Language, food, sports -- the differences are many, but so are the things we all have in common. Although each one of us plays vastly different instruments, we are all part of the same orchestra (leggi in italiano)
I'm an avid people watcher at heart. An observer of the human condition. People's interactions with each other, their surroundings, and what comprises them are always on my radar.
During my short time here, I'm constantly noticing examples and comparisons of a societal Italy and the world around it. I'm continually coming to a realization that as unique as we believe we are from other cultures, the more we are similar.
We Italians, Americans, Germans, Colombians, Bulgarians, Vietnamese, along with every other ethnicity are all musicians of life and we are playing inherently different instruments. Every society, as humans, is made up of general components. People, governments, cuisine and languages are some of the parts that make up this machine. Also how we interact with our unique environment and the relationships we have with its inhabitants, the homes we build, the sports we play, the clothes we wear, down to the dinners we order at restaurants are also parts of an even more complex machine that is our individual societies.
Languages, for instance, can be broken down like sheets of music. Different pitches, tones and notes are used to communicate with each other in dialects within languages. Many Italian dialects each have their own flavorful tones and distinctions, something I wasn't fully aware of until I got out there and started to interact and talk (at the moment attempting to talk might be a more accurate statement) to my fellow neighbors, shop keepers, waiters, bartenders and civil servants of my new surroundings. While out by myself getting groceries for lunch my local butcher and I had one of what I expect for him to be many patience trying conversations about the size of parmigiano reggiano I needed.
We triumphantly came to an understanding somewhere between piccolo and piccolo piu. Success! I find these interactions with this new language and it's dialects fascinating. I've found that the Neapolitan dialect often finishes words with great “forza”, and there's also the Fiorentino dialect with its absence of the pronunciation of “c” to name just two. The U.S. of course, has many dialects as well. The New Yorkers' speedy delivery, such as changing the sound of many words ending in “er” to an “a”, or the smooth Georgian drawl of the south, might not be detected immediately by someone new to the country. These distinctive differences to me are somewhat like hearing a new kind of music, such as jazz, for the first time, peculiar to my naïve ear, yet pleasantly intriguing. These variations in language seem subtle from afar, until noticed in comparative, personal, interaction. It's these kinds of subtleties that make us very unique, yet very similar. Hopefully in time and with the help of my new favorite show, a soap opera named Un Posto al Sole, I will sound as if Italian has forever been my native tongue.
Both Italy and the U.S. are places that are very passionate about sports, almost a second religion to many. Despite using appendages in different calibers, football both, American and European, bring people of the same cities and towns closer together as a community (or further apart, due to mostly playful rivalries!).
Cuisine, although absolutely cherished all over the globe, has very many distinct differences in
Italy. The way meats and fish are prepared is an identity a place inherits, sometimes by landscape, such as being close to the sea or at the foothills of mountains; to the history a region or city had with neighboring and sometimes invading foreign cultures and the unintentional culinary influences they brought along with their sovereign agendas. These change from region to region, city to city, and even town to town right down to the cheeses, from the gallant Gorgonzola of the north, to the majestic Mozzarella of the south. I feel these characteristics are not felt as strongly in the U.S. due to it's relatively young beginnings as a country. Although, it must be mentioned that in New York especially, a vast number of foreign and exotic cuisines can be tasted and sampled due to it's uniquely multicultural population who immigrated there sometimes only by a generation or two. These foods have been warmly adopted, but where as in Italy I feel these delicious dietary differences make up the very DNA of the people who cook, prepare and eat them, due to hundreds of years of integration. One way I personally have been immediately influenced in this regard is from a topping I now hold very dear to my heart.
Back in New York, especially when dining at home hot-sauce was applied to almost everything; from eggs, to meats, to cornflakes (just kidding), you name it. Now thanks to some people I care a very great deal for, I instead use peperoncino piccante diligently!
These two aspects of life, language and cuisine, are among many that I am discovering with much joy in my new world. I'm sure as I dig deeper into the intricacies that make up this beautifully diverse land, so rich in heritage, I will continue to be astonished at what I uncover and realize that, although each one of us plays vastly different instruments, we are all part of the same orchestra. Ciao.