It would be hard to argue that Italians love to eat and I had heard many accounts, which to me seemed totally out of proportion, about the amount of food served at weddings, baptisms and first communions in Campania. So when my husband and I were asked to interpret for friends coming to S. Giorgio La Molara (land of the Titanic Chessboards) to take part in their relatives’ wedding, we knew we were in for a big meal. S. Giorgio however is in a poor part of the country so we assumed this would be a simpler and cozier affair and nothing like the fancy feeding frenzies of Naples or Caserta. Little did we know how wrong we could be.
Eating began before the wedding with a spread of canapés, sandwiches, confetti (sugared almonds), cakes, wine, beer and soft drinks at the family’s house. At 11:00 the bride left for church and by 1:00 o’clock the couple were happily married and the honking motorcade was noisily winding its way to the restaurant.
The DJ named Antonio ushered the bride and groom into the restaurant with a strident version of Wagner’s Bridal Chorus and all 304 of us sat down to an antipasto of fried and marinated fish, aptly named Fantasia del Marinaio (fisherman’s fantasy). Then came the Preludio S. Giorgio (S. George’s prelude), two separate courses of cured meats and cheeses. We then plunged back into the sea on a plate of salmon and lobster Insalata del Dio Nettuno (Neptune’s salad) as the guests insistently banged their knives on the half-empty bottles of wine, signalling they wanted a passionate kiss from the bride and groom.
At 4:00 pm, as Antonio embarked on a series of classical Neapolitan songs – accompanied by his over-amplified accordion – we passed the threshold of the first pasta course and Lasagnette della Casa, Cavatelli ai Funghi Porcini and Orecchiette Gamberetti e Rucola (orecchiette with shrimp and rocket) were dutifully downed. The rest of the meal consisted of two main fish courses, followed by two main courses of meat – divided by lemon sherbet. Then came fruit cocktail, ice-cream and enough wedding cake and sweets to feed an army. The assault ended at quarter to one in the morning.
But it wasn’t until 5pm that we really understood what we were in for and decided just to relax and enjoy the ride. I began observing the guests, most of whom were from farming families similar to those of the bride and groom. Everyone was well dressed, but few looked comfortable: the men stood awkwardly in their new suits and women crossed their ankles instead of their knees. As I looked at these warm, generous and hard-working people who had welcomed us as family, as they mingled, drank, danced and cackled amongst themselves, I realized with delight that there wasn’t a single nose-job or face-lift anywhere to be seen.
…and as Antonio ripped into a rousing rally of ‘O Sarracino, the bride slipped into a pair of beach shoes and hit the dance floor…