Thursday, September 27, 2012

Garibaldi's Last Stand : East vs. West

It may come as a surprise to my friends in Italy that there is another divide besides the North vs. South one they are familiar with. Here in America the contrast is between those who came and settled on the East Coast vs. the West Coast. And while it isn’t as contentious as the Polentoni vs. Terroni battle that to this day is waging in contemporary Italy, there are marked differences.

Being a child of the West Coast who lived on the East coast and is now curbed in the middle (depending on the election cycle, it is either referred to as the "Heartland of America", or in the down cycle it's simply "Flyover country"). But for a moment let’s leave great unwashed midsection of America to it’s own devices.

What really strikes me are the differences between Italian-Americans who were brought up on the two coasts. Perhaps there is a graph somewhere indicating the trends of who left where in Italy to come to another where in America. Did more Calabrese settle in New York? More Lucchese in Northern California? I am sure there are patterns of emigration that set the scene respectively for the contrasts.

For my part, observing, living and working with Italian-Americans on both coasts, I am going to make some glaring observations.

Water: East Coasters prefer Pellegrino. West Coasters will go with reverse-osmosis, toxin free, with or without bubbles, preferably from a Natura water chamber.

Sauce: East Coasters loved to can their New Jersey tomatoes in a time-honored tradition on a Sunday with all the uncles and cousins and music and hard-crusted white bread to sop. Some of them still call it suga, fewer call it gravy. It is canned and cooked and very much like it has been for generations. West coasters have gone more to the style one finds in Italy; fresher, less cooked, confined or cloistered by canning. Tomatoes were made for California. And there are the usual vegan, vegetarian offerings. Wait, tomatoes are not vegetables. Well, anyone who has traveled in the contemporary West Coast elite dining bubble coach knows what I am talking about.

Bread: Pretty big battle ground here. East Coasters have great traditions of bread. Just walk around Brooklyn for a day and you will understand. West Coasters have the long queues at Acme in Berkeley and a whole range of grain types, from sourdough to crunchy Birkenstock-inspired crusted whole grains. San Francisco vs. New York? That’s probably even a more contentious subject than the current election choices here in the States. Next.

Via AP / World Wide Photos
Dress: East Coasters still work in suits and ties. West Coasters think it’s a formal event when they don socks and underwear. Flip-flops are de rigueur out West, with the East Coast equivalent being a pair of Bruni Magli driving shoes and some D&G boxers.

Speaking of cars: East coasters prefer the 6, the 5, the 2, the F and the A. West Coasters prefer a Porsche or a Mercedes, in sports, SUV or vintage version.

Sex: Eats Coasters prefer to keep doing it the way it was handed down from one generation to the next, as it ever was. West Coasters have tapped into the Tantric streams that float in on the prevailing easterlies. Every day in Ojai and Mill Valley is a “new” day.

Wine: East Coast loves their Chianti; The Westerners haven’t gotten tired of their Pinot Noir. Yet. Nebbiolo is still waiting in the wings.

Cheese: East = burrata from Italy. West = burrata, locally sourced.

Coffee: East = Medium. West = Double latte with GM free soy, no foam, agave sweetener.

Preferred method of Saving: West Coast = Bank of America.  East Coast = Chock Full O'nuts cans in the back yard.

Retirement: East Coasters are still heading to God’s waiting room, Florida, to live out their last days eating pastrami and spaghetti con vongole. West Coasters dream of retiring to an Oregon where the suns shines everyday like it does in San Diego and the political climate is bluer than the skies of the 1800’s. Better yet, they get their medial marijuana prescription and take long weekends at Sea Ranch sitting in isolation tanks, taking in "the moment". After all, is it really any better somewhere else than California?

Attitudes: East Coasters are still pretty ramped up and ready to rumble. Sinatra, Stallone and DiMaggio are the archetypical cutouts. West Coasters have learned to mellow out, citing a calmer La Sorda, a mellower Tony Bennett (yeah, I know, blame it on San Francisco) and the ultimate bad boy in control of his feelings and surroundings, Leonardo diCaprio.

Whatever your thoughts are on the subject, the Italian brawl of the North vs. South just isn’t as dramatic to us Italian-Americans as our West vs. East fracas.  After all, just ask any American and they’ll tell, it’s all about US.

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