How Midwest Does Italian

We also went to an Italian banquet today. It was Italian in that there were mountains of excellent Italian food and everybody played an Italian bowling-type game which is supposedly the oldest game in the world. But actual Italians, there were only two. There were more Slavs than Italians, with several second-generation Czechs, me, dressed in the colors of the Ukrainian flag from head to toe, and two Russians, one good and one bad.

Most of the organizers and the attendees were Irish. Nothing happens around here if the Irish don’t organize, obviously. Some people referred to themselves as “Dutch Irish,” which I don’t know what it means because it’s hard to keep track of all the varieties of Irish. I say this lovingly, of course.

My department came up with the idea of the banquet but an Italian cultural organization (consisting of all those Irish folks) funded it. When we asked them what the budget was, they said, “we’ll eat! We’ll drink! We won’t talk budget! Just get food.” After a series of painful and fruitless efforts to get a specific number out of the Italian-adjacent Irish, we went ahead and bought mountains of food. We are used to public university scarcity, and it felt weird to be able to order whatever we wanted for the event and to be told to order more.

It went amazingly well. Even the bad Russian didn’t manage to mar the festivities for me. I’d say the best part of the event for me was to see a group of 70-year-old men discuss how they all were together in first grade. And they still hang out together!

10 thoughts on “How Midwest Does Italian

  1. “Dutch Irish,”

    Are you sure that wasn’t “Scotch Irish”? Dutch-Irish might refer to a single family (one parent primarily irish the other dutch) but it’s not a group I’d heard of…

    Scotch Irish though were a very influential group of immigrants who helped shape American identity in the 18th and 19th centuries. The term is not used in the UK (and often puzzles Brits). Despite the name (and traditional internal cohesion) they are one of the most deracinated groups and traditionally very oblivious to anything happening in the ‘old country’ unlike Irish Americans who played a big role in funding the IRA in the late 1960s and 1970s…

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scotch-Irish_Americans#Language_use

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    1. The Dutch Irish were actually Scots Irish immigrants, who came to the new world through Philadelphia. They eventually settled in Pennsylvania Dutch Country….hence, Dutch Irish.

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  2. “actual Italians, there were only two”

    Probably for the best… if there were more they’d be fainting and/or enraged at the wrong pasta shape used for something or other or the incorrect layering of a lasagne…

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  3. “they’d be fainting and/or enraged at the wrong pasta shape used for something or other or the incorrect layering of a lasagne…”
    As an Italian I recognise the meme, though it’s nothing as intense as all that in real life…
    Having said that, something that has always struck me as rather bizarre is the passion which Italians seem to reserve for Ireland and all things Irish.

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  4. I know in my area of New England, many people are a mix of Irish and Italian as they were the two Catholic immigrant communities. Most “Irish” or “Italians” I know are a mix of these two groups. Polish-Italians Polish-Irish are another common group.

    I also think a large number of Irish and Italian communities hold on to their ancestral and cultural identity through generations more so than other communities after immigrating to the US

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  5. “…it’s hard to keep track of all the varieties of Irish.”

    The Irish emigrated to America and promptly intermarried with everybody, including families whose surnames might mislead you into thinking that they were (e.g.) predominantly German in ancestry. Ask me how I know. ;^)

    I hadn’t heard of “Dutch Irish” until today, but I grew up with “Mexican Irish” neighbors in Los Angeles. If the Neanderthals hadn’t died out forty thousand years ago, I’m sure there’d be some “Neanderthal Irish” somewhere in the U.S. Whether they’d be into Italian food is less certain.

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  6. Dutch Irish are descendants of the Calvinist Scots who emigrated first from Scotland to Ireland as emigrants in the 1600s – now generally known as Ulstermen.
    In the 1700s many of them emigrated from Ireland to Pennsylvania and settled first in the previously Dutch-settled areas of southeastern Pennsylvania and, many of them moved into the old Northwest territories – north of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi, what’s now mostly the states of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin.
    Another large group moved from Pennsylvania down the Shenandoah Valley and into the adjoining Appalachians to the west.
    Those people are usually called the Scotch-Irish.
    They were the first and most important group of frontiersmen in America’s history.

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