Eating Isn’t Just For Your Stomach

Written by jackreiser November 7, 2022

If you’ve found the CIMBA Blogs, then you’ve read about the Aggiungi un Posta a Tavola (Add a Seat to the Table) program. Life and food at the Istituto Filippin are grand, but the newness wears off after a few weeks. Comfort and love in home cooked food doesn’t find its way to the spice cabinet of the cafeteria chefs. Luckily, the CIMBA staff understands and connects students to families in Paderno so that they may experience a home cooked meal in the heart of Veneto.

Although I did not take pictures of this night, I have included a few glimpses of my finest meals while in Italy.

I took part in the program the week before the travel week, and what a joy it was to have a taste of a home meal before I traveled with my family. I had gotten over the nervousness of traveling to different places each weekend and felt confidence in my sufficient survival Italian. However, I hadn’t spoken the language for hours at a time. This would be a new test, not sharing any similarity to a quick order for a camiere, a question for a train station attendant, or a quiz from our professoressa at CIMBA.

The night wind carried the first chills of the coming winter, so I grabbed my newly purchased sweater from Siena. I rode the elevator downstairs so that I would be calmer once I met my hosts for dinner and headed outside the front door promptly at 7pm. My host mom was already there! No time to overthink or stress. She showed me to her car where her older son was waiting and off we went. My host mom spoke good English, so the conversation flowed easily, I only had to translate a few ideas. Her son and I connected easily because he reminded me of my two brothers at home. We rode off the main road in the other side of Paderno and arrived at her house.

The warmth of a home greeted me as I entered. I cherished the moment because it is absent from college dorm living. I met her husband and younger son, and we sat at the table for dinner. Per gli antipasti, they prepared a fine selection of sopressa, pancetta, salame, cheese, and a few pickled vegetables. They asked what my favorite Italian food was. Fresh bufala mozzarella cannot be beat, and they presented that from the refrigerator as well. For our main course, my host mom prepared perfect evenly layered lasagna. The hearty ragu, the al dente noodle, and the creamy ricotta married in harmony. Both my stomach and my heart were renourished. But the renourishment didn’t stop there.

The younger son eagerly asked if we could play foosball immediately after we finished the lasagna. Being familiar with the importance of fraternal competition, I obliged. The two sons, the father, and I played for the better part of an hour after dinner. Amid the competition, we discussed faith, happenings at school, and happenings in Italy. I felt the genuine human connection of care, kindness, struggle, and love. In a completely new place. I learned that people don’t differ, while their distance may. The whole time in Italy thus far had culminated into a test of communication, a creation of a friendship, and a perspective shifting experience.

Adding a seat to the table also added an experience that I will fondly recall long after my semester is finished and this blog is confined the oblivion of the internet.