I am back from a week up north -- a combination of family and fun, too much of both to be caught online!
On Sunday, we passed through Verona for lunch with my PMIL at a lovely restaurant* near the casa di Giulietta where we enjoyed exquisite homemade pastas to start, fish dishes on next, some local white wine and espresso to round it off. The place was full of Veronese families on Sunday outings, a post-baptism festa downstairs (a boy judging from the blue ribbons lining the stairs) and a few tourists – two American women with a small child.
“Oh no” I thought as they settled in at the table next to ours, but the three-year-old made no fuss or noise, nor did he whine, run around or roll about under the table as his mother and friend dined on pasta and fagioli and pumpkin ravioli respectively, salads and sweets. I peeked over my PMIL’s shoulders and saw the reason why: he was on his knees with his elbows on the table and eyes transfixed on a small Sony computer. He was in another world, that of the screen. He didn’t even drink the glass of milk his mother had ordered and ate only a pack of gummy bears, groping for the bag and distractedly popping them one by one into his mouth.
Mega reverse cultural moment! I didn’t like this American cultural assimilation process. The boy was learning that meals are not necessarily a time and place for social interaction. He did not have to deal with other people, converse, listen, be bored and watch the walls, fidget and be reprimanded for doing so. Instead it was OK for him to be off in another virtual world instead of participating in the one around him. I have never seen an Italian mother allow a child that luxury at the table.
Lunch with the family in a public place is a painfully slow and tiresome experience for small children where they learn the importance of interdependence -- their inevitable and irrevocable roles in the family. When they get older, they cannot opt out of family dinner by grazing through the kitchen on their way out the door or holing up in their rooms with a nuked burrito. Family meals must be reckoned with and even enjoyed, even in adolescence. Meals in the company of others, at the table is still a cultural imperative, for Italians, not for the little blond three-year-old passing through Verona. He will choose to be a part of family meals or not, as he wishes, at his choice, as he did in Verona where his mother taught him that it is OK not to participate, if it is not to his convenience and desire.
Vicolo Samaritana, 3
tel+39 045 8004577
closed on Mondays