Lisa Marie Paolucci


Inspired by Louise DeSalvo’s Crazy in the Kitchen: Food, Feuds, and Forgiveness in an Italian American Family

No one could slice a tomato like my mother, we thought

She would hold the knife facing her heart

Each cut stopping short of her chest adorned

With fourteen karat gold charms from the eighties

That read “#1 Mother” and “#1 Wife”

She’d effortlessly toss the seeded rosettes on a white Corelle plate

The rest of us, sitting at the round wooden table,

Would clumsily carve out misshapen slices

Too thick or too thin

My father, trying to slice with the knife toward his chest, too,

Would often vanquish the entire fruit

I’d cry Why are you holding the knife that way?

That’s dangerous! Are you crazy?

It was a language that my hands could not speak

But my mother’s could.


As a mother now, fearful of fruit skin

No time to waste while a toddler waits,

I perch the pear on the counter

Grab a paring knife and pull the blade toward me

Aiming for my belly which rests against the counter

And pull off sheets of green, tossing them aside

To reveal the sweet flesh.



Lisa Marie Paolucci is a doctoral student in English Education at Teachers College, Columbia University.  She also serves as the Assessment Coordinator of the Education Department at St. Francis College, where she has also been an Adjunct Lecturer.  In addition, she was a high school English teacher for nearly a decade. Paolucci has served on the Executive Council of the Italian American Studies Association and the Executive Board of the Italian American Writers Association.