by Melinda Gallo

A year of Sunday lunches with my suoceri

When I woke up on this stormy and rainy Sunday morning, I realized that I've been going to the house of my suoceri (in-laws) for Sunday lunch for an entire year. When I first went to their place for lunch, I felt a little nervous because it was important to me that they like me. From the beginning, they were very accommodating and treated me as if I were a part of the family even before I became Alessandro's moglie (wife).

I used to bring a dolce (dessert) or fiori (flowers) to them, but Alessandro's mamma asked me to stop bringing regali (gifts). Initially, it was difficult for me to go to their place for lunch without bringing anything since I was taught to never go empty handed. Now, I only bring a regalo every once in a while and they seem to appreciate it.

Initially, I would walk or ride my bicicletta (bike) to their place, but this last winter when the weather was either cold or rainy my suocero (father-in-law) would pick me up at the Ponte alle Grazie to drive me to their place. Even now when it's too hot, he'll pick me up because it can be unbearable to ride my bicicletta. When Alessandro notices that my bicicletta isn't parked outside, he laughs and says that his genitori (parents) mi viziano (are spoiling me).

In the beginning, I would eat everything his mamma put in front of me. My own mother taught me that even if someone made something I didn't like, I was supposed to eat it anyway. If I was asked how it was, I was to say that it was delicious even if I didn't like it.

I have noticed that every time I like something, my suocera makes it more often. And when I don't like something, she makes it less often for me. Once she made everyone tagliolini con asparagi (taglioni with asparagus) and made me a pasta dish only for me because she knows I'm not that fond of asparagi. Although one Sunday when my suocera put a plate of fagiolini verdi (green beans) in front of me, I didn't serve myself any. She said, "Pensavo che ti piacessero? (I thought you liked them?)" I felt my throat tighten as I heard a voice telling me to just eat them, but I had to tell her the truth, "Non mi piacciono tanto. (I don't like them that much.)" She told me that I ate them the last two times she made them and that I said they were good. "Li mangio, ma non mi piacciono. (I eat them, but I don't like them.)," I said with a twinge of regret.

She moved the plate of fagiolini verdi away from me and placed a large bowl of salad in front of me. She said, "Se non ti piacciono, non hai bisogno di mangiarli. (If you don't like them, you don't have to eat them.)"

It is new for me to not be obligated to eat what is placed in front of me at the lunch table. I also admit that I do feel viziata (spoiled) because they always want me to enjoy my meal with them.

Our Sunday lunches are not all about the food, but more about my feeling more and more a part of a family. And that is the greatest gift I could've asked for.

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