Friday, March 17, 2017

What I Read in April 2016 Part VII . . .

What I Read in April 2016 Part VII . . .

Only in Naples: Lessons in Food and Famiglia from My Italian Mother-in-LawOnly in Naples: Lessons in Food and Famiglia from My Italian Mother-in-Law by Katherine Wilson

I received an advance readers copy in exchange for my honest review. This review expresses only my own opinions and the opinions of my mother.

Katherine Wilson leaves her comfortable life in Washington, DC for an internship in Italy. She is introduced to the Avalones , a well-to-do Neapolitan family who just so happen to have a son around her age. Katherine gets Salvatore to show her around and quickly becomes a part of the family, despite her inability to speak Italian (and his to speak English) and her unfamiliarity with the culture. Katherine always had a difficult relationship with food - loving it TOO much but not well enough. In Italy, under the tutelage of Mama Avalone, she learns the secrets of Italian food and the relationship between culture, food and family. She tried hard to copy down her mother-in-law's recipes but if you know Italian cooks, you know they change their recipe every time they make it and they never ever measure.

I really liked parts of this memoir. The parts that deal with the culture, language and food of Naples were the most interesting to me. (more on that later) I felt a little disconnected from Katherine's world. She's a rich white girl from DC whose biggest problem is binge eating. Her life back home was boring and it's no wonder she was so drawn to Italy. I also felt disconnected from the Avalones because like Katherine, they are wealthy and my grandparents and their families were poor peasants from the mountains of Avellino. However, the family dynamics were easy to relate to! Salvatore is in danger of becoming a mammone, a mama's boy, like his sister's husband. We know some Italian mammones and my dad, like Salvatore, was very close to being one. That much is universal from north to south, to America and beyond! I wondered about Katherine and Sal's relationship. She doesn't get too much into her feelings about him and how they fell in love with each other. She seems to have fallen in love with his family and didn't want to let go.

I especially got a kick out of the language lessons. My Italian is mostly non-existent but my dad speaks very good standard Italian. His friend is always correcting his pronunciation. The casinò (casino) conversation comes up a LOT. Papa (pope) and Papà (Dad) come up a lot too. I had to bite my tongue and hang on to the book as a surprise when my mom was explaining to someone the different pronunciations of casino. I also liked the drama/not drama opposite reaction. It was pretty funny and explained a lot about my dad and his reactions to things. I can only imagine what my great-grandparents must have been like and all the uncles and aunts. I only knew my grandmother, her oldest sister, older brother and their two American born baby siblings. I also enjoyed the history of Naples and the cultural explanations. I think my dad would also enjoy these parts as well.

My mom really really enjoyed this book. She didn't have much else to say other than that but she shared parts of it with my dad and he might read it too.. My grandmother's baby sister's WASP husband is still living and he might get a kick out of this book as well. It must have been as much culture shock for him to marry into the family as it was for Katherine when she first met the Avalones.

My dad thought this was too much of a women's book for his taste. He did really like the bits about the food, language and culture. 

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