Tutti a Tavola

Tutti a tavola a mangiare!
[Translation]: Everybody at the table to eat!

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My maternal grandparents lived through the Great Depression in Italy. Growing up I could never understand why my Nonna would cut the mould off a piece of food and eat the remainder. Gross. Just throw it out I’d think. I guess the thing is when you’ve lived through a part of history where your diet consisted of solely potatoes and food was so scarce that you weren’t sure you’d eat each day, your perspective on “gross” vs. perfectly edible food is subjective.

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To my Nonna and Nonno, food meant wealth and good fortune. A table of food was a clear indicator that you were a good provider for your family. My mom remembers her uncle physically shoving her face into her dinner plate, worried she was too thin and not eating enough. Mangia, mangia! Likewise, my sister, who was always much smaller than me, got the same grief when she failed to finish the food on her plate. And surely that food couldn’t go to waste.

“Benedica”  they would say as they watched me eat her leftovers. My second, sometimes third, portion. God bless you.

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My Dad, second from the top right, and his 10 siblings.

On the other side of my family, my paternal grandparents had 11 children. Yup, the Duggars weren’t the first ones to produce a soccer team of humans.  Providing for a family of 13 in the 1950s meant that everyone contributed by working at the family store. At their dinner table it was about speed – if you didn’t eat fast you didn’t eat. And leftovers were nonexistent. They even had a mock prayer they would say:

“In the name of the Father, the son, and the Holy Ghost. The one who eats the fastest gets the most.” Amen.

And so very early on began my unhealthy relationship with food. I ate too much and I ate too quickly. (Not to mention growing up in a world surrounded by cheap fast food options at every corner.) Don’t get me wrong – my parents and my heritage aren’t to blame for my unhealthy eating habits. They were only doing what they were taught and their parents were only surviving. I distinctly remember being told to pace myself, encouraged to make healthy choices. My parents have always encouraged, supported and cheered me on. They too have struggled with their weights and food as a result of their upbringing. 

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You see, food is so ingrained in who we are. Something we are so fortunate to have an abundance of. In Italian, and pretty much every other, culture, family time is centered around a meal. Some of my fondest family memories are ones sitting down to eat together. Passing bowls filled with hearty portions of pasta. Breaking fresh crusty bread. Meatballs, sausages, and veal. Rapini sandwiched between two pieces of white pizza. Proscuitto, salami, mortadella. Bowls of olives and fresh mozzarella. The smell of fresh tomato sauce cooking for hours on a cold Sunday afternoon. Are you hungry yet? I sure am.

I remember my Nonna would make these delicious “pizzelle” (donuts) every Christmas and she’d count them ahead of time so us grandkids could make our guesses. F*ck those donuts were amazing. I probably shouldn’t have eaten like 10 at a time though, oops.

Yes, food is part of who we are. There’s no denying it. But the reality is that it’s also a drug. And early on in my life, I developed an addiction. Coping with anxiety and depression in my early teens didn’t help and emotional eating became my cure. Sad? There’s a food for that. Anxious? There’s a food for that. Bored? There’s a food for that. And so on and so forth until food only propelled my unhappiness further. 

Food and I will always have a love-hate relationship. After all, it’s the reason I’ve struggled to lose weight and furthermore to maintain it. Changing my perception of food is going to be the hardest part of this transformation. Truth is I know what I should be eating. It doesn’t mean I do it. It’s funny how I wouldn’t dare put garbage into my car engine but I’ll do it to my own body. Why the f*ck does bad food have to taste SO GOOD? God’s cruelest joke.

Hello my name is Danielle and I’m addicted to food.

Like every addiction, there’s a process involved in quitting. Cold turkey hasn’t worked for me. Neither has restricting certain foods or dieting. See more about that in my post, South Beach, Sugar-Free.

Step 1 has been slowly clearing our home of the temptations. Pantry, fridge, freezer, hidden stash (kidding), the works. That resistance to “wasting” food makes it so difficult. Throwing out perfectly edible and in some cases, unopened food just isn’t something I was brought up doing. I’d be lying if I said we haven’t gotten rid of some of it through our digestive systems.

Step 2 will be in a couple of weeks. I’m so excited to be working with a holistic nutritionist, also a friend, who’s going to help us get on track with better choices. I’ll document the whole process in a blog post as well as my Instagram.

Step 3 is going to be the hardest and that’s putting everything I learn into practice. Stay tuned as I will be sharing our adventures in meal planning and meal prep.

Let’s face it, food is part of who we are and it will continue to play an important part in our lives. Though the food may look different, we will still gather as a family around the table and eat together while talking about our days. We will still indulge in some of our family favourites – after all, everything is okay in moderation. But most important, is that I use food as fuel rather than comfort. I may have had a Three Musketeers bar for breakfast this morning.  F*ck. (It’s been a rough week)

I didn’t say this change would happen immediately. But the wheels are in motion. Consider me checked in to Food Rehab. Let’s just hope this is my last admittance once and for all.

Buon Appetito!

One thought on “Tutti a Tavola

  1. That’s an amazingly accurate interpretation of our lives as they’re associated with food, Dani!
    I love how you recaptured all those special family memories. The common thread of all the generations remains the same today as we, ( yourself, Nee, and myself), plan for our family to meet for dinner on a more regular basis. A way of coming together in our busy lives to catch up and enjoy a meal together,…. like my parents, and their parents, .,,.
    Except that the memories we will create will not surround an abundance of food, but rather, lots of laughter, stories, teasing, and love around a good meal. Not to mention a lot of very very loud Italian style talking lol!! ❤️ xo

    Like

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