The sound of a percolating espresso pot. The hand gestures. The sauce. THE. SAUCE. The arguing of who's sauce is better. 
These are just a few things that comfort me and bring me joy. And they all come from my Italian side of the family. 

I've talked a lot on this blog about my dad's side of the family and my Grandma Kitty Kats who is of Welsh and British decent. I even did a video with her before she passed away. 

I've never really talked about my mother's side of the family, my Italian side. For a long time, I didn't feel like I could openly express this side of my culture without being judged. I don't look like a stereotypical Italian. My family isn't huge and we don't have dinner every Sunday. They don't all have black hair and tanned skin. They don't make cannoli's or make homemade pasta noodles. 

Some say we look alike and that we have the same "thick" skin. Can we discuss this top she is wearing? Paisley pink 60s perfection. She had the BEST outfits. 

My sister and I spent a lot of time with my Italian grandma — her name is Cecelia — growing up. She taught us how to make espresso at an early age. We'd have sleepovers and watch Italian talent variety shows and soap operas as we made pasta sauce and learned how to cook various dishes. Our family gatherings included my grandfather singing Italian songs and playing the accordion, laughter and loud "talking", and a lot of delicious food. We would often accompany my grandma to the grocery store and watched her spend an hour picking out produce as she analyzed every tomato, green bean, and cherry. 

In the past six months or so, I have been really connecting to this side of the family and this part of my heritage. I became really close with my friend Michael who incorporates his Italian culture into his life. We've chilled with his Nonna and exclusively eaten Italian food together. 

Two months ago, I moved down the street from my grandma and have been spending more time with her. We even looked at a Google map together and found her's and my grandpa's hometowns. And I absolutely plan on going there. Italy is next on my travel list as I strongly feel like I need to experience my culture first hand. I know I will adore it and it will help me feel more connected to my roots. 

I am half Italian and proud. Here's what it means to me. 

Eating good food, with good people.

One stereotype my family relates to about Italian people is their love of food. My grandma is obsessed with feeding people. I never leave her house hungry and I always leave with a bag of leftovers in hand. Food brings us together and is a way for Italians to show their love for each other. That and those painful cheek pinches and double baci (kiss on each cheek). 

Being loud and proud. 

Anytime you meet an Italian, you'll know. Because they'll mention it within five minutes of meeting you. They're very proud people. And this is something I have always felt. While I didn't always feel like I fit in with Italian culture, I have always been proud to say it. My family is also really loud. I grew up with a certain volume level in the house and I grew accustomed to it. It's actually comforting to me now when I hear Italians "speaking". 

Working to live, not living to work.

Italians, in my opinion, are extremely hard workers. But they don't work to flaunt their job title. They work their jobs to earn money to live well. They're very present in this way. I never felt pressured to have a fancy job title or earn a million dollars but to find something I loved doing that paid enough for me to enjoy good food and a space for family and friends to be together. This is how many people in Europe live and when I travel this year, I want to adopt aspects of this lifestyle into my own. I want to take time. With people. With good food. Being present. 

My favourite thing about Italian families is their warmth. They welcome everyone with open arms and are generous people. They love to serve others and if you deny their food, they will keep offering it until you crack and continue eating. And then you drink espresso. Usually after 8 pm. And it doesn't make any sense but you're so happy and full and cheek-pinched that it really doesn't matter. 

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