rethinking myself and why I cook Italian food so often

pasta

I’ve heard a few times recently that people thought I really disliked them at first. If you’re one of those people who told me that, I swear this post isn’t just about you. In fact, if I’d heard it only once, I’d probably dismiss it. But now that it’s come up a few times, I had to start thinking. Of course the upside is that usually people come to realize I’m pretty nice once we get to know each other. But still, it worries me a little. I’ve never been someone who craved acceptance. On the other hand, I hate to think I’m alienating people from the first moment we meet. It’s been on my mind a lot lately. Self-awareness. I’ve got to work on it. Okay, maybe I have a few friends who didn’t get this impression of me at first. (C’mon Alicia and Tricia, back me up!) But I’m wondering now about all of the people I’ve met who just wrote me off because I seemed a little distant or aloof and translated that into something very negative.

tomatoes and garlic

How is this post related to Italian food? I’m not sure, except that for me, food brings people together. I’ve said before that’s probably why I’m not cooking a lot at home lately, because of some life changes and because I want the eating part to be a shared experience. So why do I cook Italian so often at home? Well, I’m half-Italian, which not a lot of people know because it doesn’t fit my last name very well. But I didn’t grow up at my Italian grandmother’s side, simmering the ragu all day long. No, my interest in Italian food came late. I guess for one thing, it’s instinctual cooking. I could honestly live on pasta, so once I get a pot of boiling water going, the rest comes easy. I mostly start with olive oil, sometimes crushed red pepper, always garlic, and then tomatoes. (Yes, I know we’re all about farm-fresh food, but I love canned Italian tomatoes.) From there, it’s all improvised, and to me that is real cooking. Maybe I cook down some onions and add capers later. With a little cream and Parmesan, I could make something more luscious. Start with some pancetta? Or maybe some sausage? Finish with basil or parsley… of course. Shrimp is a great add-in. Today I kept it simple and made use of some of the free Lindsay olives I’d taken home from Eat Write Retreat. I added a sprinkle of amazing balsamic vinegar at the end, just enough to brighten it up. No recipes, just fun in the kitchen. That’s why I cook Italian.


20 thoughts on “rethinking myself and why I cook Italian food so often

  1. Cooking for yourself is healing… because you are caring for yourself. Good for you. Nothing says home and warmth more than Italian sauces (well… that and the smell of homemade bread). It’s like getting a big hug from an Italian grandmother… just rights the world’s bumpy course for a while.

    About impressions of people??? One of my best friends is nearly 6′ tall and gorgeous. I first thought she was haughty when I met her. She was just shy and is in fact warm and loving. It was a lesson I learned long ago so always try to see that in a person before I judge them to be unpleasant. We can’t all be golden retrievers!

  2. aloof? i would never think of you as aloof.
    granted i’ve never met you but i think of you as very cool, chill, laid back person.
    i think one of the things that draws me to you and your blog is the fact that you
    don’t hold back when it comes to trying new foods. i love that.
    and i love all those crazy donut photos you share on twitter too. LOL

    1. ha, but you’ve never met me in real life! actually i do think i can be a little aloof, but i don’t mean it in a negative way. and sometimes i’m just daydreaming.

  3. PASTA IS COMFORT FOOD TO ME, LOVE THE VARIETY OF THINGS YOU CAN DO TO IT.. COOKING AND EATING ALONE IS NOT BAD, JUST ANOTHER PHASE WE ALL GO THROUGH. LIKE I SAID BEFORE THERE IS LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL.

    WHEN YOU SHARE YOUR PERSONAL THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS ON YOUR BLOG, YOUR HUMANNESS (DON’T KNOW IF I SPELLED THAT RIGHT) COMES THROUGH AND I SENSE A VERY SENSITIVE WARM PERSON. YOUR BLOG IS SO ENTERTAINING AND FUN, THE PICTURES OF DOUGHNUTS, COOKIES, BROWNIES, ETC. MAKE ME DROOL!!!! KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK JUSTIN.

  4. Yum, I love finishing off tomato-based pastas with a bit of balsamic, too!

    I don’t know you personally, but I assume anyone with a passion for food is inherently a people person. After all, it’s best shared, no? 🙂

  5. I’ve had that very thing said of me as well. I tend to be a slightly socially awkward person leaning towards the comfort of my home and my close circle instead of large groups of people I don’t know. And in those situations I gravitate towards the position of being a fly on the wall – taking in the entire scene and engrossed in the people watching rather than interacting. It’s something that I have to consciously work at as it is really not a desire of mine to be aloof. I derise community and networking but it is something that is work for me. Work, that I have yet to master.
    Great post, and great pasta.

  6. Me too I grew up Italian and French, but I sure miss my grandma gambino’s stuffed eggplant, she would grab them right for her garden, my mother cooked a lot of Italian as well, it’s really hard for me to pick a favorite.

  7. I worried you didn’t like me at first too. But that was mostly because you were the Editor and I was the mere writer. You’re a little aloof at first because you are thinking all the time, watching, daydreaming, and not immediately gushing. This is part of the reason I now adore you. (There was a time when your name was not said happily in this house but that’s when we were in the middle of editing frenzy and I was getting two hours of sleep a night.)

    My friend Tita always tells me: trust the people who turn out to be more than they seem at first. She’s right. That’s you.

    I’m glad I know you, Justin.

    1. thank you, Shauna. your story about us sounds about right, though i still wish it didn’t take me so long to break through with people. i like what Tita says. in fact, i think i’ve been living my whole life with that philosophy and just never thought to express it in words.

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