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.