Guest Blogger

From a Gay Italian American to Guido Barilla

Filed By Guest Blogger | September 27, 2013 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Barilla, Barilla pasta, boycott, boycotts, family equality, Guido Barilla, heteronormative, heterosexual privilege, heterosupremacy, homophobia, Italy, LGBT families, LGBT parenting, same-sex parenting, traditional

Editor's Note: Guest blogger Laura Belmonte is a college professor who lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma with her wife, Susie and their Westie, Truman. They'll be making their pasta from scratch.

Dear Signore Barilla,

So, you've declared that your product is for "traditional families" and that gays are welcome to "eat someone else's pasta" if they object to your refusal to market to gay families. You also seem to cling to some retro universe where only Italian versions of June Cleaver buy pasta, but we'll let that go for now.

barilla_pasta.JPGAs a fourth-generation Italian American, I am not sure how to articulate how upsetting I find it that your vision of the so-called "classic" Italian family is one with no lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender members.

Your vision certainly doesn't square with the reality of my own incredibly traditional and proud Italian-American family. (I'm assuming you care about those of us who emigrated to the United States. The decision to locate your U.S. subsidiary in Ames, Iowa would suggest as much. Iowa, by the way, is one of thirteen states where same-sex marriage is legal).

Your remarks are particularly ironic given the inextricable link between pasta and many of my most cherished family memories.

I remember my great-grandmother Rose, who left Italy in the 1880s, serving me orzo with butter and garlic when I was a little girl.

I remember Grandpa Charlie spending entire Sundays making huge pots of "gravy" made from homegrown tomatoes and serving spaghetti to forty-two of my closest relatives scrunched together in the basement of their Elmont, New York home.

I remember Grandma Laura, after whom I am named, making tomatoes, peas, and shells. And I recall my mother Rosemarie's hilarious stories about her father's love for big pots of Italian-style organ meats slow-cooked to stinky perfection and served over a bed of linguini.

In fact, I can't recollect any significant event in the history of the Belmonte or Venaccio families where pasta wasn't involved.

When Grandma Laura died, at 93, we all convened at an old-style Italian restaurant in the Bronx, complete with pictures of Joe DiMaggio and Annette Funicello on the walls. We ate tortellini and shared stories about our precious matriarch.

When Uncle Brian (who was mostly Scottish, but we loved him anyway) reached out after I came out to my bewildered parents twenty-five years ago, he assured me-over a ravioli dinner- that with time, everything would be okay and that he didn't love me one iota less upon discovering that I was a lesbian.

And though an aneurism took him at fifty-two, leaving us with far too many years to live without his infectious laugh and kind heart, he was right.

laura_belmonte.jpgWith time, my Republican, Roman Catholic, Italian-American parents realized that my love of a woman did not change their love for me. Dad remains one of his Knights of Columbus chapter's most active members. No longer a fierce Goldwater Republican, Mom defies the conventional logic and becomes more liberal the older she gets. And once a month, they join the Sons of Italy for dinner at a local restaurant, usually one that serves pasta. They occasionally mention their gay daughter, the professor whose wedding to Susie they proudly attended two years ago.

Next month, a horde of Belmontes will gather in Northern California for another wedding. (Nothing more traditionally Italian than that!) It's the wedding of my cousin Jennifer, Uncle Brian's daughter, to her partner, Catherine.

Because in our traditional family, unconditional love is the most important tradition.

Undoubtedly, pasta will be served.

It won't be made by Barilla.

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