Italian 101: “La Frittata”

Bacchus and Ariadne-Titian

Bacchus and Ariadne: Titian- 1520-1523

Italy is known for a quite a few things.

Afternoon catnaps are a national treasure. Ferragosto, Italy’s summer holiday, is considered both a right and religion. Italian caffè is not just a beverage; it’s where science, artistry and social prowess converge into a single cup. And although Italians make no claim to the world of art and fashion, they have certainly left an indelible mark.

But creativity doesn’t stop at the runway. No. No.

Let’s move to the kitchen, shall we?

Italians by nature are an expressive people, well-known masters of a language as colorful as an early Titian painting and made even more animated with hand and facial gestures. Mangiare, eating, or rather, the pleasure of eating, is so ingrained into Italian lifestyle, that it’s only fitting we find it in everyday colloquialism. Let me introduce you to two useful expressions that can certainly add some spice to your next conversation.

Take for instance the word frittata. It’s an Italian concoction made with fried beaten eggs, served in countless ways and very much like a Spanish omelette.

Expression #1, fare una frittata”, is what Italians refer to as creating a mess, an utter disaster both in thought and practice. When you think about it, the analogy makes sense.

Imagine, if you will, a promising bowl of beaten eggs and all your favorite extras. “YES!”

Now imagine it accidentally ending up on your kitchen floor.

Lysol please!?

If you’ve ever wanted to learn or practice your Italian, and who knows, maybe impress that special someone, then trust me when I say admission to self-inflicted mishaps, (ehem…stupidity), can be quite liberating, refreshing, even sexy. Not to mention, it may soften the blow if the intended listener has good reason to be peeved. So before you confess, start off by saying… “Ho fatto una frittata!” 

(Pronounced: Oh fah-toe oo-nah free-ta-ta)   Translation: I made a mess!

As I write this, I can’t help but think of a few personal challenges in life that apply.:

  1. Hitting “Reply All” on an email that was clearly meant for one person’s eyes only.
  2. Washing dishes not long enough after a manicure.
  3. Foolishly taking baby to the store about 5 minutes before their scheduled nap time (dumb AND desperate).
  4. Heading to the table with two full breakfast plates and two brimming HOT coffee mugs… at the same time.  Juggling is for clowns right?

Moving on from self-deprecation, let’s look at a second winning expression, only this one is meant to sting a little.

If you are familiar with making a frittata, then you very well know it has two sides that need to be cooked with care, just as there are two sides to every story that must be heard.

Expression #2, “rigirare la frittata”, (rigirare, meaning “to turn over”) is a fantastic way to describe when someone has turned the tables on you, changing the argument of a discussion in every which way possible for the sake of being right.

Don’t we all love that?

If you’re married, in a relationship, surrounded by office trolls or suffered a customer service nightmare, then you know exactly when this phrase fits the bill. So stop them dead in their tracks with a little something that goes like this: “Non provare a rigirare la frittata.”

(Pronounced: Non pro-vah-reh ah ree-gee-rah-reh la free-ta-ta) Translation: Don’t try to change the argument.

It may or may not stop the impending war of words, but it could create a much needed pause and avoid another “frittata”. (See Expression #1).

If apologies are in order, then try this recipe for Frittata al forno con porcini, peperoni e prosciutto.

Food Note: Just so there’s no confusion, that’s peperoni (with one ‘p’) as in peppers, not pepperoni (with two ‘p’s), like the meat.

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