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Falling off the wagon: Easter eggs, Italian style

I think there is a moment in life when you realize you have finally, after many close shaves, hit bottom.  When you have to have the courage to take a good, long look at yourself and admit that you have a problem.  That your habit is ruining your health, jeopardizing your family life, alienating your friends, and compromising your career.  That point when you suddenly realize that you, like Liz or Betty or that really emaciated model whose name escapes me right now, are an addict and it’s time to reclaim your life and self respect.

I am about to take the first step.  Hello, my name is Rebecca.  I ate all my children’s Easter candy.  Again.

L’uova di Pasqua

It’s not really about candy.  It’s about chocolate, since Easter candy here is almost exclusively huge chocolate Easter eggs, which are hollow and hide a surprise (usually a little toy or keychain) inside.  My sons got 22 of them this year (we have many, many relatives).  Each of them weighs about half a kilo.  That’s a lot of chocolate, and a pretty big temptation for an avowed chocoholic like yours truly.  It’s like holding a gamblers anon convention in Vegas.

The diabolic chocolate eggs

Every year I say to myself, “Okay, this is the year you are going to show some self control.  This year you are going to break up all those chocolate eggs into little pieces and freeze them for future baking.  And donate some of the chocolate to starving children in the Third World.  And throw a big dinner party and make a huge pot of chocolate fondue for dessert.”

Instead what happens is that those damn things sit there, in their shiny mylar wrapping, calling to me.  It wakes me up at night.  It interrupts my work.  It becomes an obsession.  So I say to myself, “Okay, one.  You can eat one egg.”  I make a tiny incision in the back side of one of the egg wrappings with a really sharp knife, and, with surgical precision, cut away a little piece.  It’s Venchi.  Milk chocolate.  It’s really good.  So I grab the egg, rip the paper to shreds, and proceed to stuff the rest of the egg by handfuls into my mouth, all the time keeping one eye on the door should my husband or children walk in on this spectacle.

Note the mesmerizing mylar decorative paper

Luckily, my kids are still kind of fuzzy about numbers above ten, so they don’t really notice that their eggs are slowly culled as the days pass.  Plus, I give them the toys, which is all they really care about anyway.

Unfortunately, my husband is not that fuzzy about numbers above ten, and is horrified to discover that his wife has managed to put away about 10 kilos of chocolate in less than a week.  I really think it is one of the few times in the almost 20 years I have known him that I have felt real shame.  That and the three times I crashed the car which increased our commercial van insurance – one sure insurance rate.

Why, why can’t they eat the disgustingly unappetizing Easter candy we have in the States here?  I mean, if my choices were yellow sugar covered marshmallow chicks and black jelly beans, there wouldn’t be much of a problem.  I have a vague recollection of liking those things when I was, oh, five, but the very thought of eating them now makes my stomach turn.  It’s funny how we grow out of food.  I also used to love that peanut butter and jelly together in one jar stuff and Oreos.  Thank God my taste buds have matured, though my self control has remained what it was in kindergarten.

Even more of a temptation when not encased in mylar

We also have a momentous amount of chocolate in the house around Easter because we throw an annual Easter egg hunt.  We began when my oldest son was born (I think he was barely walking the first year we held the hunt), and every year the party gets bigger and better.  I love the Easter party, though we rarely have decent weather.  Usually, about 100 people huddle under our porch watching a driving, freezing rain come down and wait for a ten minute window in which the kids can book into the garden and collect the sodden eggs.

After years of trial and error, and running over months old rotten eggs with the lawn mower, we have, for the past couple of years, only hidden plastic eggs (which still get run over with the mower in August, but just make a terrifying noise without the sickening stench).  We hide a couple hundred of them, and inside each one is a little chocolate egg that the finder gets to keep and take home.  I buy those little chocolate eggs in bulk, and strangely seem to overbuy every year.  It’s uncanny.  Call it fate.

My boys with their Easter baskets ready to take to Mass for the traditional blessing; their chocolate eggs are in the center

Of course, that’s far too much sugar for my babes, so the sacrifice I make for them is to consume them all myself.  Sometimes, as a parent, you have to take the bullet for your kids.

The Easter egg hunt is a very popular party with our set because of the novelty.  They don’t do egg hunts in Italy; it’s very much an Anglo-American tradition, as far as I can tell.  Since my elder son was born, I have been really working hard to bring a little bit of American Childhood to Italy.  We have the Halloween party, Thanksgiving Dinner, the Christmas Cookie Decorating get together, the Easter Egg hunt.  We haven’t had a Fourth of July shindig yet, but I think it’s just a matter of time.

Only Italians would use a bottle of wine for scale

I find it strange, and a bit out of character, that I put so much weight on these American holidays.  There are lots of different expat profiles here in Italy, which run a vast gamut of different living abroad experiences.  There are those who live in a kind of Anglo-American bubble:  they don’t speak Italian, may not even send their kids to Italian schools, don’t socialize with Italians, and are very shaky on Italian law, politics, and pop culture.  I suspect they live here primarily for the food.  Some in this group, mostly those who have found themselves residents here through marriage or career, also live in a state of suspended animation, passing most of their time and funnelling most of their resources, to those periods that they go “back home”.  Home being that place they left, oh, twenty years ago.

Then there are those on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, who have glommed onto Italy with all the passion of the newly converted.  They refuse to speak their mother tongue, even when introduced to fellow English speakers, have nothing good to say about their home country, which they visit once every ten years during which visit they annoy all their friends and relatives touting non-stop the joys of living in Italy, have nothing bad to say about Italy, even when the utility bill comes, and wouldn’t eat at McDonald’s even if you held a loaded pistol to their temple.

After a brief stint as a passionate newly converted (until my first utility bill came, which set me in a pining-for-home rut for awhile), I have settled at a place pretty much right smack in the middle.  I love the country I live in now, but also have some nostalgia for the one I left years ago.  When I am in the States I tend to make pasta and change into clean clothes to run to the grocery store.  When I am in Italy, I prepare pancakes for breakfast and drop my kids off at school in sweatpants.  I have one foot here, and one there.  And both my hands in the chocolate eggs.

Venchi milk chocolate Easter eggs. Say that, and you've said it all.


  1. Pam |

    Rebecca, this cracks me up. Last night our friends had a big argument about whether the Priest should use the funds of the church to buy and give out lots of Chocolate eggs to all the kids in town and all the cousins of the kids in town and any kid who happens to come by the town (he does this) or if the money should be used to adopt a starving child in Agrentina. I weighed in on the side of – yes he should give the eggs to the kids as it teaches them generosity and makes them feel welcomed and part of the community. And why not adopt a starving child too. You crack me up and I am farther on the road to recovery than you are – I only ate half of each kids egg.

  2. erica |

    Both hands in the chocolate, eh? Very well written– love the segue from stealing candy from your babies to a snappy breakdown about ex-pat living.

  3. Barbara |

    As your friend, I would have been more than happy to help you with this problem, but apparently you are one of those selfish friends who just don’t know the meaning of the word ‘share’. I hope there’s a group to help you with this problem as soon as you recover from your addiction. Personally, I don’t see the need. If you need help, you know where to find me.

    • rebecca |

      @Barb I am moved by your sympathy in this hard time. I will let you know when they discharge me from the clinic. In the meantime, send cookies. (Chocolate chip, please.)

  4. rebecca |

    @Amy Listen there, lady, you people have the knishes and the latkas. And you complain? (Oh, how I miss Kaufmans in Chicago!)

  5. rebecca |

    @Pam…ah, yes, chocolate does seem to stir up the worst of human nature! I am now on a strict diet…water and the last of the frozen shards of Easter chocolate that I sneak out of the ziplock bag in the freezer when no one is watching. In fact, I think I may just go get a piece now…..

  6. Barbara |

    Hmmmm – not sure chocolate chip cookies would be allowed in the ‘program’ – I don’t think you’ve hit bottom yet…..

  7. Diana Strinati Baur |

    Hello, Rebecca (said in unison).

    I have an appreciation for people who are quick to admit their weaknesses. You have motivated me to come clean. My name is Diana and I drank all the leftover Dolcetto and Barbera from the weekend’s wine tasting. In one sitting. While watching American Idol. Thank God for Astra 28.

    Your take on expatriatism (not a word, I know) is pretty much how I feel as well. I do believe there is a special place in hell for those expats who refuse to talk to other expats in the common expat language. Normally the Italian ain’t that great on either, and the circular game of reinforcing crappy grammar gets old in about three or four seconds.

    I think that life here and life there and life everywhere has wonderful parts (torta verde) and awful parts (Enel). Wonderful parts (cilantro in every grocerty store) and awful parts (Walmart on a Saturday). Taking it all in balance and stride and with a good sense of humor is the key to contentment, I think, regardless where we are.

    Good luck with the withdrawal symptoms!

    • rebecca |

      Diana, your secret makes you hip. Mine makes me a mother who steals chocolate from her own children. 😉

      Thanks for your comments…sometimes striking the perfect expat balance is tricky. Today Umbria is beautiful and all my utilities are working and my morning cappuccino hit the spot, so I am swinging towards those who go native.

      Tomorrow I’ll have some problem with the post office, so I’ll swing back!

  8. sheri |

    Great post,Rebecca. I understand your addiction perfectly. Even with the awful Easter Candy in the US, I found that I just had to make an Easter Basket for my son. He is 23 and we are Jewish, LOL. At least he will take all of the Candy back to school tonight!

  9. Lynn Guardino |

    Buona Pasqua!

    Don’t feel too badly Rebecca. My kids did not know that chocolate bunnies had ears until they were in college…….

    Enjoy every moment of the childhood days and keep smiling.



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