I think I've mentioned before that Italians talk a lot about exaggeration...the phrase "non esagerare" is said a lot.
The Italian culture is one of exaggerations. Ever eaten dinner at an Italian's house - exagerated amounts of food, seriously exaggerated. Italian shoes? Exagerations of style. Ever had a conversation with an Italian? An exaggerated experience...exaggerated amount of words and gestures.
I've become habituated to the level of exaggerations. I might even be assimulating some of them. There's one thing that still shocks me, though - exaggerated generousity. It leaves me in a state of cognitive dissonance. I don't understand it, I don't know what to do with it, I don't know how to respond. It's really, well, exaggerated...I mean the exaggerated generosity is exaggerated.
Example: Today I had lunch at pals Chiara and Luigi's parents' house (remember the most recent bride and groom? them). We had an appropriately exaggerated lunch. Mother Paolo served prosciutto, eggplant sotto olio, cheese...all homemade, of course. Then a ragu pasta...homemade, of course. Followed by breaded steaks. We closed with fruit, cookies, coffee and chestnuts. Everything was accompanied by wine...homemade, of course. Sunday lunch at an Italian's house - exaggerated, no? Ok, this much I knew was coming. I've even trained myself to be able to eat this much food in one sitting. When in Rome...
Then, as I was leaving, father Antonio (he's not a priest, he's the father of Luigi) asked if I have tomatoes at home. After six years of living in Italy you'd think that I'd be able to foresee what's coming. Nope. Stupid me says, "no". "Do you like tomatoes?" At this point I'm hip to the game. I do realize that he's going to go out to his garden and get me a couple to take home so I say "Sure!". I have learned enough about the culture that refusing gifts (particularly fresh food) offered by people is a bit frowned upon - not to mention, it's just stupid...fresh tomatoes? Come on! They can't be refused.
So Antonio says, "don't leave yet. I'll go get you some tomatoes." "OK!" I say, with a very real and apropriate enthusiasm. All the while this is going on mother Paola is preparing me a jar of the eggplant sotto olio - I had made the mistake of asking for the recipe during lunch, which I got, along with a jar of Paola's ... thus assuring that I will not make my own.
Antonio came back from the garden with this
Are you freakin' kidding me?!
Oh, there were also these