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Calabria, Italy and its Genealogy, History, Culture and Language

Why I Enjoy Being Calabrese

One man's fight to maintain the distinction between Calabrese and Italian culture.

A few years ago, my grandmother complained that "no one seems to be Calabrese anymore." Everyone was Sicilian, or Napolitano, or (god help them!) from some northern part of Italy, where the sauces are cream-based and they feast on something called "risotto" instead of our god-given gift of pasta.  Worse yet, the generations of Calabrese today often ignore their background, lumping themselves together as simply Italians.

Around that time, I made it my quest to rediscover what it meant to come from Calabria. I learned to take pride in being a "capu tostu" or "testa dura." If "capu tostu" means that I am content with a sauce perfected over generations, and I have no want nor need to experiment with anything else, so be it. If "testa dura" means that in my Italian class, I refuse to change the accent and pronunciation that I grew up with, I'll take it.

I prefer Jerry Vale to Sergio Franchi. I demand pasta over risotto. I know what real meatballs, "purpette", taste like, I've been making them with my grandmother on Sunday mornings since I’ve been 5 years old.  I like when my father calls me a "stunato."  I pronounce things like "beddha fighia," not "bella figlia." I don’t eat fettucine alfredo, and I'll take a bottle of homemade red to a fancy French white wine any and every day of the week.

I was talking to my grandmother the other day, giving her another update on my searches and my contacts, and she said, "Guy, I think you're more "Italian" than anyone else in the family these days". I had to correct her, suggesting a more specific adjective than the one she supplied.  Her reply? "Capu tostu", of course.