Sauce or Gravy?


The Secret, Fervent Debate at the Heart of the Italian American Spaghetti Dinner.

This article, written by Bill Tonelli, appears on Slate.

“The Italians of my parents’ generation are held together by the notion of the family,” wrote Martin Scorsese in his introduction to Italianamerican: The Scorsese Family Cookbook.* “That is why the pasta sauce is so sacred to the Italian family.”

See, now right away we have a problem. Because as pretty as Scorsese’s words might sound, he’s taking sides in a major ethnic dispute. It involves Italian Americans and food—and not just any food but that most elemental source of nourishment (actual, emotional, spiritual, tribal), practically the equivalent of mother’s milk. The food of foods.

Tomato sauce. Wait, I mean gravy.

There’s nothing about the stuff itself that created this rift, just the name by which it’s called, gravy or sauce, seemingly a trivial matter but guaranteed to trigger strong partisanship.

Virtually all Italian Americans will split along the gravy-sauce line. Read more at Slate.

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