I was warned in advance, don’t sit beside any Italian Mamma at the dinner table; they will continuously shovel spoonfuls of food on your plate. “Mangia! Mangia! Too skinny… you need to eat!” It was the summer of 2003, one of the most scorching summers in Italy’s record the first time I met Grazia, my adorable Italian mother-in-law. It was that night that I realized we Americans have a stereotypical obsession with ketchup!
Sitting at the dinner table, listening to the sound of the sailboat shrouds clanging on the masts in the port; the summer Mediterranean Sea-breeze cooling my skin. This was back when my Italian consisted of, “Dove` il bagno? Quante costa? Vino per favore!” That’s about all I got from two semesters of College Italian. Therefore my new Italian boyfriend spent the entire time translating to me what Mamma & Babbo said, and vice versa.
The dinner commenced with a primo, a simple spaghetti with red sauce, pasta al dente. Deliciouso! We smiled and did our best to communicate and get to know each other!
Then for dinner, Grazia had prepared a spread of different seafood & vegetable dishes: boiled octopus with potatoes & parsley, a Frutti di Mare mixed shellfish salad, tuna carpaccio, and a delicious salad with greens so crisp & fresh. There sitting among the seafood platters in the middle of the table was this bright red plastic bottle of Ketchup, looking like an elephant in the African Savannah’s wearing a tutu. Grazia pointed to the little red elephant, “catsup catsup, Americana! Mangia catsup!” So sweet and loving, she bought this bottle of ketchup for me because I am an American… and we eat ketchup on everything! I smile even today thinking of that little gesture, so adorable. How could I say no? She wanted to have everything perfect for our first dinner together… and it was! I’m not crystal clear about the dinner topics that night, but I remember the love of the ketchup for the Americana!