A few weeks ago I wrote about our upcoming trip to Italy for our daughter’s wedding, and the fact that I don’t know how to speak Italian. Many readers send me email messages, most of which focused on my concluding comment that if I constantly keep my mouth filled with food, it will hide the fact I don’t know a single word in Italian other than the word Spaghetti-Os. (That is an Italian word, right? I’m pretty sure it is. It’s certainly not Irish, because in that case it would be O’Spaghetti.)
The various email notes I received expressed delight that I will be in Italy, where the food is awesome, rather than, say, Great Britain, where they actually eat things like blood pudding and jellied eels. No wonder the British spent centuries sailing around the globe conquering nation after nation: they were simply trying to find something, anything, that tasted good. (So why they had their greatest empire-building success in a place that puts curry on everything, I'll never understand.)
My email friends offered a long list of wonderful Italian foods I should shove into my face the entire time we are in Italy, things such as cannolis, manicotti, calzones, pizza, gelato — and then wash it all down with massive quantities of wine.
OK, that sounds great. However, there are two slight problems: first, I am lactose intolerant, and second, I am a recovering alcoholic. Whenever I eat something that contains cheese, milk, cream, butter, etc., within 20 minutes I have to sprint to the bathroom. And regarding booze, it’s been three decades and counting since I “put the plug in the jug,” but I remember all too well what it was like in the bad ol’ days. After one drink I was jovial. After two drinks I was hilarious. After three drinks I was a cross between Don Rickles and Norman Bates. And I never stopped at two drinks.
In Italy, if I eat any of those dairy-laden items and wash it down with a bottle of wine, my sprinting will be more like zig-zag staggering, and I probably won't make it to the bathroom in time. Without going into a lot of gruesome gastrointestinal details, let’s just say if this occurs, it surely will spark an international incident, one which could bring the U.S. and Italy to the brink of war.
My personal “Bucket List” has a few weird items on it, but “start a war” is definitely not one of them. So in the interest of global peace and harmony, it is very important that I refrain from consuming dairy products and/or wine while in Italy. Yes, I know what you’re thinking: that is absolutely impossible. In Italy, if you order a slice of white bread, they automatically put a hunk of mozzarella cheese on it. If you order a glass of water, they ask you, “Red or white?” And if you order any item in a restaurant and specifically say (in Italian, which I haven’t learned yet), “No cheese! Please, I’m begging you. No cheese!” They interpret that to mean, “OK, I’ll only put three different types of cheese on his meal rather than the usual five.”
I suspect when my future in-laws hear that I can neither eat cheese nor drink wine, they’ll say, “Oh, I’m so sorry. When did he die?” When it’s explained that I’m actually alive, they’ll reply, “Let’s not quibble. There’s death, and then there’s no reason to live.”
The wedding will be great. But if in mid-October you hear a breaking news report that a U.S. Navy battle group is steaming up the Adriatic Sea toward the city of Venice, it probably will be my fault.