The dining table is the most important piece of furniture in Italian houses. Italian familial relationships are forged “a tavola” and children learn very soon how they should behave.
1.) SI MANGIA TUTTI INSIEME – WE EAT ALL TOGETHER
Italian children are treated as young adults. Adults and kids eat all together. Parents help their kids to eat only until they learn to hold a fork. Then they join the family at the table at the same time.
2.) MANGIAMO LE STESSE COSE – WE EAT THE SAME THINGS
As soon as children don’t need help with the fork, they eat exactly what adults have on the plate. They eat smaller portions of course, but learn to taste different foods very early.
3.) È PRONTO! – IT’S READY
When mom or dad say “è pronto”, kids must join immediately the family at the table. If they don’t, parents or older brothers go and pick them up. No excuses.
4.) AIUTAMI A PREPARARE IL TAVOLO – HELP ME TO SET THE TABLE
It’s like a game. When mamma (nowadays also papà) asks for some help for setting the table, children put la tovaglia, the table cloth (there’s no Italian table without table cloth!) i tovaglioli (napkins), i piatti (plates) and le posate (fork and knife).
5.) USA FORCHETTA E COLTELLO – USE FORK AND KNIFE
It is amazing to see how Italian children learn to use fork and knife so early. Of course, they start using safe knives. A fork is as dangerous as a knife, the soonest children learn to use knives properly, the better for them.
6.) PER FAVORE, GRAZIE E PREGO – PLEASE, THANKS AND YOU ARE WELCOME
Please, thanks and you are welcome, per favore, grazie e prego are words children learn at the table when they ask for more food, for water or salt.
7.) NIENTE COCA COLA – NO COKE, WE DRINK WATER
Soft drinks in Italy are not as common as they are in the US. Italians usually drink water. Coca Cola is allowed in pizzeria or in special occasions.
8.) FACCIAMO GLI GNOCCHI? – LET’S MAKE GNOCCHI TOGETHER
There are positive side effects coming from this terrible economic crisis. Italian people are starting again to make their own food with basic ingredients, and ask grandma and grandpa how to prepare proper food. It’s cheaper and better. Just like 40 years ago, children learn how to make bread, pizza, gnocchi and pasta with mom and dad.
9.) NON LO MANGI OGGI, LO MANGI DOMANI – YOU DON’T EAT IT TODAY, YOU EAT IT TOMORROW
Italian parents used to be quite strict with bambini capricciosi, naughty children. Whenever kids refused to eat things they didn’t like, mamma put the same thing on the plate the day after. Nowadays parents are softer, but this rule still exists in some families.
10.) NON SI MANGIA FUORI DAI PASTI – DON’T EAT AT STRANGE HOURS. RESPECT LUNCH AND SUPPER TIME
Merenda is the Italian word for the afternoon snack. Fruit, a small pizza (pizzetta), focaccia (soft bread with salt and olive oil) or a panino with salame or prosciutto (Italian sandwich) are common. That’s the only food they are allowed to eat outside regular meals. Before lunch (pranzo) and after supper (cena) the fridge (frigorifero) is off limits.
What is your experience?