We love watching an Italian cooking show called Lidia’s Italy. Even if we’ve just finished eating our own dinner, the delectable food she’s preparing never fails to make our stomachs growl and mouths water! After watching the program several times we picked up on the phrase she uses to close each show, and take great delight in practicing it before we sit down to a meal together.
Tutti a tavola a mangiare!
(Everyone to the table to eat!)
Good food – preparing, serving, eating, and appreciating it – is such a huge and central part of Italian life and culture.
My family moved several times while I was growing up, but for a few years we lived in the same city as several of my Italian mom’s family members, and were privileged to enjoy meals in their homes on a number of occasions. From the mouth-watering aromas that greet you before you even walk through the door, to the bounty of food served in course after neverending course (where a “No, thank you, I’m full” is answered by an emphatic, “Eat! Eat! You’re too skinny!” and accompanied by another serving of pasta), to the bewildering hubbub of several simultaneous (and equally loud) conversations being carried on between family members all the way up and down the table, a meal in an Italian home is definitely an unforgettable experience!
If you are fortunate enough to be invited to share a meal in an Italian home, and would like to sample a taste of every delicious dish that’s being served, take note that each meal has MANY courses – antipasto (appetizer), primo (pasta or soup), secondo (meat or fish with vegetables), formaggi (cheese), dolci (dessert), frutta (fruit), and caffé (coffee) – and govern your portions accordingly! Trust me on this. The inexperienced diner might assume that an Italian meal is complete after an antipasto of cold meats, crusty bread, and olives followed by a hearty helping of delicious pasta, but will discover as a platter of meat or fish is being brought to the table that it’s not over yet… and unfortunately, they’re now much too full to appreciate the rest of the meal.
Whatever you do, eat slowly! If your plate shows even the slightest sign of being a little too clean, you will be served more food and your portion control will go out the window. Again, trust me.
But above all else, enjoy! Enjoy the food, enjoy the company, enjoy the experience… Tutti a tavola a mangiare!
Have you experienced the delight of an Italian meal?