by Melinda Gallo

Dinner with my suoceri

Tonight we celebrated the wedding anniversary of my suoceri (in-laws). Sometimes Alessandro and I pick the restaurant to go to and other times they do. We generally pick a place in centro (in the downtown area) while they know more about places outside of town. I love it when they choose a place because I'm almost sure to have not yet been and am very sure that we'll be eating tasty Tuscan food.

Fortunately, the weather has changed even more and the temperatures are cool. I enjoy Tuscan food even more in the winter months because it is heavier and should be eaten with bread and a glass or two of Chianti.

We drove up toward Fiesole and after driving through the centro, we were on the narrow street that sometimes only allows cars in one direction. We parked the car along the narrow country road where once we turned off the headlights, we couldn't see much of anything at all except lights in the distance.

Even though my suoceri eat Tuscan food every day, they love eating out to eat even more of it. I don't always cook Tuscan food, so I'm happy just to eat out. We have tried to take them to other restaurants, but they tend to want to eat familiar dishes. I know that when they travel around and eat something new, they come home and tell me all about it. The last dish they loved was a filet of beef with a mushroom sauce on it. Here in Tuscany, that would probably be considered a sin to cover up meat with some sauce, but they did enjoy it.

I used to think I was a big eater until I moved to Italy. I could eat lots of sushi with a stack of plates to prove it, but the Italians have me beat. I usually can only eat a maximum of two dishes. At lunch, I generally have a pasta dish and a contorno (side of vegetables). At dinner, I can splurge a little bit and eat an antipasto (appetizer) and a secondo (meat or fish dish) with a contorno. I don't count dessert just because no matter how full I am, somehow there's always room.

I'm also a bit embarrassed when I eat with Italians because I tend to leave a little bit on my plate if I'm feeling full. My suoceri and marito (husband) are always able to finish their plates and leave them practically clean. Usually, I shyly hand my plate to the cameriere (waiter) and try to avoid eye contact. I'm sure they think I'm a terrible straniera (foreigner).

At the end of dinner, my famiglia (family) drink up the grappa we're served in one fell swoop. I usually pass mine down to my marito because I rarely drink, except for maybe a glass of wine with dinner, so my tolerance is incredibly low. I also don't join in the ritual of drinking a caffè (coffee) before the grappa either. I'm fortunate that my famiglia is so accepting and has never pointed out that I don't follow so many of their habits. I've been with other people who like to tease me about not drinking caffè or grappa as if I were an alien.

I always enjoy eating with my suoceri because it is a chance for us to get together and talk. We hadn't really talked to them, except briefly on the phone, since we came back from our vacanza (vacation) to the US, so they were eager to hear all about it. They haven't yet been to the States, but I hope we can take them with us the next time we go. I don't know how much they'll like the food: it'll certainly be different for them, but hopefully they'll enjoy it.

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