The Italian Gang

This hit home. I don't know who wrote it but it's spot on. The Italian Gang I am sure for most second generation Italian American children who grew up in The 40's, 50's & 60's there was a definite distinction between us and them. We were Italians, everybody else, the Irish, the Germans, the Polish, they were Americans. I was well into adulthood before I realized I was an American. I had been born American and lived here all my life, but Americans were people who ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on mushy white bread. I had no animosity towards them, it's just I thought ours was the better way with our bread man, egg man, vegetable man, the chicken man, to name a few of the peddlers who came to our neighborhoods. We knew them, they knew us. Americans went to the A&P. It amazed me that some friends and classmates on Thanksgiving and Christmas ate only turkey with stuffing, potatoes, and cranberry sauce. We had turkey, but only after antipasti, soup, lasagna, meatballs and salad! In case someone came in who didn't like turkey, we also had a roast beef. Soon after we were eating fruits, nuts, pastries and homemade cookies sprinkled with little colored things. This is where you learned to eat a seven course meal between noon and four PM, how to handle hot chestnuts and put peaches in wine. Italians live a romance with food. Sundays we would wake up to the smell of garlic and onions frying in olive oil. We always had macaroni and sauce (gravy). Sunday would not be Sunday without going to Mass. Of course you couldn't eat before Mass because you had to fast before receiving communion. We knew when we got home we'd find meatballs frying, and nothing tasted better than newly cooked meatballs with crisp bread dipped into a pot of hot gravy (not sauce). Another difference between them and us was we had gardens. Not just with flowers, but tomatoes, peppers, basil, lettuce and 'cucuzza'. Everybody had a grapevine and fig tree. In the fall we drank homemade wine arguing over who made the best. Those gardens thrived because we had something our American friends didn't seem to have. We had Grandparents. It's not that they didn't have grandparents. It's just they didn't live in the same house or street. We ate with our grandparents, and god forbid if we didn't visit them 3 times a week. I can still remember my grandfather telling us how he came to America when he was young, on the 'boat.' I'll never forget the holidays when the relatives would gather at my grandparents' house, the women in the kitchen, the men in the living room, the kids everywhere. I must have fifty cousins. My grandfather sat in the middle of it all drinking his wine he was so proud of his family and how well they had done. When my grandparents died, things began to change. The family gatherings were fewer and something seemed to be missing. Although we did get together usually at my mother's house, I always had the feeling grandma and grandpa were there It's understandable things change. We all have families of our own and grandchildren of our own. Today we visit once in a while or meet at wakes or weddings. Other things have also changed. The old house my grandparents bought is now covered with aluminum siding. Green lawn covers the soil that grew the tomatoes. There was no one to cover the fig tree, so it died. The holidays have changed. We still make family 'rounds' but somehow things have become more formal. The great quantities of food we consumed, without any ill effects, are not good for us anymore. Too much starch, too much cholesterol, too many calories in the pastries. The difference between 'us' and 'them' isn't so easily defined anymore, and I guess that's good. My grandparents were Italian-Italians; my parents were Italian-Americans. We are all Americans now...the Irish, Germans, Polish, all U.S. citizens. But somehow I still feel a little bit more Italian. Call it it roots...I'm not sure what it is. All I do know is that our children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews, have been cheated out of a wonderful piece of our heritage.

Being raised Italian

01. You have at least one relative who wore a black dress every day for an entire year after a funeral.
02. You spent your entire childhood thinking what you ate for lunch was pronounced "sangwich."
03. Your family dog understood Italian.
04. Every Sunday afternoon of your childhood was spent visiting your grandparents and extended family.
05. You've experienced the phenomena of 150 people fitting into 50 square feet of yard during a family cookout.
06. You were surprised to discover the FDA recommends you eat three meals a day, not seven.
07. You thought killing the pig each year and having salami, capacollo, pancetta and prosciutto hanging out to dry from your shed ceiling was absolutely normal. (Wow, that's really Italian!)
08. You ate pasta for dinner at least three times a week, and every Sunday, and laughed at the commercial for Wednesday is Prince Spaghetti day.
09. You grew up thinking no fruit or vegetable had a fixed price and that the price of everything was negotiable through haggling.
10. You were as tall as your grandmother by the age of seven.
11. You thought everyone's last name ended in a vowel.
12. You thought nylons were supposed to be worn rolled to the ankles.
13. Your mom's main hobby is cleaning.
14. You were surprised to find out that wine was actually sold in stores.
15. You thought that everyone made their own tomato sauce.
16. You never ate meat on Christmas Eve or any Friday for that matter.
17. You ate your salad after the main course.
18. You thought Catholic was the only religion in the world.
19. You were beaten at least once with a wooden spoon or broom.
20. You thought every meal had to be eaten with a hunk of bread in your hand.
21. You can understand Italian but you can't speak it.
22. You have at least one relative who came over on the boat.
23. All of your uncles fought in a World War.
24. You have at least six male relatives named Tony, Frank, Joe or Louie.
25. You have relatives who aren't really your relatives.
26. You have relatives you don't speak to. Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!
27. You drank wine before you were a teenager.
28. You relate on some level, admit it, to the Godfather and the Sopranos. I maka a meata ball you can't refuse! ...forrgetttabbboutit! badda bing!
29. You grew up in a house with a yard that didn't have one patch of dirt that didn't have a flower or a vegetable growing out of it.
30. Your grandparent's furniture was as comfortable as sitting on plastic. Wait!!!! You were sitting on plastic.
31. You thought that talking loud was normal
32. You thought sugared almonds and the Tarantella were common at all weddings.
33. You thought everyone got pinched on the cheeks and money stuffed in their pockets by their relatives.
34. Your mother is overly protective of the males in the family no matter what their age.
35. There was a crucifix in every room of the house.
36. Wakes would be held in someone's living room.
37. You couldn't date a boy without getting approval from your father. (Oh, and he had to be Italian)
38. You called pasta "macaroni".
39. You dreaded taking out your lunch at school.
40. Going out for a cup of coffee usually meant going out for a cup of coffee over Zia's house.
41. Every condition, ailment, misfortune, memory loss and accident was attributed to the fact that you didn't eat something.


Italian-American Society of Tulsa 
13176 S. 92nd E. Ave Bixby, OK 74008

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