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Anything But Mcdonald's This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   This is a typical scene at my Italian home, one that has occurred many times, and will continue to play in my head for years to come ...

"Are you sure you don't want more?" asks my mother, the queen of cooking.

"No, thank you, really Mrs. Venditti, I'm stuffed." groans my brother's friend, obviously a first-time eater at our house.

"What'd ya mean you're stuffed? You've only had one dish of pasta!"

"I know, but I had McDonald's before I got here." A look of disgust crosses my mother's face.

"You don't really eat that stuff, do you?" questions my mother. The dinner guest is visibly embarrassed, and puts his head down as a bright shade of pink starts to fill his cheeks. My mother exits the dining room, muttering under her breath.

I elbow my brother's friend, and whisper some advice to him. "Don't you know it insults Italian cooks if you don't take a second helping? You'll only make her happy if you take some more."

My mother re-enters the dining room with a huge bowl of pasta and a look of determination on her face - one that we've seen on numerous occasions.

"Who wants some more." she announces, rather than asks.

All eyes are on the dinner guest. He glances at the dish, and then down at his gut. He pats his stomach, and he looks up at Mom with a sheepish grin. "Um ... on second thought, Mrs. Venditti, I think I'll have another helping of that delicious pasta."

And, of course, my mother (the queen of cooking), who is used to getting her way and having the last word, adds "That McDonald's junk just doesn't compare to my cooking, does it?"

Growing up in an Italian-American home has helped shape my beliefs. It started at a young age while shopping with my mother. She would make comments in Italian about things she didn't like, so people around us wouldn't understand. She had no reservations when it came to mocking something, because she tried to instill in me the right and wrong things to buy, to eat, to wear, etc.

"Non mi piace." (I don't like this). "E' bruto." (How ugly).

"I ravioli nelle scatole sono lepeggieri cose che esistrano." (The ravioli in a can is the worst thing you can eat). So now incorporating everything my parents taught me, and then interacting with other American classmates proposed a challenge. Parents served pasta in a can for a meal, and bought everything 100% American that my parents mocked at home.

The lesson I came to realize was that my mom and dad's opinions differ from most because of their culture. Whatever their parents taught them back home was correct. They grew up with homemade foods, sophisticated but simple clothing, and shopping for whatever items had the most quality and durability.

Being born in this country, some of my convictions do not match my parents. I enjoy buying yearbooks every year; to them, they are a waste of money and pointless. My class ring was a must-have; to them, it was ugly and bad quality. I often ate out with my friends, which to them it was "a waste of time because there is plenty of food at home." But for the most part, I understand where they are coming from and why they speak of things the way they do.

One day, we are in a crowded mall and I'm clutching my mother's hand, following close behind. We are anxious to see what the shoppers are crowded around in the food court. A table is set up with a questionnaire and free samples of ... you guessed it, McDonald's. Anxious to try something new, I reach, but my mother nonchalantly pulls me behind her.

"Excuse me, ma'am, would you like a free sample and questionnaire on the quality of McDonald's food?"

"Mi dispiace, non parlo Englisa." (Sorry, I don't English.)

We walk away and I look back at the happy kids munching away. "Mommy, why can't we go back and talk to that man?"

"Because, Giacoma, I don't want that man to know his food has no quality for me to talk about."

I look up at my mother, and she is smiling her famous "queen of cooking" smile. c


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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