Food and Ethnic Identity in Italian-American Narrative
The Italian American community in the United States has frequently been represented through the stereotypes of gluttony and Mafia connections. The host society has portrayed Italian immigrants as macaroni-eating gangsters, and the only truth in that assumption is that the food had a huge importance among the community, because it was a way of measuring a person’s social standing. Both Louise DeSalvo and Edvige Giunta have argued that “food-writing and life-writing in Italian American culture are interconnected, for to examine our relationship to food is to examine ourselves”. Actually, sharing meals has been a way of strengthening family and community ties in “Little Italies”, as well as a form of remembering the native land. Food is the fabric of traditions: it has rituals that must be respected, while the rites’ disruption is frequently used as an allegory to signal that the community values themselves have been violated. The overview of Italian-American narratives in this essay highlights how Italian Americans’ self-perception through foodways is not stable, and how it actually undergoes a number of transformations that include attachment to the local roots of the native or ancestral place of origin, the elaboration of a consciousness based on one’s national descent, the rejection of national heritage in the pursuit of assimilation into the American society, and the rediscovery of one’s Italian extraction.
EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste
Stefano Luconi, “Food and Ethnic Identity in Italian-American Narrative", in: Prospero. Rivista di Letterature Straniere, Comparatistica e Studi Culturali, XI (2004), pp. 205-216