Friday, June 09, 2006


Sorry, folks, but it's 1969 again! Lucia has to remind me every day to keep my fork from one course to the next, a practice which I found difficult, and even revolting, at first. Now, of course, I appreciate how sensible this is: otherwise, you'd never finish washing up in Italy! However, it does still get to me when, even in a restaurant, you are not handed a clean knife to deal with the fruit course [though, strangely, you usually are for other courses].

Plastic plates are often used for entertaining in the home and, again, I appreciate the practicality of this.

Italy's is an oily cuisine so serviettes/napkins are often placed on the table in a holder so that you can use as many as you need. I am getting out of the habit of placing them on my lap in a ladylike fashion; Italians sometimes place them next to their cutlery in order to wipe their fingers easily when necessary.

There is no waiting until everybody, including the cook, is ready to begin eating; everybody just digs in as soon as they are served, and a good thing, too, as food is often served tepid, not piping hot as in Britain. Once, dining at a friend's home here, I waited, like a reticent British fool, until everyone else was ready to eat and it was interpreted as my needing something else, such as bread.

As in France, there are no bread plates and no butter. The latter is not necessary, because of the texture of the bread. [Incidentally, I read somewhere recently that Sicilian bread is hard because, in bygone days, this enabled the shepherds to pocket it and carry it around with them all day without its going "off".]

I should say here that there is no elegant way to eat spaghetti - so forget your inhibitions, tuck in and get yourself in a sauce-induced mess!

Coffee is not a drink to be lingered over here and is not automatically served at the end of a meal. In some establishments I have seen people drink it standing up at the counter after the meal and I cannot, for the life of me, see the pleasure in that!

Most Italians eat in the kitchen, where they usually have a TV. [Indeed, many have perfect lounges which they rarely use.] My friends here were horrified, when I first arrived, to discover that I didn't have a kitchen table so finally I capitulated and bought one. But I draw the line at a TV in the kitchen! I'll live my life in the lounge, thanks! I have also capitulated and started using tablecloths: many British people use melamine [or similar] mats instead and I used to be no exception, being cursed with the modern British woman's aversion to ironing!

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