The Wisdom of Being Different

BY: Nancy Fraioli – “The Queen of Ageless Wisdom”

Different comes in many packages. Different is distinct, unusual and special.

So this is what I learned about different…..

Last week I lunched with the ladies, and it was different! Why?  Because we are ladies of the same age, well, almost! I am the eldest. When I asked how their spouses were, and what were they doing for their lunch, almost immediately, they both replied, “they’re good but we’re glad to have some free time”.

We discussed different foods and very different topics. I even shared with them my new
adventure about blogging! Now, that’s very different for someone my age and surprisingly this opened up many new topics for us.

This got me on a new path about this blog. I began to think about and realize how my lunch with the ladies, today, in 2018, is different from my mother and grandmother’s lunches!

Before I begin with my thoughts about how are “differences”, and the role they play in all of our lives, whether we are aware of it or not, our differences teach us that we can learn from one another and we can appreciate all of life.  However, I’ve just had a beautiful awakening! And I’d certainly be remiss if I neglect to mention this! There is one particular day, and only one, where the word “difference” melts away. Do you
know which day I’m speaking of? Please read on and see if the answer comes to you.

A lunch with my grandmother, in the late 30’s and 40’s, was in her kitchen. Mostly all her
ingredients were from her garden, and if chicken was being served, it came from her chicken coop! Fresh chicken and eggs! A healthy bowl of chicken soup with her homemade pasta and her homemade bread was the bill of fare! No menus, no fanciness, and no courses!  She ate as she served; a bite here and there.

“YOU HAVE TO TASTE A CULTURE TO UNDERSTAND IT” – Deborah Cater

I didn’t know it then, but it was a different experience in eating. My grandmother took such great pride in her home cooking skills. She didn’t think about lunch as a dining experience. This was her version of a repast. Just enough food to get you through the long afternoon.

Now, lunch with the ladies, in my mother’s era was far different than that of her mother’s.  Actually, my mother had lunch with the ladies on her block every day. Since this was the mid 40’s, they all dressed the same. They donned colorful, small print house dresses covered with starched aprons. Oh, yes, let’s not forget the unmentionables! Remember those confining undergarments, they laced up each and every day? “A nightmare”, I thought! I wasn’t impressed with their shoes! All the ladies wore black shoes with a chunky heel, and laced! Yea, go figure; today, 2018, they’re back in style! But, the heel is called stacked!

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Do things in life really change? Seems to me they just add different words and you have a new style!  Lunch then was with the peddlers; the street was their open-air restaurant. On my block, the peddlers began their runs around 10:30 a.m. Paul, the peddler was their main veggie and fruit guy! They recognized his bark, his call each a.m! They all came running out of their homes, and apartments to converge upon Paul’s staples of the day. I can still see his large weighing scale hanging from the back of his truck! No quiet reserved ordering then. No, they seem to all shout at once on what they wanted to purchase. Oh yes, they tried to outfox him. They wanted to taste before buying. “Taste the freshness”, they’d tell him! But, Paul was even shrewder! He’d cut an apple and a melon and won them over. These old gals didn’t know it then, but they were all from a long line of vegetarians! Way ahead of their time!

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The Bread-man came next with fresh homemade Italian bread and rolls. Yes, they had a sweet truck, called Dugan’s which brought lovely cakes and buns! If it was a Wednesday or Friday, the fish man delivered his fresh catch of the day. Their milk was delivered early in the a.m.; butter, too, if a family could afford it!

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So, this was how my mom and her neighbors had their ladies lunch! Of course, during all of this clamoring and bargaining, they were conversing. Exchanging their cooking ideas and recipes! They certainly were not concerned with ‘diet’ food!

“THE ONLY TIME TO EAT DIET FOOD IS WHILE YOU’RE WAITING FOR
THE STEAK TO COOK” – Julia Childs

They were mostly from Italy. Some were American/Italian. My mom was, but she hailed from Ohio, so to a New Yorker, she was a foreigner. So, their menus were discussed; not printed! But they all got along beautifully, and appreciated their luncheon relationships!

Now, here we are in 2018, I either drive to meet my ladies for lunch, or they pick me up. When we arrive at the restaurant of choice, we either park and walk, or we valet!

Being in a very warm climate, we do dress differently! Bright colors, light fabrics! Sometimes long skirts or sundresses and quite often very light pants!

Most times we make reservations, during the busy winter season! After being seated, we’re presented with this large, long, multiple-page menu! As was the case last week, when we had lunch at Cheesecake Factory! I thought I was in a dark library, reading an oversized plastic book.  And if a diner could not understand the item being explained, there was a picture to guide you.  Show and tell! Variations on all foods, drinks, and deserts! A complete bombardment to my senses! And, of course, if you can’t complete your meal, there’s always the plastic container and plastic bag!

Now that I’ve had a chance to weave backwards into my memories, my grandmother never ate out! Even on her two crossings, from Italy; they carried their own food. I remember her telling me that the biscotti, Italian cookies, she carried became dampened and mildewed but they still nibbled on them.

My mother hardly ate out. I don’t think it was fashionable then. However, I remember her taking me to a restaurant once, and they served chicken in the basket! I thought that was a novelty, and I liked it because it was different! Oh yes, we visited a “Horn and Hardart” once. No menus because you selected what you desired by looking into these little glass vaults. They held the food items of your choice. Just put a nickel or more, into the slot, turn the knob and there was lunch! Amazing and different!

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Even as I grew through these eras, what I found different was our school lunches! When I attended elementary school, in Ohio, we didn’t have cafeterias. We had to walk home to lunch.  Our middle school was quite far, and we had many railroads to cross. This was different and dangerous!

When I moved to New York, I discovered the school cafeteria! Wow! Now, a student could
brown bag lunch or buy if she or he had the money! This was interesting because the village I lived in was mainly composed of Italian and Jewish descent kids! Sure, we had many Irish and other cultures but what was so interesting was the exchange of food ideas amongst the students. No matter our diversities! We played a game our parents knew nothing about! Yes, our Jewish friends loved our Italian meatball sandwiches! So Mondays and Thursdays, the great exchange was going on! We didn’t know it then, but we were running our own stock (food) exchange!

Sundays and Wednesdays the italian moms would make these huge pots of sauce,
gravy or ragu! New York, it’s gravy! There was always extra and therefore meatballs on
Mondays & Thursdays were plentiful. We made friends over our different lunches! You see, without knowing it, we were engaging in cultural ways and respect for different ideas! All due to food on our lunch hour!

I often think about how it would be to have lunch with Julia Childs or Lidia Bastianich. That would be different, wouldn’t it?

Just weaving my web of wisdom thru the ages!

Until next time, fill your life and plate with curiosity! Treat your palate to a new taste! Experiment with foods that are foreign to your senses. Explore foods that have a different name than you are used to. Find out why it has such a name!

For example, while visiting Tuscany, Italy, we ordered a pasta dish. Our waiter suggested a short twisted pasta which was called Strozzapreti pasta. Of course, he had our interest so he proceeded with the story. Once, when a local priest ordered it for his lunch, he choked and died!  The pasta is short, thick and twisted, so, therefore, it’s now Italy’s priest killing pasta!

The possibilities in life are many, varied, different and very interesting.

So, you know, by my writing, that I’ve lived in Ohio, New York, and Florida and have traveled a bit but have you found the answer to my earlier question, where our “differences” melt away and we as Americans celebrate only one way? The day we want to be close to our loved ones and where our “foods” unite us as one? Where we all give thanks for who we are and what we’ve been given?  A beautiful and HAPPY THANKSGIVING to all of you!  May we blend all of our differences and come up with some new recipes!

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While I’ve been webbing and weaving thru different eras, we can agree that wisdom abounds, in our food, our eating habits and the way we experience each others culture. Our wisdom journey is never ending! Whet your appetite, weigh your choices and experience a different idea! “Be a fruit loop in a world full of cheerios.” Be different!


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Nancy Fraioli is a retired Benefits Asst. from Town/Village of Harrison, NY. She’s alive and well, residing in Sarasota with her daughter and family and enjoying the Floridian lifestyle daily.

Her passions are writing, reading books of philosophy, children’s stories and poetry. Her deep love is living, learning and sharing how faith, meditation, and music guide her daily life. And she loves to lunch with the ladies!

3 thoughts on “The Wisdom of Being Different

  1. Loved this Nancy. Brought back memories. I loved seeing how things have changed. The one thing I notice today as opposed to when I was a young mom is what’s on the menu. In my day, we got together, shared recipes and ate to our hearts content. Food was on the menu. It seems today, that drinks are the main staple. Food comes second, if at all. Let’s go out for drinks is the catch phrase. I prefer food on my menu. Good food had few side effects and no hangovers. 😉❤️

    Like

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