If being raised in good old New Jersey has taught me anything, it's that our country is a wonderful blend of hundreds of unique cultures. Some are known for their food, while others are known for the way they speak. Regardless, each culture brings something special to the table that makes this country what it is.
The culture I grew up in you ask? Italian. The loud, food-loving, hugging type of family that is more concerned with what you ate for lunch than the grades you're getting in school. But hey, I'm not complaining. In fact, I'm bragging. Here are 10 things you might have missed out on if you weren't raised by Italian parents.
1. Hosting a family party is the most stressful and rewarding thing you can be involved in.
OK, so mom has been screaming for the last two hours and your room is being used for food and coat storage, but grandma will be here soon with her famous desserts and who knows, maybe more boys will talk to you at school considering you smell like a meatball.
2. Never show up empty-handed.
Bringing something when attending someone else's gathering or party is never a question. It's less about wanting to be polite and more about making sure there is something you're willing to eat. When in doubt, bring cannolis.
3. One thing that must always be in your cupboard: olive oil.
Even if you have nothing else and nothing to cook it with, make sure you have olive oil. Heck, just drink it with a straw if you have to.
4. Enough is never enough.
There's going to be five people at dinner tonight? OK, 75 chicken cutlets it is.
5. New York > New Jersey.
All true Italian parents migrated here from some part of New York and understand that while New Jersey may be a better place to raise a family, New York will always win with pizza and block parties.
6. No holiday is complete without watching old Italian movies.
From "La Vita Bella" to "It's a Wonderful Life," it's just not Christmas without them being pushed into the VCR during the seven-course meal half-time.
7. Gossiping about extended family members is healthy and actually encouraged.
"Can you believe great-grandma Maria is selling the house to Tony? What a gavone!"
8. If you don't yell, no one will hear you.
Talking at a normal volume, especially with more than three Italians in the room, will never work. Ten times a normal speaking voice is acceptable at all get-togethers to keep the conversation flowing nicely.
9. There is nothing food can't fix.
Bad day? Eat something. Tired? Have a slice. Can't find your car keys? Sit down, relax, have some antipasto.
10. Your family is everything.
Family is so important, despite being a little crazy sometimes. There is no greater feeling in the world than coming home to your Italian parents ready with a three-course meal just because they're happy to see you. Or sitting around the table telling stories of the past while stuffing your face with your favorite foods.
Some things may change, but, I promise, your Italian parents will still be loud, hungry and just as loopy when they're older — so be sure to pass the love on to their grandkids.