Call me names!

When I was about two, my mother said I invented a game called “Names.” The rules were simple: she regaled me with terms of endearment while I basked in the glow of Honey, Sugar, Sugar Pie, Sweetheart, Sweet Pea, Sugar Plum, Pumpkin, Pumpkin Pie, Honey Pie, Honey Bun, Baby Cake, and so forth. When she ran out of names, I announced Part 2: “More Names!” Names had a “No Multi Tasking” rule. No cooking, ironing, cleaning up, or other useful tasks. We had to play this game on the couch, with full attention to Me.

In time our relationship grew more nuanced (for sure), but I’m happy it started so well. Fast forward to meeting my husband, who is Italian. He was mildly surprised at the American habit of identifying love interests with food, especially vegetables. So “Pumpkin” must have sounded as off as “Oh Zucchini, it’s so good to see you.” Or, “Of course, Onion/Okra/Parsnip, whatever you say.” Apparently in his culture, food is food and people are people, and you don’t (baring cannibalistic predilections) think tenderly of eating people.

We lived in Italy during the Clinton Administration and the newspapers, quoting Bill speaking to Hillary, took care to translate “Honey” as “Miele,” with the subtext of : “We know it’s weird, but that’s what this American really said.” As if he might have called her Corn Syrup or Molasses. No big point here, except that if you tilt your head a little to see your world through another cultural perspective, it is a bit odd.

Pamela Schoenewaldt, historical novels of immigration and the search for self in new worlds: WHEN WE WERE STRANGERS, SWIMMING IN THE MOON, and UNDER THE SAME BLUE SKY (all HarperCollins).

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Posted in Food, Just life
2 comments on “Call me names!
  1. Anonymous says:

    I never thought about our endearing food names. They just seemed part of who we are.

  2. I know. It’s funny how sometimes we don’t see our own culture until we’re outside it.

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