Blog Post by Michele Di Pietro

Mangia with Michele post

As Italian-Americans, food is such a big part of our culture and we have so many shared experiences and feelings centered around our meals. As such, I truly believe that some of our most vivid and meaningful memories revolve around food…and, they usually bring a smile to our faces (something we could all use in these challenging times)!

I love how one bite of something can immediately invoke an emotional response and really ‘bring you back’ to another place and time. This happened to me recently as I took a bite of the cake pictured here. Back in October, I was at a small café outside of Rome with a colleague for morning coffee and a snack. As I took a bite of this ciambellone, it reminded me vividly of a cake that my mom used to make, and I was immediately transported back to being a child with her by my side. As my mom has been gone for over 16 years now, it was very special and emotional and caused me to just pause and be back with her for a bit. It was actually a moment of peace.

Perhaps this was not even technically a “food memory”, but rather a memory of something else that was induced by food.

Food is so powerful that way and can touch you at your core — not only can one bite bring back thoughts of great tastes and dishes that we’ve had in the past, but it can also bring back emotions and circumstances — how you felt when you ate that food, who you were with and what you were talking about at the time, what the weather was like and where were you sitting — so much more than the actual dish. You can mentally be brought back to a past visual and emotional situation with just one bite.

This must be one of the reasons that we, as Italian-Americans, cling to our heritage and our traditions so tightly. We crave those past experiences and want to hold on to them. And, the best and easiest (and, most delicious) way that we know how to do this is through cooking and eating the traditional foods that we ate growing up, preferably, together.

During this difficult time when we cannot all be, cook or eat together, let the memories of happier times get us through it. Food is a great unifier of people, even virtually, so let’s continue to connect with each other around the virtual dinner table and break bread with each other through our calls, emails, texts, zoom rooms and social media sharing. Tutto andrà bene!

(This topic of “Food Memories” was discussed by myself and my co-host Wendy Holloway on our recent Flavor of Italy podcast, which could be listened to here: )

By: Michele Di Pietro, IEHS Board Member

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Podcast Name: Flavor of Italy – please SUBSCRIBE!

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