In Italy everyone in the church wanted to have the pastor and his family over to their house on Sunday for a spectacular meal. That being my dad and subsequently me, I ended up spending my Sunday afternoons in the homes of the Italian congregation. This was either pretty cool, in the event that the family had kids my own age (who owned video games), or it was pretty boring if I ended up sitting around the living room for what seemed like years. There was always good food though! And lots of it!
Sunday dinner in Italy is nothing like Sunday dinner in the US. It's not like the kids are called down to eat roast chicken for a half hour and that's that. No, eating is an event! As soon as we walked through the door, we were led to the living room, offered a seat, and an appetizer or as they call it, an antipasto. Conversation would immediately begin about the family and the church. A little later someone would yell "a tavola" and we would all gather around the table. Where in America we often dish up for ourselves, the Italians serve their guests heaping piles of food... so you had better come hungry. We would then begin to enjoy the primo which was usually a big bowl of pasta. Now, if you are a beginner to the whole Italian culture thing, you may scarf down that delicious lasagna and think to yourself, "Ahhh that was delicious, and filling, but not too filling. I don't get why everyone makes such a huge deal out of Italian dinners." Now this is where you have gone wrong. First, because this is simply the first course (not even the main one) and there is much more to come! Second, you have eaten too quickly, which would cause the hostess to glance over at your empty bowl, smile, and immediately refill it. This is like an Iron Man race, you have to pace yourself. You can't shoot out of the start at a dead sprint! So after the pasta we were served some kind of meat dish which was technically the main course and called the secondo. Along with this would be the contorno, being a vegetable dish which complements the meat. This is all filled with lots of talking and can last for a few hours. When everyone has settled down slightly the dolce is served along with espresso. This is usually some kind of pastry and was my personal favorite part of the meal.
It seems to me that Italians really know how to live. Enough with all this super fast paced life style we strive for in the US. Its killing us. You've got to settle down and relax over some great food with family and friends.