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2010-02-01 - 5:28 p.m.

Been deep into The Sopranos and aren't boxed sets the only way to watch television like that? It's so similar to reading a great big novel, the picking up and the putting down, always wanting a little more until you're too tired and should go get some sleep already.

Anyway, of course it's a good show and the characters are complicated and in particular I like how there are tough guys who are, over and over again, to deal with non-tough-guy stuff. School plays and acting classes and mediums who can talk to dead people. And the women, too, have to play against type, stepping up, scaring the shit out of people. But, on a more basic level, you can't help but notice all the Italian stuff, especially the food. There's an episode where they go to Naples and, in one scene, one of them find the food to be too strange and not what they're used to. He asks for simple pasta with tomato sauce and the Italians make fun of him for it.

But, throughout the show, there are all kinds of Italian deli meat and lots of espresso and cakes and cookies. There's a good Italian deli a few blocks away and so I am familiar with a lot of the stuff they talk about. Watching the show, what caught my eye the other day was how, over time, some things stick but other things don't. This has to do with people moving around, to other parts of the world, but I guess it's something that happens a lot in America, too. These characters, and some real-life people I know, they're always drinking chianti, and making their own ragus, and speaking a little Italian to each other.

But in my family, when I was growing up, it was interesting to see what stuck. My grandmother was full Italian but was in a wheelchair the whole time I knew her. So there wasn't any cooking, no grandmother-stirring-pots stuff. My dad says that she cooked great pots of sauce and made meatballs and even rolled her own pasta, but we didn't have much of that when I was growing up. We ate tons of pasta, but what really stuck for us was all the antipasta stuff: the hot cherry peppers in vinegar, the olives all the time, the olive oil, the good and light Italian bread from Caporele's in Cumberland, the ricotta and parmesan. Some things stick and some things fall away.

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