Weekend Discussion: The Fight Against Binge Drinking

red wine by judi bagnatoLet me preface this by saying that although I’m not a parent (yet, hopefully), that doesn’t mean that I don’t think about issues surrounding raising children, especially since just about everything involving raising children eventually affects the society at large.

So last week I read an article entitled:

Letting kids drink early reduces binge drinking

which of course mentioned Italy as a country in which drinking (especially wine) is introduced to children at an early age, thus removing the mystique of alcohol and making social drinking just that–social–as opposed to binge, defined as five or more drinks in one sitting.

The article talks about the problems of drinking (11 million underage drinkers), and in particular binge drinking (7.2 million) in the United States. For other international readers, the UK and Australia are also experiencing problems, and here‘s information on some other countries as well.

Immediately I thought of a New York Times article from a few months ago:

Rome Welcomes Tourism Con Brio, but Not Too Much

which resonated throughout the Italian expat blogosphere; Shelley (At Home in Rome), Elizabeth (Cross-Cultural Moments), and Tina (Pecorino e Miele) all wrote about it and got some great comments, so do check them out.

From my personal experience in Italy (although admittedly not in Italian universities), drinking just to get drunk simply isn’t a normal occurrence around here. A glass of wine (or two) with lunch or dinner is quite common, and if someone under the legal drinking age (hey, does Italy even have one?) wants a sip, it’s no big deal.

Some say, though, that even those social norms are changing and that the influence of some other, ahem, different drinking cultures are influencing Italian youth especially. Indeed in the posts and comments discussing the NY Times piece listed above, a common thread is that American study abroad students and other tourists are contributing to the corruption, if you will, of impressionable Italians.

So what do you think? There are great arguments on both sides of this issue discussed here, so I hope you’ll have a look and then come back and tell us:

Does making alcohol a normal part of the meal/family gatherings take away the intrigue that children may feel to sneak a few sips here and there? Could this be a way to fight against the kind of binge drinking that so many teens and those in their early twenties (and beyond!) take part in?

Or does it only encourage underage (and possibly a lifetime of) drinking and even pave the way to alcohol abuse?

If you’d like to share your own experiences as a child, teen, and/or parent regarding alcohol, I’d love to hear those too.

Buon weekend…e salute!

free burma!

(click on photo and links for more information)

Repression Continues in Burma as UN Decides on Mission

UN Rights Body Condemns Burma Junta

Burma’s Monks Need Our Help

Prodi Urges More For Burma

Burma Conflict Intensifies

Free Burma!

Recipe: Pasta all Norma

I apologize in advance to those who expressed their dislike of eggplant/aubergine when I stuffed them a few weeks ago…because we’re going at the melanzane again today.

For this week’s What’s Cooking Wednesday, we’re pairing them with tomatoes, basil, garlic, onions, and pecorino cheese in Pasta alla Norma, a Sicilian dish whose origins are in dispute (read more here) but always involve Catania‘s own Vincenzo Bellini and one of his most famous operas, “Norma.”

I should probably add an “alla Sognatrice” at the end of the name of this dish because this is my take on the traditional recipe, which includes a kind of cheese called ricotta salata. It’s not all that easy to find, so I substituted pecorino, as did blogging buddy Sara over at Ms Adventures in Italy recently.

Other differences: some recipes call for sliced eggplant, but I prefer it diced, and almost all require you to crumble the ricotta salata cheese–I could’ve done that with the pecorino, I suppose, but I prefer it grated.

You’re free to do as you like of course.

Pasta alla Norma

pasta alla norma

4 small eggplants, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
Peperoncino to taste
1 can of diced tomatoes
8-10 basil leaves, torn
Spaghetti or penne pasta

Wash and dice eggplant. Place in colander and salt well, being sure to coat all sides (use coarse salt if you have it). Let sit for about a half hour and then remove eggplant from colander and pat dry.Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Add eggplant and cook until brown on all sides, about 10 minutes.

Add onion, garlic and peperoncino, and then after a few minutes, add tomatoes. Let simmer for about 15 minutes or until the tomatoes are done to your taste.

In the meantime, prepare pasta in large pot of boiling water.

When sauce is just about finished, add basil, and then combine pasta and sauce–enough to coat the pasta.

Serve immediately with cheese on top.

Buon appetito!


I’m So Vain – I Probably Think This Post Is About Me

Last Friday, I was in the Marina thinking about how long I’d have to wait for a bus to get back up the mountain when I wandered by a hair salon run by the wife of one of P’s friends. I’ve never gone to her and, in fact, always felt a little guilty whenever I saw her because of it.

It so happened that two young guys from the village were getting haircuts there, and one offered me a ride if I wanted to wait. So I waited for them, figuring the bus would take much longer to arrive.

And then I felt guiltier and guiltier about never going there for my haircuts the longer I sat there.

So at the last snip, I worked up all the nerve I had and asked Giovanna if I could make an appointment with her and made a decision on the spot to not only cut, but color. I’ve never colored my hair before (some highlights, yes, but not in years–and not in Italy), but the little white ones were really just starting to annoy me far too much.

Plus my birthday’s coming up, so I thought I’d treat myself to some “me” time and count this as my present to myself.

Now you’re all dying to know how it turned out, right? Well humor me anyway.

Yesterday morning I looked like this:

me (before)

Now I look like this:

me (after)I love the color, love the cut, and now I even have some private English lessons lined up as a result of finally going to see Giovanna. Turns out she wanted to ask me about them the previous day I was there but was too shy to ask. Seems we have at least one thing in common.

And? You want to know how much it set me back? Wash, cut, color, and style (including blowing out my not-so-straight-hair)?

Come on.


Thirty euros ($42).

Happy early birthday to me!

if the shoe fits…you’re not an italian policewoman

italian policewomen in shoes that fitWhen Italy’s Interior Ministry decided it was time to spruce up the uniform of the 14,750 women police officers (for more on the numerous branches of Italian police, head over to Mental Mosaic), they did what many of us do in a fashion crisis.

They bought new shoes–with higher heels for a “younger and sexier look” according to La Stampa.

Trying to save money, though, the government bypassed all the world-renowned (but expensive) Italian shoemakers and went with a company from Romania.

Unfortunately, when the shoes arrived, they weren’t in standard European sizes, so the shoes didn’t fit.

Which means a lot of useless shoes.


You think they’ll give the Italian government its money back?

Floor’s open to your comments on whatever leaps out at you. Stomp away.


[tags]italian policewomen, shoes, bureaucratic blunders, italy[/tags]

Michelle FabioMichelle Fabio is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer living in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy and savoring simplicity one sip at a time.

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