Italian food, Italy, opinion, self sufficiency, traditions

Buona Domenica!

One of our favourite Italian traditions is the Italian Sunday lunch. As a true Brit I can hand on heart say it rivals the Sunday roast, not just the food but because of the other traditions…

Here are the 10 rules for an authentic Italian Sunday lunch

Our Sicilian family!

1) You must invite ALL the family! Contrary to popular believes Italians do not have loads of children. Most Italians I know only have 1 or 2 children, but they keep their family close to them so aunts, uncles and particularly grandparents ‘nonni’ are regular guests for lunch or dinner and particularly Sunday lunches so invite all the family and if there is no grandparent – adopt one.

2) A large table! Obviously for the 20+ guests you will need a large table, ok maybe not large but long definitely!

3) A table cloth is a must. It is unthinkable for Italians not to have a tablecloth. Preferably white but as these are modern times you can go patterned but it MUST be cloth never paper!

4) Unlike the table cloth you can use plastic plates and cups, especially if there are loads of you. Unfortunately, this is very popular in Italy and goes against every recycling rule we have been taught.

5) Enough wine to sink a battle ship and a matching amount of water. Sparkling as well but it must be bottled. As for the wine. Local wine is fine and if it’s a 5 litre bottle – all the better

My Molise friends and guests completely going against my list of ‘donts’!

6) A television. Yes I know it sounds strange but at almost every Italian Sunday lunch I have ever attended the television has played a huge role. In Italy every Sunday they have marathon Italian television shows that run for at least 3 hours followed by 15 football programmes. If the television can be placed high up so everyone can see that would be perfect. You often find them on top of the fridge.

7) The meal should comprise of at least 4 courses, preferably 5 or 6 and if you are at an Italian wedding expect any number over 11…

For Sunday lunch you should have;

Aperetivi ; Prosecco or similar is only ever served before a meal. NEVER with a meal.

Then –

Antipasti; cold meat, cheeses, olives etc

Then –

First course; pasta or rice dish

Then –

Meat with a small side selection of greens and maybe potatoes.

Then –

Fruit and cheese; Always seasonal. Italians don’t care how fruit looks – it’s all about the taste. Nuts can also be served.

Then –

Sweet course. This is where you the guest come in. You bring the cakes – usually bought from a local cake shop. Do NOT bring wine, unless it is a sweet wine to go with the desert!

Finally – A coffee. Well an espresso. Do NOT ask for a cappuccino. You will be thrown out for asking for milk.

And lastly a liquor to help you ‘digest’ the huge amount you have eaten. Italians are obsessed by digestion! Before living there I had only thought about it in terms of biscuits!

Lovely Bread should be served throughout. Do not make my mistake and fill up on that first!

Eating at a friend’s house where everything we ate was locally sourced! If you look carefully you can see the television in the background!

8) The meal usually starts at 2pm and finishes about 6pm! Obviously this depends on how many courses there are. Word to the wise. Don’t have breakfast first!

9) How to be a polite guest. This is VERY important. On your first mouthful of food comment on how wonderful the food is! You cannot go on about it enough! If you really want to impress, ask for a second helping! Even though you have eaten the equivalent of a week’s food.

10) Some DONT’S!

Don’t bring English food. Italians don’t trust it.

Don’t ask for butter for your bread. Butter in Italy is used to cook with only.

Don’t ask for seasoning! The cook will have seasoned it according to the recipe. You risk offending them by asking for salt!

And – Don’t get drunk. This is what’s is known as a ‘Brutta figura’ (Making a fool of yourself!) Get merry enough to need a sleep but not drunk enough to dance on the table. It never stopped me though…

You can of course recreate this in England but to be honest the best way to experience it is to get yourself over to Italy and find a good local family run restaurant and book yourself in for Sunday lunch.

And lastly the ONLY way to greet someone on a Sunday is by saying “Buona Domenica ” loudly and often!

So Buona Domenica!!


Adopted Italian!

I was 14 years old when my life changed forever. It was nothing bad! Actually it was really bloody good.

I was born in Chorley in Lancashire and my lovely parents were one hundred percent British. We lived in Leyland which was a homely town where everyone knew everyone and you felt very safe, if a little bored. Especially at the age of 14! I felt VERY bored! That pubescent feeling that life is waiting to happen was reflected in the heavy grey skies and cold weather but then it all changed. A brave deputy head teacher who was an Italophile, took a group of us from a Catholic school, to Italy.

The details of that trip are another story but suffice to say I fell in love with Italy and on my return vowed that I would learn Italian and live in Italy. It wasn’t easy. “Why do you want to learn bloody Italian?”, was said a great deal but I was adamant! My dream was bolstered by an Aunty who had lived in Italy and spoke conversational Italian. A trip back to Italy had been organised so I had the possibility to learn leading me to the end game! I began with a crappy phrase book and my aunty taught me my first words in Italian, which were obviously swear words as I was 15 years old! I learned phrase book Italian and went back to Lido di Jedolo where I had the holiday of a life time and on my return my determination to learn Italian was stronger. There were many more holidays to Lido di Jesolo and my Italian improved. But none of this was enough. I wanted to live there. I wanted to BE Italian!

My friends and I on holiday in Lido di Jesolo

While I was at university I made a friend who had done something called TEFL (Teaching English As a Foreign Language) and had lived in Madrid for a year. She made it sound easy but my formal English wasn’t strong as I had (unrecognised) dyslexia and although I loved creative writing my ‘creative spelling’ held me back. I finished Uni in Art and Design but in 1993 and with a recession there were no jobs. I took a job at the KFC in Preston to start saving for my TEFL course. I decided to study in Lisbon, Portugal as I knew if I went straight to Italy I probably wouldn’t travel further afield. Italy called to me the entire time so when a job was offered on finishing the course I headed straight to the country I loved.

This was the second life changing moment. The job was in Southern Italy in a place called the MOLISE! The Molise? Nobody I knew had ever heard of it! But off I went to teach at a summer camp in the mountains between Rome and Naples -ish. My pigeon Italian got me half way but I was at that terrible stage where I could engage in conversations but not really go to any depth. I loved my time there and made great friends who I still keep in touch with but at that time I thought my heart was in the north of Italy in Venice. I got a job and found a room in a shared flat. I had done it! I was living my dream!

Looking skinny but unhappy in Venice
Twenty Four is quite young to achieve your life’s goal and although I had a fantastic job and was living my dream it didn’t feel quite right. I was lonely and sad and had lost up to 3 stone in weight. I power dressed and even wore pearls and scarves but not in a rock way – in a Stepford wives way! I even stopped drinking pints! At the time I didn’t realise how unhappy I was until I returned to the Molise, back to southern Italy and realised just what I was missing! The south of Italy is like the North of England, poor, agricultural but happy. It felt like home. I quit my high paid job and followed my heart to a place called Campobasso.

Enduring the cold but beautiful winters in Campobasso

Campobasso is the Head town of the Molise region. It is a big town but really like a small village and I absolutely loved it there. I found myself again and am glad to say that the pint drinking, jean wearing party girl returned and the scarf and (fake) pearls were thrown in a bin! As a language learner and a language teacher my biggest advice for how to learn a language is to move to a place where NO ONE speaks your first language! This really worked for me apart from the fact that people in Campobasso spoke a strange Italian dialect! So that is what I learned! An example of the dialect would be … I don’t know in Italian is ‘non lo so’. In the local dialect its ‘Che ne saccio’!

I spent two of the best years of my life in Campobasso, I met some other American, Canadian, English and Welsh women and we became close friends. I didn’t make a lot of money but I was very happy. Two years went by and I knew everybody and every cat and dog! It was clear that if I didn’t move I would live there forever. Loving it as much as I did I was only 28 and I needed a change and more of a career opportunity. A friend and I decided to move to a city in the north east of Italy called Bologna. We chose Bologna because we heard it was a cool, arty, leftie city and we weren’t disappointed! I landed an amazing job teaching at the British Council, made special friends and had a great quality of life but once again fate intervened, and my life changed again.

Never knowing without a Prosecco in Bologna!

It was there that I met my husband who was on holiday visiting his sister. Although he was born in Catania, Sicily he moved to the UK when he was 4 and immediately dropped his Italian. We fell in love and because he was training in English law, we decided to would move back to the UK and live in his Camden apartment. It turned out he lived down the road from my sister! I had never lived in the south of England. So in 2002 I moved back to England and my life here began.

We regularly go back to Italy and weirdly my Italian goes from strength to strength, I think because I don’t care about being accurate any more I have become more fluent!

My husband’s Italian is not as good as mine and this often confuses people.

We are now slowly teaching the children to speak Italian and they are very much in touch with their Italian heritage’ Not just from my husband’s Sicilian side but also from my adopted Italian side.

I hope one day they will follow in our footsteps and live there. But as THEY are our children they will probably follow their own path!

My husband Massimo and I the first year we met.