Thursday, January 6, 2011

It's All About the Pasta, or, Growing Up Italian (almost)

My maternal grandfather, Francesco "Frank" Caruso, used to say, "There are two types of Italians. Rich Italians and poor Italians. The rich Italians have mafia connections, the poor Italians do not." Growing up, I was convinced our family had no past ties with the mob at all, but I was wrong, and I soon came to realize that every Italian immigrant who stepped off the boat during the early part of the twentieth century was somehow connected.

But I'm getting sidetracked here. Despite the social/economic difference that arose in Italian families, one thing remained universal. The food. No denying, Italians like to eat, and not just anything. It's got to be homemade, rich in fats, pleasing to the palate and smothered with sauces of every color. Garlic, tomatoes, cheese and peppers ... and lets not forget the wine. The smells from my childhood still linger in my own kitchen. I remember the days before the pasta machine entered our home when my mother used to roll out her dough and cut each strip of pasta with a knife. Ah, and the homemade sauce, still a respected staple with my family. What better way to enjoy time with family or friends than to fill the kitchen with fresh food, and lots of it.

It's no wonder that most of the characters in my stories love to eat well. I never gave it a thought until a reader said to me once, "My wife likes the fact that all of the men in your story like to cook. She thinks that's sexy." Hummm, I gave it a thought. Who wouldn't like someone cooking great food for you and loving every second spent in front of the stove? Wait! That would be my mom.

There is a saying, "write what you know." I love to eat, and I love someone cooking for me, so naturally it comes out on paper. Unintentional or not, since most of my protagonists are females, most of their male friends and lovers are great cooks.

The only thing that could top it would be to have a gorgeous male tenor sing the sadist version of the "Ave Marie" known. Shirtless, or course.