Thursday, December 01, 2005

Fava Beans and a Nice Chianti

Happy birthday to my brother!!!

In honor of Blog Against Racism (hat tip to Mignon), I thought I'd do what I do best and write about food.

This is what we cooked for dinner last night:

My mouth was watering as I laid out le pere, i pepi, il rosmarino, la cipolla, i funghi, l'agnello, e l'aglio per il foto (I don't know the word for "butternut squash" and am too busy to look it up). Being Italian-American has had a tremendous impact on my enjoyment of food.

One evening last week, while I was home for Thanksgiving, my parents and I sheepishly discussed whether we would watch one of our favorite films, Goodfellas. Its filmmaking merit is without question. The script is superb. The "hostess party" scene, in my opinion, could singlehandedly inspire a "Best Scene" category at the Academy Awards.

But, you know, there's that whole violent-and-tacky-Italians stereotype. The tackiness bothers me more than the violence, because I occasionally feel driven to inflict grievous bodily injury--when I've tried 8 times, unsuccessfully, to upload a simple photo to my blog, for example. But look at what my people eat for dinner and tell me that we're tacky.

My parents, Goodfellas aside, have virtually zero tolerance for mobster depictions of Italians in the media. They write letters and participate in Italian cultural organizations. I used to be similarly strict, but I've loosened up a little bit. When you realize that you're laughing at Groundskeeper Willie's antics alongside your Scottish husband, you start to apply the same standards to your own ethnicity.

There's been a lot of back-and-forth about The Sopranos and the way it depicts Italian-Americans. I recall once being singled out in a group, as an Italian, and being asked to defend my position that The Sopranos depicted Italians negatively. When the show first became popular, I think a lot of people took the public position that it didn't depict Italians negatively because they enjoyed the show and didn't want to think of themselves as racist or biased, or even just participants in a cycle of making and enjoying ethnic humor.

So, I believe that The Sopranos does depict Italians negatively. I also believe that it's OK to enjoy the show; I just wish we could acknowledge it for the guilty pleasure that it is. Maybe some ethnic humor can be acknowledged, discussed, and enjoyed? This would involve a collective ability to identify and appreciate ethnic humor while also discrediting it to some extent. That is difficult. I wonder if it's even possible in our mainstream society. I also wonder if it's only possible with certain groups. I do think that some of the more edgy and interesting contemporary artists and pop culture icons acknowledge this tension between enjoyable mocking and respectful reverence.

The dinner was delicious.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is that lamb (goes with rosemary)? Everything looks delicious! You could be a chef at the Olive Garden. ;)

1:13 PM  
Blogger ptg said...

You are lucky if you can get honest to goodness lamb. What passes for lamb in Nebraska is nothing but greasy mutton. And seafood? Fuggeddaboudit.

2:49 PM  
Blogger Mignon said...

Nice, Arabella. I've wanted to hear a proud Italian-American's take on The Sopranos for a long time. Does your family feel the same?

6:15 PM  
Blogger Mr. Lashes said...

My attitude has always been the same. If people are naive enough to truly believe that all of stereotypes of Italian-Americans (or any other ethnic background) they see on TV are true, then it just goes to show how foolish that person is. If someone thought I was in the mob just because I'm Italian, I'd happily let them go on believing it. Why should I try to educate an ignorant fool? Personally, I'd rather let them look like an idiot...just my 2 cents.

10:40 PM  

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