COVID-19 ITALIAN STYLE
Thirty-five years in America I’ve lived as if still in Italy. Caffè only in Italian espresso cups, with saucers and tiny spoons from the store on the Corso of Gela. Solitary walks around the neighborhood become passseggiate through phone calls—niece, brother, relatives, a multitude of friends—Facetime preferred. I count and pray in Italian and cut and slice food using exclusively my Gela knives, serrated knives with colorful plastic handles you cannot find here and that Americans find too sharp or not sharp enough. Recently, they’ve gone up in price: 8 euro for the set of 12 I bought during my last trip to Sicily in December. I considered buying a second set. When I go in May, I decided.
I remain Italian all the way.
So in America, before the closing of schools and the emergency announcements, before people stop shaking hands and food delivery services shut down because of excessive traffic, when everybody still goes to theater and restaurants and poetry readings, I self-quarantine along with the Italians, stock up on food, cancel doctors’ appointments. On the phone with my niece, my brother, relatives, a multitude of friends, we practice this new social distancing thing, in tears, in laughter, Italian-style, like the connoisseurs of joy and grief that we are. The tiny teaspoon clinks against the rounded walls of my favorite espresso cup.
Edvige Giunta is a Professor of English at New Jersey City University. Her most recent books are Personal Effects: Essays on Memoir, Teaching, and Culture in the Work of Louise DeSalvo and Embroidered Stories: Interpreting Women’s Domestic Needlework from the Italian Diaspora. Follow her on Twitter @edigiunta.