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 Having my friend Giudi at my house has been a delight. It has been a sort of cross-cultural exchange. My kids have gotten to hear us speak Italian, and they’ve gotten to spend time with someone from a different country with different views. For Giudi, being in the US was a great adventure in many ways, but the things she took the most delight in might surprise you.

We did some shopping, as things here in the US are much cheaper than in Italy. Food is actually more expensive here, but clothes and electronics are about half or less. She was super excited to get gel nails put on. It costs about €100 in Italy but about $35 here. She had her new nails painted in red with blue stripes, the colors of Genova, her favorite soccer team back home. We went to Costco, which seriously blew her mind. 2 gallons of mayonnaise! Huge sacks of potatoes! And all so cheap!

I tried to show her some nightlife, so we rounded up some friends for shuffleboard, tater tots and Jell-O shots. Nothing but the best for my guests. It was a fun night in the hipster zone of South Lake Union, although she’d probably have enjoyed something a little wilder.

I tried to give her a big variety of experiences, at least as much as I could manage. We went to Portland, we played tourist in Seattle, we even had brunch at the Space Needle’s rotating restaurant. But I don’t think she was ever as delighted as when we went to the grocery store. She just could not stop giggling. The variety! The color! The unnecessary products! The size of the store! You can buy a sweatshirt, a big screen TV, spray cheese in a can and steaks all in one place!! I guess I’d never seen Fred Meyer with that kind of wonder.

After a couple of truly hilarious trips to the grocery store, we started to make a list of all of the things she just had to take back to Italy. She owns a great restaurant and her dad is a fantastic chef, so she decided that he could really use a can of Pillsbury Pizza dough, poppin’ fresh! The dough in a can concept fascinated her. She also went on the hunt for Cheez-Wiz, as cheese in a spray can cannot be found in Italy. For good reason. Her other enthusiastic purchases to take home included fortune cookies, macaroni and cheese, Spaghetti-Os and NutterButters. Peanut butter is not something that Italians eat, but she loves it. Isn’t it nice to know that Italians appreciate the best of our cultural contributions? ?

My kids decided to get in on the action. Giudi has such an infectious laugh, anything we could do to make her giggle was worth it. So, the kids went shopping and picked out all of the sweets that they thought she must try. As a side note, Italians in general don’t eat as much sugar as we do. Their desserts (excepting Sicily) tend to be low on sugar and a little bland to an American palette.

The results of our experiment in feeding our Italian the worst of American sweets? Here are her reactions:

Root Beer: “Strano.” Takes sip, shakes her head. “Uh uh. I don’t like this one.”

Hot Tamales: “Good” I was surprised since spicy food is not popular where she lives.

Red Vines: Grimaces. “In somma” in this case she was meaning icky. Later she said that it made her cheeks hurt.

Reese’s Pieces: “Buono!” Enthusiastic thumbs up for peanut butter, but she will readily admit she’s not a normal Italian.

Sugar Babies: Grabs face. “My teeth!!! Oh no, it hurts my teeth!” Yep, I should have guessed that reaction.

York Peppermint Patties: “Wow!! Buono!” I think that was her favorite.

After the taste test she looked a little queasy. I think that might have been more sugar than she’d eaten in her whole life. Our goal was to make her so sick that she couldn’t go back to Italy, but alas, she did. We were so lucky to have her. Can’t wait to see her again when I go back in March. I lamented to her that we should have made a plan before she came, and gone to LA or something. She smiled sheepishly and said, ” I don’t like to make plans, because it means it won’t come true.” That may be the most Italian thing anyone has ever said. But plan we will. Next time she comes? Vegas, baby.

You can see a bit of our taste test at my Facebook page:

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