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Jewish Fun - When Cultures Collide!!!

Updated on September 5, 2012

REAL Spaghetti and Meatballs!!

Growing up Jewish led to some very interesting situations later in life. This one is about the culture clash around Italian Food...

My parents were born in Brooklyn to Russian immigrant Jews. These people know nothing about authentic Italian food and it's preparation. As such, neither did I. Fast forward to college and I'm bringing my Italian/Irish girlfriend home for a nice cozy dinner with my family. When I said we were having spaghetti with meatballs, she immediately said yes.

Oh was she in for a surprise.

First off, we don't make sauce (or gravy as some of you call it). We pour it from a jar and not just any jar. Our jar has some very Italian name on it like Ragu or Francesco Rinaldi. We know nothing about sauce and how it's supposed to taste - we think this tastes just fine. We use spaghetti, not angel hair, not linguine, not fettucine, we couldn't tell you the different between ziti, rotini and penne, we ONLY know spaghetti. I don't think my mother EVER made anything besides spaghetti. Not EVER.

So, my girlfriend, finding this out, is already spluttering about making your own sauce. SHE doesn't do this but her mother does and she always has so this is what my girlfriend expects. Then comes the meatballs. Oh boy. If we don't make sauce, did you really think we made our own meatballs?!? The meatballs come from a frozen bag of meatballs probably bought at Costco. Heat those bad boys up and toss them on. What do we know - we've never made these things before (though we did make our own hamburgers from ground beef so it's not a big stretch). Oh yeah, we didn't have any bread either.

Last, but certainly not least, is the cheese (or snow - as it is called in my house now). What does a family of Jews know from italian cheeses. We used Kraft's grated parmesan cheese. You know the one - it's in the green foil covered cannister with the spinny top. My girlfriend looked at the nearly orange parmesan cheese and choked. What? No romano cheese? What are we thinking?!? We presented spaghetti with store-bought frozen meatballs, jarred sauce and Kraft's parmesan cheese as Spaghetti & Meatballs!!!

Needless to say, my girlfriend was not amused....

Of course, when we went to her house for the same dish, it was completely different. The sauce was home-made and awesome. So were the Meatballs since they were partially cooked in the sauce itself. The cheese was a grated Romano cheese that was so much better than the fake parmesan we had (this is the Americanized spelling of parmesan by the way - real parmiggiano cheese is likewise an awesome Italian cheese that could be used for spaghetti and meatballs). And, of course, there was a loaf of Italian Bread to go with dinner.

Fast-forward to a few years later when we got married, my mother-in-law gave me the recipe for making my OWN sauce, which I do every other weekend or so. I make my own meatballs too which also get cooked in the sauce. We ONLY use romano cheese and we always have an Italian bread with dinner (a semolina bread if possible). I make a lot of sauce and freeze it so we can use it during the week. If I had only known how different it could be when I was younger.....

Just goes to show you how different cultures handle food - what an eye-opener that was for us both..


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    • dblyn profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Staten Island, NY

      Ha ha, yeah, she ate what was served that day, but she didn't like it all that much. What can I say, we thought it was an easy meal to make, not the involved process it really is (at least the saucemaking part of it)...

    • mcleodgi profile image

      Ginny McLeod 

      6 years ago from Overland Park

      I think anyone who can get through something like that is very brave. I was taught very early on that you eat whatever the host decides to serve, no questions asked. Believe me from what I've been hearing since, I'm so glad I was taught that lesson early in life.


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