dancing, cooking, fashion and babies

And yet no kitchen sink.

Anyhoo, I’m back to answering your questions, and today we’re going to address some light-hearted ones—tune in tomorrow for the more philosophical edition.

(1) Wanderlust Scarlett of From the Shores of Introspect and Retrospect wants to know if I dance.

Hmm…well…are you sitting down?

Once upon a time in high school I was a cheerleader.

So during those two years, dancing was pretty mandatory at least to the extent of cheerleading routines (and I still remember parts of some of them!). Overall, I would say I can keep the beat fairly well, but I have never taken any formal dance lessons so unlike nearly every Italian around me, I can’t do the fancy stuff.

That said, I am so *not* one to get up and dance just for the fun of it or at weddings, etc., except for some fooling around in my house. But I do love to sing! In private. I’m rather shy actually.

(2) Sue (blogless as of now) wants to know if I make up all of the recipes listed on my ‘recipe’ tab myself? “Or, have they been handed down, found in books, etc.? More importantly, do you ever have to refer to a recipe card to make things or are you one of those women who has it all in her head?”

OK, well I certainly didn’t make up all the recipes. I try to relay the story of each recipe as I post them—so that something from my grandmother, like Italian Wedding Soup, or from my grandmother’s neighbor Louise (Louise’s Banana Cake!) is credited as such.

I do get some from books as well like the Calabrian Cuzzupa recipe from Cucina di Calabria by Mary Amabile Palmer and Ricotta Pound Cake from Dolce Italiano by Gina DePalma. And now, I also find lots of things to try online and mention that in the write-ups.

And I definitely follow recipes when it’s something new that I’ve never made before. Many of the everyday dishes I make, though, are just in my head (although I do try to record them here to share!).

(3) Sue also wants to know whether I dress more like an American or an Italian.

This is a bit difficult to answer since I live in a small town in Italy, which means people are so *not* dressing like they do in Milan. Actually people in this village dress pretty much like small town America, from what I remember of it.

So let’s get at this from a different angle. Do I do designer labels? No. And if you’re talking stereotypical Italian fashion for women (including stilettos, super tight jeans), nope, don’t do it at all—but neither do a lot of the Italian women around here.

I wear what I like and what I think is flattering on me—so much of Italian fashion just isn’t. Plus I’m not much into trends; I prefer classic. Eh, I wear what I wear. Punto e basta.

(4) Flurrious wrote: I have a question about this recent Twitter entry of yours: ‘Back from the dentist. No pain meds offered. Apparently I look like I want to build up pain resistance for childbirth.’ And my question is: tap tap tap tap … well?”

I answered this originally in the comments but this was fun enough to repeat here for those who didn’t see it, so here’s my response:

Ahem. Gulp. Let’s just say that one Novocaine-less trip to the dentist hasn’t prepared me for much of anything. Except having more of a fear of returning.

And I know Paul of Crazy Like Whoa has been itching to ask baby questions, so hopefully this will satisfy that craving.

Hah! Get it? Craving!

OK, tomorrow, more answers about adjusting to life in southern Italy!

P.S. The photos are all of prickly pear cactus flowers from May.

23 Beans of Wisdom to “dancing, cooking, fashion and babies”
  1. 08.04.2008

    Hmm, visit from mom, cravings, does this mean, your preggers? Sorry, I need statements of facts not hints!

    Homebody at Heart’s last blog post..A Practicing Italian

    Bite your tongue! If I were preggers, I don’t think Mom would’ve left 😉

  2. 08.04.2008

    Well, there’s been a lot of it going around in Italy lately. And Stella and Luna aren’t the only ones around with big, brown puppy dog eyes! But, now, I can go to sleep and not be wondering about the answer. But, then again, there is always the possibility that I may have a foretelling dream … just kidding!

    Homebody at Heart’s last blog post..A Practicing Italian

    Sleep well, my dear 🙂 Too funny with the eyes….

  3. Gil

    How long before the prickly pears are ready to eat? I think we saw some of them in bloom when we were in Italy last month. Great pictures.

    Will be a little while yet Gil; everything I’ve seen is still quite green.

  4. 08.04.2008

    Can you actually find clothes here that fit you? I feel like a big-boned American bozo – everything is too short, too tight and definitely way too young… and I’m not ready yet for A-line skirt, matching sweater and lace-up heels. Oh, did I mention too expensive?? And on a completely different subject, are you a Marcella Hazan fan? You don’t mention her as one of your cookbook authors…

    Fern’s last blog post..The Best Thing We Ate This Week – Swordfish with Salsa Cruda

    Definitely expensive; I shop almost exclusively at markets where I’ll drop a few euros on tshirts and whanot. I found some cute skirts and capris this year, but this is the first year that I’ve really found things that fit–I think Italian clothes are getting made in more sizes now (pants for me are often too tight in the calf and thighs, loose in the waist and *way* too long).

    I don’t know Marcella Hazan; I actually don’t go looking for cookbooks, to tell you the truth, but for that Calabrian one. Gina’s book (luckily) found me 🙂 I just don’t cook out of books very often, mostly because my OH is quite set in his ways. I prefer looking online than spending money on cookbooks anyway–I’d much rather spend money on novels, etc. 😉

  5. 08.04.2008

    I think maybe we *knew* this already about each other, but I too was a cheerleader in HS.

    And sad to say Michelle, every time I hear the songs, I would die for you (prince), Jump(van halen) or Electric Avenue(eddie grant), I break out bits and pieces of the ole routines. I just can’t help it. It is really sad. I need help.

    Great pics of the prickly pear!!

    My Mélange’s last blog post..Fun with Words

    Oh that’s too funny…I remember doing a silly I Would Die for You routine with my cousin…complete with hand motions! Prince! Woohoo!

  6. Those were great questions and of course, great answers! 🙂

    I too, was a cheerleader and also prom queen! Funny how those things mattered when you are a teenager. Just like the latest Guess jeans in every colour in the 80s/early 90s. I’m showing my age now. 😉

    I cannot help but laugh at the ‘important’ things when I was younger. If I only knew….. Older and wiser now I suppose! 🙂

    Thanks for all of your support with our upcoming IVF treatment. 🙂 Means the world 🙂

    Amanda x

    London Southern Belle’s last blog post..Click to enlarge

    Oh high school…such a silly time, but it seemed so *important* then, eh? Continued positive thoughts coming my way on the IVF!

  7. 08.04.2008

    Perhaps Italy-America intercultural lifestyle is the best because I know many Italian who are doing very good in US and there are many Americans who feel better in Italy (Am I talking about Naples?). Regarding your answers, You are spending pretty enthusiastic life and are in good piece of mind. Keep on sharing all those Italian recipes, those are big feast to rest of world.

    Elib’s last blog post..Argos Beds and Furniture

    Thanks Elib; now that you mention it, there does seem to be an interesting Italy-America link…very complimentary cultures, at least for some of us 🙂 More recipes coming! Glad you enjoy them!

  8. Nice non-answer answer, cara. And anyway, show me a prospective mother who thinks she’s “ready…” and I’ll show you a kid who’s fooling herself.

    Craving. Heh.

    paul of crazy like whoa’s last blog post..I’m Shippin’ Up to Boston!!!

    Very true about being ready; the only “ready” I’m hoping to be is to have a certain chunk of money set aside (basically my income for at least six months). The rest, well, we’re going to have to wing it.

  9. Wait a minute. You went to the dentist and no drugs were offered? Please tell me you just went for a cleaning.

    nyc/caribbean ragazza’s last blog post..Anniversaries, birthdays and Al Green

    OK, to be fair, with the root canal, I did get pain relief, and it worked very nicely. The next two times were for crown/reconstruction and nothing was offered…there were just a few tender moments, but nothing that I haven’t already forgotten about. Kind of.

  10. 08.04.2008

    I had a Dutch dentist who did the same thing to me when I was 8. More than 40 years later, I still postpone even routine cleanings… My sympathies.

    Glad to hear, though, that not all Italian women insist on wearing tight jeans and stiletto heels.

    annoa2’s last blog post..Talkin’ To Myself…

    Thank you. This was a long time coming, and sadly I’m going to have to go back for more torture, er, treatment on more teeth b/c I’ve been putting it off 🙁

  11. 08.04.2008

    I’m watching Regis and Kelly and it’s the Monday of the long weekend here in Ontario and the first thing I do is make a latte and rush to the computer for one of your posts. Beautiful pics Michelle, I hope you have a fantastic day! Stay cool. Hmmm…love Prickly Pears. I learned the hard way why they get their names though. I worked in an Italian Fruit Market and one of the guys said “Lucy, I dare you rub your hands on that prickly pear, like this.” So I did it. Now I thought they were called Prickly Pears because they grew off a Cactus like plant, not because of the million little “SPINI” I got in my hands that day. The manager of the store was pissed at Tony and I had to take a long break from cash to get them out…lol.

    lucy’s last blog post..Horse Camp In Pickering

    I never would’ve thought it had all those little things either! You can’t even see them! Very tricky. Funny prank, though, if you’re on the *other* side of it all….

    I’m so flattered by your making a latte and coming to visit; thanks so much for sharing that 🙂

  12. 08.04.2008

    It’s good to know there are some places in Italy where I wouldn’t be considered a complete and total “fashion mistake”! 😉

    jen of a2eatwrite’s last blog post..Music Monday/Toronto Week: Avenue Q

    Well at *my* house you certainly wouldn’t be…now outside of it, we just might both be members of the same club, but hey, strength in numbers!

  13. SabineM

    Lovely shots. We have this prickly cactus here in Southern Cal. I love the view beyond the last Cactus!

    SabineM’s last blog post..Weekend Snapshot: Almost passing out at the Dodger Game

    Thanks Sabine…lovely plants, aren’t they?

  14. Kristin

    OK, so how come I never knew you were a cheerleader??? Oh God, how these people might not understand how uncheerleadery you are! Not that there’s anything wrong with cheerleaders … 🙂

    By the way, LOVE the Temple shirt on P!

    You mean I didn’t put that on my resume for the clerkship? Huh.

    Go owls!

  15. 08.04.2008

    Hmm, very lawyerly answer.

    I can always tell that people are at least five years younger than I am when cheerleading = dance. When I was in high school, our cheerleaders just jumped and clapped and, in general, looked dorky.

    flurrious’s last blog post..The New Phonebooks are Here! The New Phonebooks are Here!

    Oh now I never said that there was no general dorky jumping and clapping too…interesting, though, that the shift in the cheerleading paradigm was so marked. Hmm….

  16. 08.04.2008

    Thank you for answering the dancing question! woo hoo! A cheerleader? You have surprised me! Good thing I am sitting. And you are a closetshowerkitchenalmostneverinpublic singer huh? Hmm. I have sung in my fair share of night clubs… black velvet and jazz… perhaps I can help you with that… *grin/wink*

    Your cooking is sublime. Hmmm… maybe you could do something with limes; do you get limes there? I am looking forward to trying many of the recipes that you post. I’ve gotten brave with tilapia lately. It’s going well!

    Love the photos, of course, especially the dreamy one with the sea in the background… sigh.


    Scarlett & Viaggiatore

    Wanderlust Scarlett’s last blog post..Cardinal Rules V

    I’m very proud of your cooking forays! We don’t really get limes here; I saw some at a German supermarket not too long ago, but didn’t get any since I’m so used to not having them! And yes, I’m definitely an in-private singer, although I have appeared on stage in the piazza precisely once 🙂

  17. I was a cheerleader too but I’m one to dance at weddings and social gatherings. I’ve even taught my step-daughter a bit of a routine I remembered and I scored “cool” points for that. Cracks me up.

    collette~all over the map’s last blog post..My Little Helper

    That’s awesome! Cool points are always good 🙂

  18. 08.05.2008

    Do you guys make prickly pear jelly there? It’s all OVER Arizona (of course) and everytime I see cactus in Italy, it makes me shudder since I abhor everything “desert-like” lol But the sea and the lemons certainly make up for it! I’m not a beach girl, but I like seeing the water. And the lemons……..LOVE.

    Salena’s last blog post..First Friday Fill-In – Say THAT Five Times Fast!

    I personally don’t make prickly pear jelly, but I’m sure someone does; I’m not all that fond of the fruit to tell you the truth. And I feel the same way about the beach 😉

  19. 08.06.2008

    Arr arrr, I am going to quote from you for my next subject!

    Judith in Umbria’s last blog post..eg: something to eat as well

    I’m intrigued….

  20. 08.07.2008

    i have only seen that once in person… cacti(plural i think) when they bloom are some amazing looking flowers.

    great take.

    JR’s last blog post..QIK… boredom can be thwarted!!!

    They are truly amazing plants, JR; I just love these colorful flowers!

  21. 08.07.2008

    I gotta know… what did you sing?

    S & V

    Wanderlust Scarlett’s last blog post..Cardinal Rules V

    Actually it was a Calabrese folk song that I translated into English. You can hear a bit of the Calabrian version at the site of Marasà. Click on “il disco” and then Facci d’ammendula mundata…the song is about the eternal beauty of the almond, created just for us by God; the singer says if there were a scale (think LIBRA!) and on one side was gold and the other the almond, even if the gold weighed more, he’d choose the almond because gold will be spent and gone soon enough but the beauty of the almond will stay with him forever.

    How can you *not* love the Calabrese?!

  22. lieben

    Interessante Informationen.


  1. [...] since I published these photos, I know our good friend Gil has been wondering about whether the prickly ... bleedingespresso.com/2008/08/whats-cooking-wednesday-prickly-pears-fichi-dindia.html
Michelle KaminskyMichelle Kaminsky is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer who lived in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy for 15 years. This blog is now archived. 

Calabria Guidebook

Calabria travel guide by Michelle Fabio



Homemade apple butter
Green beans, potatoes, and pancetta
Glazed Apple Oatmeal Cinnamon Muffins
Pasta with snails alla calabrese
Onion, Oregano, and Thyme Focaccia
Oatmeal Banana Craisin Muffins
Prosciutto wrapped watermelon with bel paese cheese
Fried eggs with red onion and cheese
Calabrian sausage and fava beans
Ricotta Pound Cake