Dinnertime and maternity pants

Getting more than my fill of delicious Italian food around my host family's dinner table in Florence.

I came to Florence to learn Italian. I came to study Renaissance art. No matter how convincing I say the excuses, the truth is, I came to Florence for the food.

I will never forget my first dinner here. The steam from my ravioli rose up to warm my face. Antonio, my host dad, stretched for the olive oil and drowned his soup in it. Oil in soup? Not my piece of torta. I got up to clear my plate after savoring every bite but Gloria grabbed my dish. She loaded on two chicken breasts topped with prosciutto and melted mozzarella. I sat back down for round two and ate until felt I was seven months pregnant. I could feel my food baby kicking in my belly. This bump is going to need a C-section, I thought.  Unbuttoning my jeans back in my room, I slipped into something a little more “forgiving.” My maternity pants, as Joey Trebiani puts it in Friends. Lying starfish style on my bed, my stomach felt like it was going to burst. I’ll never get used to this. I burped.

My gnocchi dinner

But I got used to it. It’s become routine now. After Gloria, my host mother, still wearing her faded, checkered apron, places a first course before us, the discussion fades. I close my eyes to enjoy each bite and I can only hear the gentle tings of forks against ceramic plates and chewing of the pillowy homemade gnocchi. I’m embarrassed that I ever considered Kraft worthy of my taste buds. As portions disappear, conversation crescendos, climaxing with Antonio’s Santa Claus laugh.

My favorite time of day has become 7:30. It means dinnertime. It’s earlier than most families eat, but it cannot come soon enough. From the moment I wake up, I’m counting down to that gentle knock on my bedroom door and those two magical words “Venite mangiare!”

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