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The Sacred Cult Of The Tomato

Novembre 2005
Trisha Thomas, intrepida giornalista di Boston, voleva fare la reporter d’assalto dall’Estremo Oriente. Poi incontrò il suo futuro marito, un italiano. Il resto ce lo racconta lei stessa.

di Trisha Thomas

File audio:

Spaghetti with tomato sauce
Spaghetti with tomato sauce

Speaker: Trisha Thomas (Standard American accent)

When I was 20, I was convinced that I would become a well-known television correspondent in Asia.  I started out well, then I won a scholarship to study for a Masters’ Degree in South East Asian Studies at Columbia University in New York.  The first day, the very first day there, I met my future husband: an Italian.
If, as I gazed into his blue eyes, an angel had whispered in my ear, “You will spend the rest of your life talking about tomatoes and pasta,” maybe I would have escaped.  But there was no angel  and, three years later, I found myself married, in a tiny kitchen in an apartment in Rome.
My husband was in the small living room watching TV and I, a fearless TV journalist who had spent time with communist rebels in the remote mountains of the Philippines, was attempting to make spaghetti with tomato sauce.
I grabbed a handful of spaghetti, broke it in two and threw it in the boiling water. “What’s that noise?” my husband asked from the other room.  “Oh, nothing,” I said, “ I was just breaking the spaghetti so it would fit in the pot.”
My husband came flying into the kitchen, “WHAT?? YOU BROKE THE SPAGHETTI??  NO, NO, NO, NO, YOU NEVER, NEVER, NEVER BREAK SPAGHETTI!!!”
“I prefer the communist rebels,” I thought.


My husband started taking me to dinner parties so I could meet all his friends.  With my limited Italian, I tried to make conversation.  Like a good American, I always began, “So, what do you do?”  After one such evening, my husband told me, “You never should ask people what work they do.  It is considered rude in Italy.”
“So what should I talk about? No-one ever asks me what I do?”  I whined.
“Amore, in Italy there are two things you can always talk about—food and politics.”
What a bore,” I thought.  I would rather be under fire in the streets of Manila during a coup d’état than spend the rest of my life talking about pasta and tomatoes.” But my husband was right.  All Italians can spend hours and hours talking about food, but it has to be Italian food. 


I finally managed to replace Philippine crises with Vatican and Italian politics, and, with an enormous effort, I began to chat about tomatoes and pasta.
Then I had my first, of three, children.  My mother-in-law taught me how to make vegetable broth.  Every day I had to boil for one hour: a carrot, cabbage, lettuce, spinach, green beans, and a potato.  Then I served the broth with a pasta for babies, with a few drops of olive oil, and grated parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.  It became a nightmare for me.
One day I found myself in the office of our pediatrician, the charming Dr. Francesco Guidotti.  He gave me a long and complicated menu for my son.  I decided it was time to fight back:
“Dr. Guidotti, I hate making the brodo vegetale.  It is ruining my life.  Haven’t you ever heard for those little jars of baby food that you can buy at the supermarket? Please, tell me that it won’t hurt my son if I give him that stuff!”
Dr. Guidotti sighed and looked at me very seriously:
“What are tomatoes like in your country?”
“Okay,” I answered meekly.
“No, they are not okay, they are red, round, perfect and without any taste at all.  Certainly you cannot compare them with our delicious Italian tomatoes.”
“Okay, I understand,” I answered, “but if I want my son to become a discerning eater, to understand the difference between what is good and bad food, why should I give him a brownish-green mixed vegetable mush for every meal for his first 18 months?”
“Listen,” he said smiling, “you Americans are better than the Italians when it comes to doing so many things, but at least have the decency to admit that Italian food is the best in the world: you must not argue with me over food.”
I finally understood, it was a lost battle.

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as I gazed - mentre guardavo.

had whispered - avesse sussurrato.

tiny - minuscola.

fearless - intrepida.

I grabbed a handful - presi una manciata.

so it would fit in the pot - così ci stanno nella pentola.

rude - scortese.

I whined - piagnucolai.

what a bore - che noia.

mother-in-law - suocera.

cabbage - verza.

lettuce - lattuga.

sprinkled on top - versato sopra.

nightmare - incubo.

jars - vasetti.

stuff - roba.

sighed - sospirò.

meekly - debolmente.

discerning - consapevole.

mush - brodaglia.

you must not argue with me - non discuta con me.