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Confessions of a carboholic

Nutella

Nutella (photo courtesy Janine)

I walked into the dining room and my jaw hit the floor. Before me was a three-tiered altar, draped in white cloth, holding gorgeously decorated, ornately shaped pieces of bread. From afar, it looked mouthwatering: gorgeous, porous, crunchy-on-the-outside, heaven-on-the-inside Italian bread. Each masterpiece had been skillfully molded by hand into the shapes of horses, ducks, hearts and crosses, and brushed with egg before baking. At the top of the tiered structure perched a large portrait of the baby Jesus with his father. I was 7, at my first feast for St. Joseph, and had just discovered my drug of choice: carbs.

My sister Lisa migrated into the playroom and was showing off her somersault skills, while I spent the afternoon ogling the bread and breathing in the yeast. My brain bubbled with fermentation as I danced around the dais of dough. I was literally worshipping at the altar of carbs, and I loved every second of it. I’m sure some people thought I was possessed; I’m sure some of these people were my mother.

When it was time to leave, the host of the party generously gave our family a piece of the baked art to take home. Obviously, I volunteered to carry the heart-shaped creation, cuddling it to my chest like a tiny kitten. As soon as we piled into the Oldsmobile, I asked my mom if I could have a bite.

“No, Daniela.”

“So … later then?” I asked eagerly. I assumed she meant for me to wait until we arrived home where I could smother it in Nutella before eating. That sounded right; she’s so smart, my mom.

“Nooooo. This is sacred bread; it is not for eating, “ my mother said sternly.

Not. For. Eating? Blasphemy! I was cradling a golden, enticing piece of forbidden fruit that smelled like love, and I couldn’t eat it? This was worse than the time that I took a huge gulp of my mom’s Coca-Cola, only to realize it was in fact bitter Chinotto. The entire ride home, I sobbed at the injustice, while Lisa napped and my parents sang along to Toto Cutugno.

Then and there, I made a vow that when I was a grown-up, I would eat all the bread that I wanted. And that’s just what I did: all the carbs, all the time, all for me. My life centered around the warm comfort of carbs, whether we were celebrating a holiday with lasagna or mending a broken heart with a cannoli. I didn’t realize that bread and pasta were sticking to me stronger than ragu Bolognese clings to a ziti.

The first step, I have been told, is admitting you have a problem. Hello, my name is Danielle and I’m a carboholic. At least I was, until I gained 40 lbs. and was diagnosed with early-onset type-II diabetes in my early 20s.

The approximate shape of a large pear, I found myself right back in that Oldsmobile and the concept of bread-that-is-not-for-eating became my reality: a bleak, tasteless reality that never included bruschetta or panzarotti.

After years of only lean meats and vegetables, I gave myself permission to indulge. What is life without balance and spaghetti carbonara? Of course, I was scared it was a slippery slope and I would lose control. Despite my fear of a bread dance remix, I looked at a piece of mom’s focaccia, whispered, “Hello lover,” and took a bite. And instantly, I was dancing with my inner child.

Of course, my “balance’ sometimes means a few extra pounds. I remind myself that that the pounds are more like souvenirs, mouthwatering memories, if you will, of Sunday sauce with my family, red wine in Piazza Navona with my girlfriends, and Nutella on toast with my mom while we watch roms-coms. These are the delicious moments of a happy life, and I wouldn’t trade them for all the bread on the altar.

About Danielle Festino

Danielle was born and raised in Stoneham, now resides in Medford, and has roots in Puglia. In 2004, she graduated from Wellesley College with a degree in International Relations and Italian Studies. She is passionate about telling stories and hopes to provide a glimpse into what it means to grow up Italian-American.

2 comments

  1. Ahaha great article!!

  2. I hear ya! Being Italian and Type 2 is some cruel joke. When my nutritionist ask me if I know what to eat I replied ‘Yes! If it taste good it’s not good for me.”