Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Family/I have never eaten so much in my life

Part of me wishes I had more food pictures to show for the weekend, to prove that the following story is true. I'm asking you to trust me and enjoy the picture of my two cousins walking towards my uncle's delightful house after a morning at the market.

The thought of family reunions usually makes me cringe. Aside from the fact that they usually involve more fighting than getting along, for me, the term conjures up images of oddly composed fruit and cheese skewers, gloppy chili and orange creamsicle jello. I'm not exactly sure why I think this, because I have neither had creamsicle jello nor a family reunion.

Well, not until last weekend that is, when I finally understood why families even bother reuniting. And I promise it was not just the food that did it (although that definitely didn't hurt). It was the wine. Ha. No, but really, the time outside the requisite 6 hours of eating per day, was nice, no more than nice, it was fun!

Lucky for me, my family is Italian, which means only one thing: good food. When I say Italian, I mean in Italy, the real deal. So when we landed in Calabria, where I am 99% sure that no one has ever even heard of creamsicle jello, I knew I was in for a special weekend. What they do know in Calabria is that the woodsy freshness of wild mint makes a great gelato, and that frying hunks of yeasty bread dough tastes better than baking it, and that ricotta is meant to be eaten straight out of the wooden basket it was made in the same morning. So although southern Italy may be behind in some regards, when it comes to food it offers fearless dishes with flavors bolder than any I have tasted.

As I was saying, I was really having such a great time discovering new places and getting to know new people. Not just people, but family, who will always welcome me into their homes and offer a hand when a hand is needed. Some of the "marry-ins" made sure to remind us that they do not share chromosomes with the rest of us--so we all get along but mostly because we recognize and accept each others' nuttiness--but I am pretty sure that they wish they were blessed enough to be born into a family like mine.

And although I may never learn why potatoes in Calabria actually taste like potatoes; I did learn that my great-uncle knows how to roast them to perfection. I may never understand the art of thin and tender ravioli like the pork and anise ones I had; I do understand that although my nonna never listens to anyone, she knows us all better than we think. And even if I am never lucky enough to eat as well as I did last weekend; I am lucky because I got to spend time with 25 irraplaceable people, who easily make this world a friendlier place to live in.