Living the American campus experience – shown grotesquely to be bewildering, absurd and irreverent in pop culture (“American Pie,” “Porkies”) – has enlightened me about many aspects and subtle nuances of the American way of life. The linguistic labyrinths of slang, bizarre, non-traditional cooking methods, tracking of obscure sports statistics, the college football craze and the overabundance of all types of TV shows have helped me appreciate, criticize and sometimes even envy the interesting, extravagant and funny aspects of this universe of multicultural youth.
Like all Italians who have grown up with an orthodox culinary tradition, I admit to being bewildered by the world of American fast food. I have been left worried or suspicious by the mysterious names of sandwiches (Pepe, Vito, Italian night club), the diffusion of ethnic cooking, the unlikely folkloric slogans (“your mum wants you to eat here”) and – not to mention – the anguishing caloric impact.
And let’s not forget the dogmatic American restaurant world – the incomprehensible passion for ice, rigorous logic of tipping servers, the constant presence and perseverance of the waiters, coupons that grant discounts just about everywhere and the obsessive scrutinizing of IDs when buying alcohol. Americans even wait for a table in a restaurant, whereas we Italians get angry and walk out if we do not obtain a table immediately.
After much effort, I have learned to substitute espresso with coffee. American caf