March 17, 2007

Birthday obligations

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
And Happy Birthday.

One strange part of living in Rome is that no one celebrates my birthday by drinking green beer. I once shared an apartment with an American artist of Irish descent and that year we threw a birthday/St.Patrick’s day party complete with shamrocks, green icing with clover and such. The Italians did not get it, but managed to smile politely -- the Anglo-Irish-Americans instead had a great time.

Although all but two Italian holidays are of a religious nature, St. Paddy's doesn’t make it alongside the immaculate conception and subsequent ascension of the Virgin Mary.

So I celebrate my birthday in a sober fashion. Today by a nice lunch on the terrace with my husband, one son (the other called from Trento) and a large bouquet of flowers that they brought home for a surprise. The only touch of green were the new earings from my mom.

Funny thing is that in Italy YOU are expected to OFFER on your birthday instead of being the recipient. So if you go out with friends – bring along lots of cash, tocca a te! This has always felt a bit strange, like you have to buy off friends to get them to celebrate with you instead of it being their turn to make the day special for you. I would guess that it has to do with both the bella figura concept and the unwritten “tit for tat” social obligation rules – the others give you presents, so you have to put on a show for them. Anyway, my MIL always takes the whole family out to dinner for her birthday and today tocca a me to prepare a special lunch.

Spaghetti al nero di seppia (dried homemade pasta with squid ink from Naples), with a sauce of only fresh pomodorini (so as not to overwhelm the flavor of the rich black pasta). I sliced the tomatoes and put them in the oven for 20 minutes with a bit of oil, salt, garlic and basil – much more flavorful and less runny that doing them in a pan. Of course, the final success depends on the quality of the tomatoes, so for this sort of dish, I go to Sig.ra Pina (a post on her and lazy left-eye Leonardo coming up).

Then we enjoyed gamberi saltati in padella, salad and strawberries. In the end, I offered a very nice lunch indeed for my birthday! Good thing it only comes once a year.

A domani (one year and one day older….),


sognatrice said...

Auguri! If I were closer, I'd buy you a Guinness (or your beverage of choice) anyway despite the crazy Italian tradition ;) The feast looks and sounds delicious!

Shelley - At Home in Rome said...

Auguri Elizabeth!!! And continued complimenti on your blogging. I met another blogger (from LA) here in Rome a few weeks ago and she mentioned how she enjoys your blog as well. And complimenti on the Forum too, you are doing an excellent job... thanks for taking it back from me so I can go on my honeymoon! Ciao...

C N Heidelberg said...

We have this bizarre backwards birthday concept in Germany as well!! It's a real bummer, because I can't afford to provide the fun for my I am hoping to keep it totally under wraps so no one expects anything.

KC said...

Happy Birthday! (Two days late.)

I didn't know that the person who's celebrating his/her birthday is supposed to treat, but now that I do, it makes sense of something I'd been wondering about. My SIL's MIL invited all of her children and their families on a vacation to Egypt for her birthday. I remember thinking it was very conceited of her, making such a big deal of her birthday. But now I understand!

Elizabeth said...

Thanks to all for your B-day auguri!
Shelley -- it is already the middle of March, when is the big day! I am thinking about my favorite entry....
Dreamer -- when you get to Rome, I can buy you (and Shelley) one too.
Backward Birthdays in Germany too -- a European unifying element I guess.
KC -- have fun in Egypt.