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Clean Your Plate, Rule #1, and Don’t Snack, Rule #2

December 12, 2010

Note: This is the first post in a series of posts explaining The Commandments of La Dolce Vita, as I perceive them.

My lessons in the rules of Italian living began as soon as I touched Italian soil.

On my first night in Italy, my host mother prepared pollo alla milanese (a type of breaded and fried chicken cutlet.)  I took one large piece and left one-third of it on my plate.  I was stuffed after filling up on the pasta that we had as a primo (first course.) As my host mother cleared the plates, she remarked, “My cat will really enjoy this chicken! She’s going to thank you for it.” Even I, with my limited Italian comprehension at the time, could process the meaning of her statement.

As far as I can recall, I never left any food on my plate for the remainder of my time in her house. There was only one time, when she served me an enormous square of cauliflower casserole, oozing in its oily creamy cheesiness, that I thought, I really don’t need 1000 extra calories after the 3 scoops of gelato i had as my afternoon snack. So I left about half of it on my plate. “Cauliflower is so expensive these days,” my host mom commented as she removed my plate.

Back to my first night in Italy.  I noticed that my host parents had a big bowl of fruit in the kitchen.  A few hours after dinner, I felt a little tummy rumble, so I tiptoed downstairs to the kitchen.  As I passed the living room, where my host dad was watching TV, he greeted me affectionately as always and asked me what I was doing awake.

“I’m a little hungry so I’m going to eat an apple,” I said.

“You’re hungry? Now?” He asked me, incredulous.

“Yeah,” I said. “Is it okay if I eat?”

“Sure,” he said. “If you’re hungry, you must eat.”

But he couldn’t believe it.  I had violated Rule #2, Don’t Snack.

When we were eating with our host family, Dallas and I learned to eat very slowly (as soon as our plates were empty, we were encouraged to fill them again.)  We also learned to underestimate our appetites and take smaller portions than we expected to eat, so that we were never left with more food on our plates than room in our stomachs.  I learned to eat my fill at meals, so that I was never hungry after dinner.

I present these two rules together because they are interconnected.  Rule #1, Clean Your Plate, expresses one’s respect toward the mother, grandmother, or hostess that is feeding them.  But it also makes logical sense when you understand Rule #2, Don’t Snack.  As long as you clean your plate, and eat your fill at meals, you won’t need to snack.  If you snack you won’t be hungry for your next meal.  If you snack, you are eating alone, not in the company of family and friends, as in a meal.


One Comment leave one →
  1. December 12, 2010 4:35 pm

    Wow that’s so interesting Beth! Especially Rule #2. I snack all of the time 😮 I mean, I don’t even think of an apple as of food… it’s just something I’d eat in front of my PC without even noticing…

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