom is Italian….she is ALWAYS making people eat, take seconds, making food, etc. It’s ridiculous!

  9. 16 airaisane August 25, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    I’m not even close to being italian, well not that I know of but I can, so much as, relate to loving food. I can’t go a day without eating breakfast and if I’m hungry there’s always food ready at hand. I would eat every hour when I have the chance but that’s pretty rare. It’s quite hilarious that, even today, you’re not quite sure if you’ve mastered it.

    now that I think about it, I’ve never felt guilty for eating too much. my sister says she’d rather die happy than skinny, lol. I agree completely!

    • 17 Jessica August 25, 2009 at 6:52 pm

      airaisane: That’s hysterical – dying happy rather than skinny. Something my husband would probably say…you two run in the same vein when it comes to food. 🙂

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