Friday, February 22, 2008

Come On-A My House

I'm in one of my "Italian" moods. I feel like being surrounded by people and making my homemade spaghetti sauce with big huge spicy meatballs and drinking wine and talking late into the night. I credit my one-quarter Italian blood with these periodic cravings for cooking huge meals and making people into family (as well as my brief moments of insanity where I miss the Catholic church and wonder what it would be like to have 6 babies like my Grandmother).

Along with these urges come bizarro pop culture compulsions... 'cause you know - with me it always comes back to books and music and movies.

First and foremost, I've got Come On-A My House stuck in my head. Which isn't even Italian. I think the tune was originally based on Armenian folksongs. And Rosemary Clooney refused to record it at first. She was not such a big star, then, however. So this singer whose first musical love had been Sinatra - due to his immaculate diction - was told that she would either record a song in this awful fake Italian accent or she could hit the road. She relented, realizing she didn't have enough pull to force their hand and, well, a star was born. Come On-A My House was her first huge hit. Irony of ironies, this little novelty song that was the opposite of everything she loved was what made her a household name. It opened all doors for her.

I get in this mood and I want to listen to that song... as well as her recording of Mambo Italiano (which IS based on a traditional Italian Folk song), Dean Martin's recording of That's Amore (not Italian but became popular in Italy after being recorded here in the states)... or really most any Dean Martin...and Perry Como's Papa Loves Mambo (did you know Como was Italian-American? I didn't). It's this mood I get in.

Then I want to watch Moonstruck (one of my all-time favorite films which I have been working on a post about for like three months) and Big Night. Stanley Tucci is the bomb. So is Tony Shaloub. I love them. I love the brothers they play. I become tremendously emotionally invested in that movie.

Then I want to make everyone I know come over for big bowls of spaghetti with meatballs or pasta puttanesca ("whore's spaghetti"! Seriously! It's really like potluck pasta) and make THEM watch Moonstruck and Big Night.

Then I stay up late poring over my Italian cookbooks and re-reading Under the Tuscan Sun.

It's a thing. I get like this. Maybe because I sometimes feel my connection to my Italian heritage, unlike my more immediate Austrailian and Irish roots, is more tenuous and slipping away from me. Maybe because all things Italian make me think of my very Italian father and his (native) Italian father. Times and places and people I grow homesick for. My father's huge family, who are now spread far apart from each other, and the gatherings we would have and the food and the sense of COMING FROM somewhere. I miss my diminutive grandmother lecturing me saying, "Always remember that you're a (insert my ridiculously long Italian last name here). Be proud of it!"


  1. I have no Italian heritage whatsoever, but I feel an affinity to all things Italian, and if I won the lottery today, that's where I'd go first. So I sometimes feel like you, and I long to have a big extended Italian family all around me. Maybe I can get one to adopt me. Thanks for evoking those things.

  2. Thank YOU! I really think the Italian in me is why I'm always creating huge extended families out of my groups of friends. Really, though, many cultures have a similar sense of family and gathering that I think we miss here in the states. The Irish, the Greek and, of course, Italians (as well as many other groups) all have more family-centric cultures. Larger family groups. More closeness with extended family being the norm. Shared meals and a strong link to the food, music and history of their people being an important aspect of how they grew up and how they live.

    Those who have not lived with it often feel the absence of it and those who have known it always yearn for it on some level.

  3. Hullo :o)

    I'm not at all Italian, and although my heritage (Dutch-American) is very clannish, I have never experienced such a relationship before. My family has always moved around a lot.

    However, we were fortunate at one point to live in Sicily for three years. We lived in an apartment on Mt. Etna, and our landlord lived just down the street. He lived on the fourth floor, and his parents and siblings lived below him. While we were there he built a fifth floor for his son. I remember wondering what it would be like, to live close to family.