“Mangia, Mangia!” This priceless phrase was heard by every child who grew-up in an Italian-American home in the fifties and sixties. Back then households consisted of more then just a father, mother, and children. Italian houses had invisible revolving doors to accommodate the never ending stream of visiting relatives and immigrant friends. The revered phrase might be heard from anyone, but never with the same passion and conviction as from a grandparent!
What does ‘Mangia!’ mean? It's a secret code that instantly allows one Italian entrance into the heart of another. Whispering ‘Mangia!’ to museum Guardia assures a private tour of Italy’s grandest monuments. It’s rumored that by using the correct pronunciation and inflection of that simple phrase even foreigners have gained entrance to the Vatican!
Its meaning? E-A-T!
Italians didn’t believe in calorie counting or fitness guides. Our family tree was rooted in olive oil. Medical science identified our blood type as F+ (food + more food). Our bedtime story was, “Pinocchio did all his chores and ate everything on his plate so he could become a really good boy!”
Play sports after school? Male children worked with their fathers in their family trade business. “No sport will give you a workout like physical labor!”
There would be no talk of playing sports or physical conditioning in our family. My brother’s enrollment at a Gym almost banished him from the will. We worked. We ate. That is until…
Nonna C. was my great-grandmother who retired to Florida. Her visits back north were always a treat. No one uttered “Mangia!” as she could. With a wink in her eye and a crooked smile on her face she’d slip me forbidden delicacies reserved for the adults. One particular visit immortalized her.
Feeling ill, she was taken to our ‘American’ doctor. He did his best to communicate with Nonna as her pride didn’t permit anyone else’s presence in the examination room. She exited the small office upset and afraid.
“Well, Ma, what’d he say?” pried my great-aunt.
Mostly in Italian, with some broken English, and punctuating her sentences with deep sighs she explained.
“It’s notta good. He wants do tests. In tree weeks I gotta loost da weight.”
“He wants I take what he write on da paper every day - lunch for tree weeks. Lord calla me home! I wanta see Jesu and mi bello Vincenzo!” she sniffled into her monogrammed lace handkerchief.
Nervously my great-aunt snatched the green prescription slip from Nonna’s hand and read the scrawled instructions. LUNCH...YOGURT!
Releasing her tightened body and breath she shook her head and scolded Nonna C.
“Really Ma, sometimes you’re impossible. This is not medicine. It’s food! We’ll stop at the grocery on the way home.”
Nonna smiled faintly with that twinkle in her eyes.
“It comes in flavors with fruit on the bottom!”
Now Nonna was eager to begin her first ever ‘DIET.’
Three weeks later she returned to the doctor, proudly stepped on the scale, and waited to hear the doctor’s praises. Instead Nonna saw the doctor nod his head disapprovingly.
“Mrs. C., did you follow my written instructions to eat yogurt for lunch?” he inquired.
“Si!” she responded firmly, defending her honor.
“Then why haven’t you lost weight?” he asked looking her straight in the eyes.
“DocTAWR-e, every lunch I eat da yogret asa you say!”
“No Mrs. C., I said to eat yogurt everyday AS your lunch!”
With this Nonna C. fumbled for the chair, believing she would pass out.
“Justa da yogret ana no food? You try killa me? Ana calla you-self a doc-TAWR-e?”
Grabbing her purse and my great-aunt, they rushed home to comfort the matriarch with a hearty meal… “Mangia! Nonna! Mangia!”
When I talk about getting fit I think of Nonna C. and laugh. A misunderstanding of what she heard and what was written made a big difference.
God also gave instructions to insure our fitness and health as believers.
“What is written in the law?” he (Jesus) replied. “How do you read it?” Luke 10:26, NIV
When we stand before God He will ask each of us, “Did you follow my written instructions?” not “Did you do what you thought you heard was written?”
Isn’t it better to read what’s written in God’s Word for ourselves than to depend on what we think we heard someone tell us about it?
A misunderstanding could make a big difference. It’s your spiritual health and choice!
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