Italian mothers send food to far-flung adult bambinos! Are they going too far?

Literally THOUSANDS of Italian mothers in southern Italy are sending lovingly and extravagantly made meals to their adult children who have moved to other parts of the country. About 3,000 mothers have hired one delivery man, Domenico Martino, to take their care packages north weekly in a semi-truck.

From The Wall Street Journal:

“For generations, Calabrian women have poured their maternal love into Sunday lunch. They labor to produce sumptuous meals of fresh pasta, long-stewed meats and homegrown greens to lure their grown children back to the nest every week. It was easy when the children lived nearby or—as was often the case—in upstairs apartments built or bought by their parents. But today, the Sunday lunch tradition has fallen on hard times.”

“Jobs for young Italians are scarce—particularly in Italy’s poorer south—forcing people to migrate north to big cities, leaving their mothers behind. In Calabria, on the toe of Italy’s boot, 52% of Italians between the ages of 15 to 64 were “inactive,” or not working or studying during most of 2010, according to Italy’s official statistics agency ISTAT. Authorities say Calabria is also home to the ‘ndrangheta mob, a drug trafficking syndicate that maintains a stranglehold on the region’s economy, starving the area of jobs.”

So why are they sending the food by truck several hours away? You get different answers depending on who you talk to. The truck driver thinks the mothers don’t want their children having to do anything. One of the mothers using the service says her daughter is working too hard. Another mother says the umbilical cord was never cut. A son, who more than happily takes the meals, says the separation has been hard on his mother (Let me give that one a big hummmphhh!)

It reminds me of mothers sending care packages to college. But in college, young men or women may not have access to a big kitchen or may not know how to cook. You would think as adults they would have both both things.

Is this about the parents not being able to separate? Is this about the kids being lazy? Is this about the kids working hard and not having take-out or grocery store convenience food readily available in Italy? Is that somehow more degrading to get a meal from a grocery store instead of your mother if you don’t have time to cook for your family?

This paragraph does tell me something though:

“Eventually, some 3,000 mothers came calling, each with a set of special requests, Mr. Martino recalls. Many wanted a discount on what traditional couriers charged; others wanted meals to arrive in time for lunch. Some have asked him to linger at the delivery site to gather intelligence on their children’s new lives. Others demanded his cellphone number.”

Maybe they want to stay connected to their kids and stay in their children’s lives even if they’re far away. They have always cooked to show love. And so even though it seems crazy to send homecooked meals hours and hours away, it’s one of the only ways they know how to show their kids they love them.

Is that so wrong?

So what do you think of thousands of mothers sending meal north to their grown kids? Have you ever mailed special food items to your kids (at camp or college)? Are these mothers out of control and need to let go? Or do you just think they are showing love one way they know how?

45 comments Add your comment

motherjanegoose

April 14th, 2011
6:58 am

I read this last week, in the USA Today, I think. WHAT? I think it is nuts but that is just me.

My daughter has teased me that I do not send her care packages at UGA. She is 45 minutes away and comes home at least once a month. Guess I am a bad Mom. I am taking her and a college friend to the beach after finals and we are going to Boston a few weeks later. This is how we stay in each other’s lives.

Truth be told, my daughter knows as much or more about cooking than me! Travel…yes…cooking…not so much anymore.

catlady

April 14th, 2011
7:08 am

They have a tradition to eat Sunday meals together. They are trying to continue the tradition (without the togetherness). Their “kids” are far away, learning “strange” customs in the big cities. Of course the mamas want to keep them all close. This is just a way to do that. I don’t see anything sinister, or worth berating. It’s not like they are paying their kids’ bills, like so many do in the US. They want to keep them close, and this is a loving way to do that.

How does the deliveryman keep up with 3000 time-sensitive deliveries? Can he get them all there in time?

shaggy

April 14th, 2011
7:09 am

The real question is, how do I get those southern Italian moms to adopt shaggy, and start sending delicious, savory, home-cooked Italian care packages my way. I will be a good son, I promise.

Ummmmm…for some reason, I am now craving “fresh pasta, long-stewed meats and homegrown greens “.

motherjanegoose

April 14th, 2011
7:22 am

@ shaggy…yes, I was ( last week) trying to get a whiff of the garlic that could be on your door step from Mama. I love Italian food. DB are you up for Ippiloto’s ( sp) or Dominick’s?

I cannot wait for Little Italy in Boston!

catlady…to me, the Sunday dinner is about seeing your family. Not as much fun when I am slaving to send them something and not even able to see them for weeks on end. I enjoy eating and talking to my kids…who do get home at least once a month. Son is coming home tomorrow but I will be in Montana.

Someone ( couriers) has made themselves a business out of this and that ( to me) is always admirable.

motherjanegoose

April 14th, 2011
7:23 am

lol…eating with my kids…I have been know to CHEW them out though….

JJ

April 14th, 2011
7:59 am

I send my daughter care packages all the time, but not fresh home cooked meals. She gets those when she and her “posse” come home on weekends. She is coming home tomorrow, YEAH, and bringing two friends with her. All her friends here will be at my house most of the weekend. I cook breakfast for them, Pancakes, bacon, hashbrowns and eggs……Juice, chocolate milk, etc. They actuallly send me requests. They call me Momma J. The girls who still live here, have brought me flowers for Easter, and presents for Mother’s Day. Sweet girls….and I love them all.

And once in a while I’ll order a pizza for dinner or whip up a batch of spaghetti, if they are all there.
I make a big pot of sauce, then freeze it, so I have it on hand when they are around.

RJ

April 14th, 2011
8:08 am

This sounds like something the mothers enjoy doing. I agree with catlady. They’re not paying kids rent, they’re sending a meal. I don’t care much for cooking, so my kids would starve if they waited for me to send food:). When mine hit college I won’t be sending food, but I will probably send care packages.

motherjanegoose

April 14th, 2011
8:27 am

@ JJ…you are a better cooking Mom than me!

My husband did drive out to Athens ( last weekend)and took the dog out to see our daughter. She is busy with her job in Athens and finishing up her second semester. Not home as much. They invited her friend ( who is pre-vet and our dog LOVES her) out to lunch at a place with a patio. Seems like they had fun!

MomsRule

April 14th, 2011
8:31 am

No, they aren’t “going to far” if they are just sending meals. I don’t see anything wrong with that part but “asking the delivery driver to gather intelligence or demand cell phone numbers”. haha, that’s kind of funny!

And, yes, perhaps this indicates some of these Moms are having separation issues. But then again many cultures do not mimic the US version of how a family should behave so if it works for them and everyone is happy then I say, “good for them!”

JJ

April 14th, 2011
8:33 am

Ok, there’s an article in this paper today, about how banks are profiting from the rising gas prices when people use their credit/debit cards at the pump.

I will NEVER pay for gas with my debit card again. Cash from here on out!!!

Lori

April 14th, 2011
8:41 am

Who are we to judge the traditions of another culture??

djm_NC

April 14th, 2011
8:41 am

@JJ-you sound like me lol..my kids friends call me mama D…and they come by whether my kids are here or not! they alway look to see what im cooking lol..

on topic-as many american parents who support grown children even to the extent of their grown children living with them-often times free- i dont think we have any grounds to dis these moms for simply sending them food. my grandmother (rip) used to send me care packages even after i was grown and had kids. she loved to do it…and at first i objected-but then realized that it gave her joy to put that box in the mail or have it waiting when i came to visit. so i acepted gacefully (and greatfully) because it gave her pleasure and at times it really helped me out. she would send things that i loved but wouldnt buy due to finances etc….things like nice lotions and soaps that i loved….fun things for the kids-she saved all her quarters and gave the kids each a jar for their snack money…things like that.

justmy2cents

April 14th, 2011
8:59 am

My girls are too young for this just yet, but I doubt I would send them home cooked meals. I received one “special” package like that when I was stationed in Texas. My mother sent me a birthday cake for my 19th birthday.

I would probably do it for my girls if they were military and deployed somewhere, but that is about the only scenario that comes to mind for me.

@ MJG- traveling to Boston in about 2 months- recommendations of must sees? Reuniting with an old military friend; she is a local and told me she would take me to all the touristy spots where the locals wouldn’t be caught dead LOL

Becky

April 14th, 2011
9:07 am

I think it’s great if this is what makes the parents (and kids) happy…I can see me doing this when my two are older…I love to cook and they love to eat..

As for some of their demands (request) not so sure of..Yes, they probably should have his cell number, other things, I guess that’s between him and them..

@djm_NC..I have never had a care package given to me in my entire life..I do send a few out to my nieces and newphew that live away and it makes me feel good, so you are probably right about your grandmother..

Off topic, but think we have discussed this in the past, but was wondering..Yesterday my two weren’t allowed to go out for recess, because the teacher said it was to cold..What the deck? Is it just me that thinks the teacher is nuts?

motherjanegoose

April 14th, 2011
9:08 am

@ just…I am heading out the door but Wayne can perhaps give you some better ideas, he lives near there. I will check in later.

tc

April 14th, 2011
9:08 am

If somebody wanted to send me homemade Italian meals once a week, you would ‘t hear me complaining. I’d be celebrating!

DB

April 14th, 2011
9:14 am

My daughter complained about not getting care packages,and I told her that it seemed silly to send a care package when she’s home every two or three weeks and I send her back loaded up with goodies, especially when it costs more to mail it than it does to make the stuff! I send a care package to my son around exam time and for things like Valentine’s Day, but he’s 6 hours a way and only gets home once a semester. My daughter comes home the weekend before finals to get some quiet study time and homecooked meals before diving into exams, and she’s often in and out during the semester.

JJ

April 14th, 2011
9:16 am

Becky – It was chilly in the morning, but I believe it was about 80 by the time I left work. Too cold?. Honestly? I grew up in Colorado and they sent us out to play in the snow….of course we were in the gym when it was blizzardy…..or snowing heavily. But we were out on the playground, having snowball fights and such.

Pansy teacher. She probably didn’t want to go outside. She may be like my neighbor, who freezes if the temps dip into the 70’s. Last night we were on her driveway, I was in capris and a tee shirt, and she had on jeans, a tee shirt and a jacket and was shivering…..she says she has ice water in her veins…LOL

JJ

April 14th, 2011
9:17 am

Becky – one of my daughter’s friends was fired from a daycare, because she sent kids out in lower 70 degree weather without jackets…..WTH????

Becky

April 14th, 2011
9:27 am

@JJ..I thought the same thing about her being pansy, but she’s from Michigan, so what do I know..This is here second year here and I would think that 76ish would of been hot for her..Of course, this is the same teacher that sent them home a 16 page (back and front) packet of homework to do over Christmas break..Was it the parents that complained that she sent them out in weather that “COLD”? I think if I had of been one of those parents, I would of changed daycares..

@DB..My coworkers daughter is 4 hours away and she gets care packages sent at least 3 times per month..Then her Mom and grandmom go down anywhere from 2-3 times per month to visit..They send her stuff like toilet paper, allergy medicine, a comb, you name it..I think that’s a little much, but again ??

Becky

April 14th, 2011
9:28 am

oops..Her second year..

JJ

April 14th, 2011
9:45 am

Becky – that’s the mom unable to let her daughter go…..

My (ex) sister in law, calls her oldest daughter, who is away at college in Dahlonega (a whole 45 minutes away), at least 5-6 times a day. I talk to my daughter once a day, I just need to hear her voice. Texting doesn’t count, as anyone can text from her phone. So we made a deal that we would TALK once a day…..so far, so good. But to me, she is starting her life, flexing her wings, and she knows I’m there, but I don’t want to be nosey about what she’s doing every minute of the day. We are each very independent. She’s a good kid, and she is now on her own, to make her own mistakes, and hopefully grow from them.

She plans to come home and hopefully get a full time job this summer, then move into an apartment in Athens in August, and take on-line courses, to continue her education, and get a job there. She comes home from school in early May, and I told her she had two weeks to find a job. If no job after 2 weeks, she looses her car. I told her I was not financing her summer. She’s 20 and needs to start taking financial responsiblity for herself and helping with college costs.

When she moves into her apartment, I have every intention of buying about $100 in groceries to get them started. But that’s it!!!!

Techmom

April 14th, 2011
9:46 am

@MJG – mmmm Ippolito’s… great, that’s all I’m going to think about the rest of the day now!

I can’t imagine sending full meals but I guess this guy is a true entrepreneur and is meeting a need.

As far as regular care packages; my mom did this after she moved to Texas when I was still in college and my son was young. She did it just as much for her as for us. Certainly none of it was needed by us but my son always loved coming home to a package from Nana. I’m pretty sure the shipping cost more than most of the stuff inside but I know she enjoyed shopping and baking for us.

I’m way more practical and hate to waste money on shipping. I’ll probably just put some extra money in his account when he goes off to college or maybe drop a card in the mail with a gift card as a treat.

Kat

April 14th, 2011
10:07 am

Again, (and I went on about this at length in response to a previous post on this blog), we are talking about a HUGE cultural difference here. The is story is from ITALY. My brother’s wife is Italian. I know from visitng them in Italy and seeing how famlies operate, that the mothers wait on their precious sons hand and foot, cradle to the grave. If the mother is 100 year old with and hobbling around with a cane, and the son is young and able-bodied, he will keep his backside planted in a chair while she cooks, serves, and cleans up.

Is this “going too far” by American standards? Absolutely. Do Italians care? Not a bit. This is not only standard behavior, but fully expected on both parts, and the mother would be horrified and insulted if the son refused her services or tried to help.

Please, please, educate yourselves just a little before you spout opinions on other cultures. The entire world does not operate on American standards, and they honestly don’t give a fig how we do things here. Try a little travel. If you can’t travel, read. There’s no excuse to be ignorant of how the rest of the world operates. And the fact that so many Americans think that our way is the only way and assume that everyone in the world wants to be just like us, is why so many cultures think Americans are ignorant and arrogant.

JJ

April 14th, 2011
10:17 am

Kat – we are all entitled to our opinions…..

Becky

April 14th, 2011
10:43 am

@JJ..This Mom talks to her daughter about 7-8 times per day during the work day..Of course she also talks to her Mom (the grandmother) about 6-7 times per day also..That’s just while we are at work and it’s every day..:~)

@Kat..Not sure that we are the ones that need to learn to read..No one on here (unless I missed it) spouted off ingnorance about the Italian culture..We are just giving opinions on what we think and what we would do..That is after all what this blog is mostly about..OPINIONS..And you know what they say about opinions and a**holes.. Have a great day..

shaggy

April 14th, 2011
11:04 am

Kat,

Do you remember any Italian moms names that I could write to and ask for formal adoption?
I’m low maintenence, and only need home cooked Italian meals sent to me. My adopted Italian mom and I can use the internet for virtual hugs, plus I will throw in, sending the dirty dishes back “home” for her to wash. That sounds like a sweet deal for a deserving mom. I don’t mind the sacrifice. I am selfless.
This blog has my head dancing with aromas.

JJ

April 14th, 2011
11:04 am

Becky – I don’t talk to my mother but a couple times a week. Today is her birthday, and my brother and I are taking time off from work, to take her out to lunch. That is the one thing she wanted when we asked her. She said “time with my daughter and son, and no grandkids”….awww…..

I’m taking 1/2 day off today, so we can take her to lunch, then she and I will go shopping. Just spending time together……

Becky

April 14th, 2011
11:35 am

@JJ..I hope that y’all have a very good time..

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

April 14th, 2011
11:48 am

Holy moly — the mother of five is alive!!! I had a theory and I can’t wait to see if it is true!! holy cow!! Glad she is alive — suspect other bad stuff happening though, check front page as details emerge!!

fk

April 14th, 2011
11:52 am

Well said, Catlady! And, for those who do not cook or refrain from sending care packages for whatever reason, to many, cooking is not always seen as a chore. Whatever floats your boat.

JOD

April 14th, 2011
12:02 pm

@TWG – This would be a great blog topic…parents who ‘vanish.’ Is it ever okay? Would you ever leave your kids behind? I can’t imagine whatever she must have been going through to leave like that…

catlady

April 14th, 2011
12:07 pm

My mom and grandmother sent me care packages when I was in college. Wonderful fudge brownies, cookies, or coffee cake, or little things like a copy of the newspaper from time to time. My grandmother would also send me a $5 bill occasionally. NOW I know what a sacrifice that was!

I did the same for my children occasionally, especially the first year. In exchange, they were NEVEr to bring home dirty laundry.

I talk to one daughter almost every day (once a day). I talk to my son about once a week (more now that the new baby should be here any day), and the younger daughter about once every 4-5 days. The girls and I text each other about once a day,also.

I didn’t call my mom all that much (now I regret it, but then it was frequently stressful, as I never measured up), perhaps once a week. As I now understand, she would have enjoyed talking to me more. I understand how quiet the house gets without them home.

I really love it when all 3 of my kids and spouses are together at a restaurant and the talk and debate just flies back and forth. I love hearing all their ideas and opinions about the world. When the grands are there, I love that, too, but I get very distracted by the little ones and have a different appreciation for my kids and what good parents, aunts, uncles they are turning out to be. Sometimes I shed a tear of joy. Who would have believed it would have been so great after the long nights and days of single parent-hood?

lwa

April 14th, 2011
12:10 pm

TWG… When the story broke about the mother of five I didn’t think something bad happened to her. I thought she needed some “ME” time. Theory proven.

justmy2cents

April 14th, 2011
12:16 pm

@ TWG- I figured he killed her (gotta admit that trip story sounded fishy…you both forgot what weekend it was????), or she is trying to leave him and run away from the money issues.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

April 14th, 2011
12:17 pm

Iwa — let’s wait and see what they say — my theory was darker than just me time but I thought she left on her own accord — let’s see what we find out. I’ll keep updating — also keep checking the front –

new post coming up soon —

Also please note I have attached a twitter feed to the side of the blog — you can follow me on twitter but you can also click on interesting links from there — I am making an effort to tweet interesting stuff from all over the web — health, sex, child rearing, entertainment, travel — so just scroll there – lots of good stories to choose from.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

April 14th, 2011
12:51 pm

Note the last graph:

The 30-year-old mother of five who’d been missing since last Friday has been found “alive and well,” Bartow County Sheriff Clark Millsap said Thursday.

Millsap declined to say where Wazineh Suleiman was located Thursday morning.

“She is alive and well. She is at an undisclosed location at her request,” Millsap told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “My investigators are interviewing her at this time. We’re going to continue with the case to be sure no crimes were committed.”

Millsap said he would not release any other details. “That’s her business why she left. That’s her business why she was gone,” the sheriff said.

Kat

April 14th, 2011
1:28 pm

@Becky: this was the start of Theresa’s question: “what do you think of thousands of mothers sending meal north to their grown kids?” (Her typo, not mine.) The question regarded a trend in Italy, and all the answers were based on US practices and assuumptions. And you know what they say about assumptions, don’t you?

@JJ, I have no problem with opinions, I have a problem with ignorance. No wonder Americans are so hated in other parts of the world.

@Shaggy, LOL I’ll keep my eyes open.

Wazineh Suleiman

April 14th, 2011
1:56 pm

Try to see this from my point of view. My husband is a controlling jerk.

Becky

April 14th, 2011
2:42 pm

@Kat..Well the answers are based on US practices and asuumptions (your spelling) because she is dealing with the US (mostly)..I still did not read anywhere that anyone on here posted anything ignorant about what these Mothers do..As I said, I can see myself doing something like this when my two get older and I don’t raelly see that big of a deal with it..

I do however think that it’s kinda crazy to ship your kids a package about once per week when they are only 4 hours away..

@JJ..I have a two sisters that live out of state and I talk to one of them pretty much every day and the other one at least 4 times per week..

DB

April 14th, 2011
3:17 pm

@MJG: Ippolitos sounds like a plan!

@Becky: Yeah, I would say that comes pretty darn close to smothering. I go to my daughter’s school to attend recitals, etc. but 2 or 3 times a month?! Geez, let the kid develop a life, already!

I’ll never forget Parents Weekend when my son was a freshman. That was the first time we had seen him since August, and it was October? Happy to see him, he had friends and was settling in. He and his dad went running, and I was chatting with some other moms. One of them rolled her eyes and said, “Aren’t the rest of you getting tired of coming here?” We were all perplexed, and I said, “Uh, well, this is my first time since I dropped him off in August . . .?” Turns out she had been coming up EVERY SINGLE WEEKEND from 2 hours away because her daughter was having “so much trouble adjusting.” She was surprised that none of the rest of us had been to campus before that. She was also bitching because “chemistry is unnecessarily hard — my daughter is pre-med and is having so much trouble with it, and they aren’t giving her ANY help!” She didn’t like it when I pointed out that Chem was the weed-out class for all those pre-med kids — if they can’t hack it, they should be looking at a different line of work. She didn’t like that, either, thought that the university should be “more supportive.” Nope — the class is there. Take it, pass it or flunk it — it’s all on you, now, baby.

I think there were some adjustment problems, alright — and not necessarily all on the daughter’s part. Just sayin’.

Becky

April 14th, 2011
3:32 pm

@DB..Yep, that is this Mother..Gosh, if the school was only 2 hrs. away, she would be there every weekend..She does her son almost the same way..He can’t ever wake up on his own to go to work, she has to call home and have her Mom go wake him up..He’s 21 and can’t drive on teh interstate becasue it’s to dangerous for her baby..Really? He’s planning on being a police officer and geez, that’s not dangerous at all..

She is always on the internet looking up things that they need for class..Neither one of them can find any books that they need..The son has no clue what his schedule is each day, he has to call her every day to find out his work and school schedule is..The list could go on and on..

Kat

April 15th, 2011
9:51 am

@Becky, you are making my point for me. The responses to these questions are always me, me ,me. “I do it this way” or “When I was a kid WE did such-and-such.” Everyone thinks their way is the BEST way. I see very little tolerance for the way the person next door does things, let alone the way things are done halfway around the world. That’s bad enough, but what bugs me is that there is no interest or desire to know WHY others do things differently. Judging the entire world on American standards is a mistake that will backfire one day, and probably soon.

motherjanegoose

April 15th, 2011
10:51 am

JJ…I always use credit cards to pay for gas. I read the article too. The banks charge a percentage fee for service. The more you spend, the more they make. If gas is $4.00 a gallon, they will make more than $2.00 a gallon…is this wrong? I do not see it!

The rebate and points I get on my credit cards is so much better than using cash. I pay my bill, in full, each month.

JJ

April 15th, 2011
12:52 pm

MJG – The banks got tons of money in stimulus funds and they are charging fees out the wazoo for EVERYTHING these days…

I refuse to give them any more money, via my credit/debit card at the pump. Plus I really like paying with cash for just about everything. I always save my change and that’s helps greatly…I actually save more when I use cash, then with the debit card.