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Missing Italy Part 2: Sauce in the Freezer


This is the hard part to write about (talk about, think about).
(If you didn't already read "Missing Italy Part 1: Some Background", please start there.)

For 35 years, I guess I have been trying in different ways to recreate this "Big happy Italian family". Though I was not blessed with biological children, a HUGE sadness in my life, I have always been drawn to big noisy families. My substitute has been friends, dinners, and parties.

In many ways, I have become my mother! Mom loved to cook and entertain. She planned, she poured over cookbooks. She baked. She "over did it". She had lots of dishes! She had two freezers, and two refrigerators. She bought in large quantities BEFORE there was Costco.

When Mom died, I used her stash of paper towels, tin foil, plastic wrap and waxed paper for FIVE YEARS before I had to buy any. I gave away at least 20 boxes of band-aids and dozens of new toothbrushes.

I have life-long friends (sorority sisters) who are in some ways like an extended family. Though we do not see each other often, we connect by phone and email. We visit a couple times a year.

My "Italian sister", Ida, and I talk daily, often sharing recipes, pouring over menus for dinner, holidays, and entertaining. This was how we first bonded on the beach in Maui 15 years ago. Jerry and I, and many on the ST food boards do this through sharing recipes there or on our blogs.

My therapist friends and I connect over other similarities and professional respect.

My REAL cousin, Palma, in New York, and I share food stories, and memories of our parents, aunts and uncles during our monthly phone chats.

I have appetizers and sauce in the freezer, desserts and side dishes ready "in case", but no one has EVER stopped by and stayed for dinner (OK, I can think of ONE TIME!). My desert friends rarely cook, and eat out much of the time. Don't get me wrong. I value our privacy and have boundaries, but would like more spontaneous getting together. Last minute invitations are fun. Brad and I continue to seek connection with those whose priorities are NOT just money, things, and competition. We have made a few close friends in the desert. We love those we have met who are REAL, honest, vulnerable, and non-judgmental. We miss them as they are away half the year.

In my hapy, naive world, sharing what you have with your friend is better than trying to have more than your friend. Friends don't play "tit for tat" or "keep score" on kindness. If I invite someone for dinner, it is not a contest, and they don't OWE me anything.

In many ways we have found a sense of community on Slow Travel. Through this community of travelers, we have met so many great people. This is a wonderful "Italy Connection" of people who either live there, or have traveled there and love it as we do.

After three years in our new home and community, after hosting parties, inviting neighbors for drinks, dinner, etc., I have been invited into three homes (two included Brad). In our recent three-week trip to Italy, we were invited to share meals or come over by six families of people we had never met before. THIS is the connection I don't find at home.

SO, yes, we joke about missing the pasta and gelato in Italy. We miss the stunning scenery, the piazzas, the passagiata, the pace, the three-hour meals with wine. We miss the countryside, the hilltowns, the magnificant cities, the art, music and architecture. All those things I can wait for. It is exciting to look forward to them on our next visit.

But, DAILY, I miss the connections, the relationships, the sharing, the kindness, the "Buon Giornos", the smiles to a stranger, the children playing safely while "the village" watches out for them. I miss the generosity. I miss having those who "get it" that this is NORMAL, not an exception. Daily I try to create those kinds of connections in my life at home. I will die trying. In the meantime, I will cook Italian, use the ST chatroom and GTGs as my piazza and passagiata, and continue to visit Italy once or twice a year.

I dream of and long for the hospitality, warmth and comfort of Italy.

If you're in the neighborhood (or want to visit), call first, then if we're home, come by.
There will be new sauce in the freezer.

Comments (15)

WOW - I had no idea what life in Palm Desert was like. I am used to impromptu dinners, friends popping by. Our neighbourhood is the opposite - everyone knows everyone and gets together regularly (although we often 'pass'). My mom comes over every week for some sort of a chat, drink, dessert, or dinner.

It is a shame that you live so far away sister, or we would be over all of the time. Seriously, You'd be beating us off with a stick!

These are powerful posts. It is so nice to know someone who is in touch with themselves in the way you are.


As you know Palma , life here is pretty much like Palm Desert life. You just can't pop in on someone ( except for one couple) and there isn't the warmth or generosity you find in Italy. I wish we lived closer Palma!! Thank god for our phones!!!!


Awww, that made me cry. Such a heartfelt post about something you feel so strongly about.

Having also lived in the Palm Desert area for nearly 20 years back in the 60's-70's, I understand what you mean. Maybe that is one of the reasons I moved from there - I wanted to find people that were more "real" and not just trying to impress one another with their money or possessions.

I live about an hour from Palm Desert now, in a rural area on a deadend road. We have neighborhood gatherings quite often and watch each other's houses and animals on a regular basis. It is a better lifestyle, and I feel at home here.

I think the best solution for you would be to move to Italy at some point in time. I love reading Marlena de Blasi's books and watching her move lock-stock-and-barrel to a new country with a man she had only known for a short time. That takes guts!

PS - We would be happy to "drop by" sometime (with your permission, of course).


Palma, these two entries were beautiful and so from the heart. You have shared a bit of who you are and why you are special.

I understand about your neighbors--we have lived here 30 years and know very few people in our neighborhood-and those we do know are just hello-good to see you--go on your way relationships. It is really sad and so different from other places we lived.

You are right about the welcome and warmness in Italy. We found it everywhere--a natural kindness. That is what we are missing so terribly now.

I hope that you and Brad will find a way for an extended stay in bella Italia.
Baci e Abbracci

Dear, dear Palma,
You painted with honesty and extremely sublte colors for an over-all magnificent "quadro" of the very special person you are! We met only recently and ever-so-briefly, but I felt a particular affinity with you and Brad, sensing the exquisite realness and depth of sensitivity. If you ever find a way to move to Italy in the future, count on me for any logistic help...and for an easy, natural friendship. How I would love to have you and Brad closer. We are very much kindred souls! A huge warm embrace to my new, too-far-away friends. You are special!

Barbara Lewis:

I find your blogs to be very uplifting. Thanks for sharing so much of yourself. Less than three days and counting! How in the world did you get to live on a street with an Italian name?! Was that a requirement for the real estate agent? I'll get your package off to you as soon as I get back.

The picture of the countryside is beautiful. What site is that? Barbara



Both photos were taken outside Montalcino. The one with me in it is next door to Saint Antimo.

Thanks, and Buon Viaggio!


These two entries were so beautiful! You write so well and you have a great way of puttng into words what you are feeling. If I lived in your neighborhood I´d pop by all the time!!

I had wondered where you were able to learn Italian. Now I know~ thank you for sharing those memories! You could write a book.
Save some of that sauce for October... when we are in Palma Desert!

Carole Oakley:


I was deeply moved by your two "Missing Italy" blogs. It brought back a flood of memories of my "Big Happy (well most of the time) Italian Family." My growing up years back in the day were so similar to yours only mine were in NJ.

You have expressed my feelings much better than I could have especially when you describe the contrast between your growing up years and life as it is today. I've always said, "It's the California way", and I've met many other former East coasters who have expressed the same sentiment, but you were raised here so I guess that's not the whole story. I guess it's the whole "Growing Up Italian" story.

My first visit to Italy was shortly after I moved to California. Almost the minute my feet touched the ground, and I was surrounded by all that was so familiar to me, I truly felt like I was back home. Everyone asks why I go back to Italy ever year but that would be hard to explain to someone that asks the question in the first place so I simply answer, "Because I like it."

I especially enjoyed hearing your thoughts while observing all the old Italian women. Many times while walking through one of the small hill towns I would remark to my husband, "Oh, there's my Nana or Aunt Marie or Aunt Angie."

Thanks for sharing your thoughts in the beautiful way you express yourself and taking me back to what will always be the core of what I'm all about.

Deborah Horn:

Beautifully written, Palma.
As a person without one drop of Italian blood, I still identify with so much of what you said.
I grew up in an educational commune of sorts in the Ozark Mountains of Southwest Missouri.
I recognize so much of my childhood in your discription of yours.
I just substitute "country" for "Italian" and "fried chicken" for "pasta".
Thank you so much for reminding me.


Palma-i began reading your blog a few months ago and thoroughly enjoyed your recent trip to Italy! I too am from an Italian family and your last two postings brought back a lot of wonderful memories for me. Thanks for opening yourself up to all of us who have the same dreams of being in Italy.

Hi, Palma -- I, too, have been reading your blog for a few months and thank you for taking the time to share your life. I couldn't let the last two blogs pass w/o posting a comment. Your generosity online (and off!) is a model for all bloggers. I hope you get to Italy for an extended stay soon!

Ann M:

Palma, I loved this blog entry. Especially the part about your mom. I think my mom was her (Hawaiian) twin. I STILL have a box of parchment paper sheets that she gave me almost 10 years ago and I use it all the time. I so miss calling her up and talking about food, new recipes, and asking how to make something.

Hi Palma,
i started to read these two posts a while ago but didn't finish until now.

Your blog is one of the best I've ever read, generosity pours from your words. It feels as if you are recreating that atmosphere you lived in as a child even if we cannot just pop over for a coffee we can read your blog and feel like we have.

The 21 years I lived in Italy have marked me to the soul and you so well describe parts of it.

Thanks for writing about yourself so openly.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on August 8, 2007 2:00 PM.

The previous post in this blog was Missing Italy Part 1: A Little Background.

The next post in this blog is Mi Chiamo Palma.

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