Sunday, January 17, 2016


Being Italian/American has its social mores that must be followed. It is not enough that you know someone, but that you honor him or her with some kind of respectful gesture. What does this mean?  It means that if you visit someone, especially unexpected, that you bring cake. THAT’S RIGHT BRING SOME DESSERT SO THAT THEY OFFER YOU SOME COFFEE!

I don’t mean to shout, but this is important, it is what you must do if you are Italian/American. You don’t show up empty handed, you bring cake, you are saying: “I’m sorry for this visit so lets eat cake, a gift from me to you.”

It reminds me of the young Italian/American who calls his mother to tell her he is coming to visit her so she can meet his new girlfriend.

“Hello Ma? I coming over tonight, I want you to meet Gina.”

“Wonderful sweetheart! When you come, remember to push the front door open with your arms, when you get into the vestibule, use your elbows to ring the door bell, and don’t forget, when you climb the stairs to my door, you rest your elbow into the door and bang hard with your elbows.”

“Ma, why do I need to use my arms and elbows???”

“What, you’re coming empty-handed???”

Yes, cake is social etiquette: cheesecake is a must. Cheesecake is the norm, the thing to bring back in the 50’s. You went to the local bakery, got a plain ordinary cheesecake and had it put in a off white square box with red and white string that wrapped around the box and when you presented it to the hostess, she wondered if you (Il Cheapo) bought Italian pastries. No, it is only morguey cheesecake, plain, ordinary cheesecake. As a visitor, this fulfilled your social obligation, no one could talk about you, and you brought cake, what the Hell else did you want? Of course the cheesecake was the cheapest item in the bakery.

The hostess who receives the cake says out of protocol: “No, no, you shouldn’t have!” You of course think: “Sure, then my name is mud all over town, take the damned cheesecake!”

On the other hand, the hostess had some conventions to follow if she didn’t want her name in the mud. You better get that pot of coffee perking, and make sure you open that box of cheesecake. If you didn’t you were mud; the next day!

“You’d think that Rosie would at least offer us a cup of coffee!”

Wedding had their rules, make sure the food, band and people you sit with at the reception are all good, if not, I take a trip to the men’s room and subtract $$$ for each transgression!

Funerals had their norms too. After the burial you headed to the bereaved home for a nice dinner or late lunch. It didn’t matter how the widow was feeling, what was she serving? If things were lacking: “Sure, such a good man and all she serves is cold cuts.” I come all the way from Hoboken and all I get is cold cuts.”


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