“Alex e piu stupido della mia…cow.”
I’m sitting in my host mother’s kitchen. As far as I can tell, in Italy, “kitchen” is short for “sanctuary only slightly less holy than the Catholic church.”
My mama, Fausta, is making fun of her son and also “making an experiment,” as she says, with a roll of dough. Dough and cheese…so far so good…I’m dying to ask what she’s making but I don’t think she knows yet. She looks like a mad scientist now, her frizzy hair leaking out of a hair band, her brown eyes wide and emphatic, and her body encircled in a pungent halo of parmesan. She is pontificating at 60 miles – ahem, kilometers – an hour, on the assumption that I have mastered the Italian language over the last 3 days.
When Fausta’s experiment was finished, the one who most enjoyed it was Hottie, the family mutt. Hottie devoured the 5 lbs of leftover spinach pie with the relish of the roundest kid at fat camp. Luckily the dog’s reaction was the only one Fausta seemed to register.
As a less-than-practiced chef and single mother, who works 2 jobs and bears no religious affect, she is hardly the typical Italian mama. But her resiliance and verve make me feel that she is all of the good that Italian moms are cracked up to be. She gives me what I want after a long day teaching 12 8-year olds who don’t speak my language: relaxing chit chat and a strong drink. Traveling can be hard and I’m lucky to have a mom while on the road.
This host family is stationed in Roccafranca, where JS0 is currently postitioned. The town has approximately the same population as my high school, T.C. Williams: 3,000. A key difference is that, while T.C.W. was notable for its high black-to-white person ratio, Roccafranca is notable for its high animal-to-person ratio. There is 1+ dog per person and the pig and donkey population is not far behind. Which explains the smell. Frankly, I would rather have natural air polution than the manmade smog of NYC. Is it weird to distinguish? Whatever, I’m just psyched to be out of the loud city and in a warm Italian family in the countryside, if only for two weeks.