Adelaide author Susan Murphy has come to appreciate the Italian way of life - after marrying such a man! She chats about her immersion into the culture, below... (And after reading, check out more on her delightful debut novel, inspired by her other career as a marriage celebrant here!)
"If you’re a child of the late eighties or early nineties, you might remember those wonderful t-shirts (and sometimes tank tops) that shouted 'Italians Do It Better'.
While it was a fairly broad generalisation to make, I wondered what exactly it was that Italians ‘did better’. That was, until I married one.
Having been raised by Irish/English parents whose idea of a big family meal consisted of a few sausages, some mashed potato and three veg (gravy if you were lucky), entering the shrine of an Italian kitchen (whether it be indoor or outdoor - or both) was a new and eye-opening experience.
From the insistence that I 'eat, eat!' every time my hand wasn’t touching my mouth to the presentation of plate after plate of deliciousness for a simple mid-week meal, I came to realise I could really get used to this life. That was until none of my pants fit.
Having been part of this wonderfully rich culture for over 22 years, I have come to see what, in fact, Italians really do ‘do better’.
The Pig: The pig is a tradition that my in-laws have been partaking in as far back as they can remember. There are often (still) arguments about how it should be done (my mother-in-law being from Naples and my father-in-law from Venice). But once it gets underway it’s a sausage fest.
By the end, dozens of delicious little packages hang gleefully from the shed roof, just waiting to be devoured. My kids absolutely love getting involved in all of it. And eating the fruits of their labour!
This, is definitely something the Italians do best.
Sauce: At about the same time every year my in-laws' house is a hive of (tomato-y) activity. My husband (or one of his brothers) usually hooks up the trailer and heads off to collect a load of tomatoes while the rest of us drag out dirty and dusty bottles and begin cleaning them in huge tubs on the back lawn. My father-in-law watches over his boiling tub and when the tomatoes arrive, it’s on! By the end of the day there’s usually a couple hundred bottles of delicious sauce, shelved and ready for Sunday lunches.
Goodies: There are a few other ‘goodies’ that my mother-in-law makes that are family favourites.
This is the beginnings of what my husband likes to call 'cholesterol cake', below. It’s a delicious concoction of meats and cheeses, baked on a home-made pastry base. So rich and terribly fattening!
Rice cake is another one that I love. It’s a mix of rice and ricotta (amongst other things – all secret, of course), covered in pastry and baked to a golden crust. I’ve tried on numerous occasions, with little success, to make it. Trying to get an actual recipe from my mother-in-law is impossible. “It’s a bit of this and a pinch of that”, she tells me, with no actual measurements. I suspect that she leaves out a pinch or two here and there. Mine is never as good as hers!
One thing I have mastered is almond bread. The problem is, when I make it, friends and family seem to appear from nowhere with take-home zip-lock bags. It never lasts for more than a day or two.
Italian food and culture has grown on me significantly over the years (especially the food). I can’t imagine not having these wonderful traditions and dishes as part of our lives and I’m so pleased that my kids will grow up remembering the times they spent at Nonna and Nonno’s house making sauce and salami.
When it comes to food, Italians do, in my opinion, have the right to the claim that they ‘do it better’." - Susan Murphy
Visit www.susanmurphyauthor.com or check her out on Facebook here.
Finding my inner peasant...