If He Had a Hankering for Spaghetti Carbonara, I Made It

January 10, 2012

My husband died a month ago, the woman says.

Woman in Southeast Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

@J Huizenga

Do you know how long we were married? Fifty-four years.

 You are surprised? Yes, because nowadays such a long marriage is rare.

Sicilian Woman in Monterosso Almo, copyright Jann Huizenga

@J Huizenga

And do you know why? Because people today are egoists. They think only of themselves. They want what they want.

How did Paolo and I stay together for 54 years? I cooked him whatever he wanted. If he had a hankering for spaghetti carbonara, I made it.

 And Paolo never ever complained about anything I cooked.

Sicilian Woman in Monterosso Almo, copyright Jann  Huizenga

@ J Huizenga

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36 comments to If He Had a Hankering for Spaghetti Carbonara, I Made It

  • God bless Sicily! I am new to your beautiful blog and this, my first post, moved me to tears. I have so much respect for women like this signora. You capture her stoicism so perfectly. Grazie di cuore. J

  • Charlie

    It is sad, but I am sure she is a strong woman and will persevere. Your pictures and words always tell us about life in Sicily. And unfortunately, death is part of life. Cherish family while we can, in the big picture life is short.

    P.S. Thirty three years today for my wife and I. I am blessed with a great woman. They say marry up, and I believe I did.

  • Who will she cook for now, I can’t help but wonder. Will her food taste the same, without her Paolo’s grateful acceptance to give it value and the flavour of loving companionship. Salt tears may be the flavouring for some time to come. The simplicity (no frills, b&w) of the photos and of the story convey such depth.

  • Henry Barth

    One of these days you might devote a post to Sicilian cemeteries. Amazing buildings.

  • Jann, I think the strong contrast on these black and white shots has captured the widow’s grief magnificently! What a beautiful story! And if Paolo is anything to go by, then most assuredly, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach! On a more serious note, the loneliness felt by women who’ve been in a relationship this long when their partner dies is devastating. It’s almost been two years since daddy passed away and my mother says it feels like yesterday. They had been married for 48 years.

  • I studied your photos for quite awhile, they drew me into them. I saw the longing for a lost companion that I see everyday on my Mother’s face since she lost her husband of 74 years , yes, 74 years. They loved each other everyday of their marriage, and Mom being Siclian they fought their way through a lot of those days. The agruments were never that serious, they just sounded that way.I asked her how they made it that long and she says, “We never even thought about Divorce”. It wasn’t in there vocabulary.


  • Therese

    My parents were married for 48 years when my Dad passed – and my mother simply “lingered” for five years – TO THE DAY! Then she joined him. Now my eldest daughter is planning her wedding – I can only hope they find such happiness, peace and contentment!

    • Jann

      Oh, Therese, heartbreaking about your mom and the lingering. But how exciting for you to be planning a wedding!

  • Pina Marra

    I ccoked almost everything my husband liked, even though I’m not fond of cooking, but my marriage didn’t last…certainly there were other reasons behind this life-long union

    • Jann

      Pina–I’m sure you’re right! 🙂 I know divorce is hard, but was there in silver lining for you in the fact that you don’t have to cook his favorite foods everyday? I would say if you don’t like to cook, that could become pretty burdensome…

  • Bellissimo. Mi lascia senza parole. The thing I like most about her is that she looks as if she will go onward for at least another twenty years, and that she is wearing pants!! If I had a Euro for every woman over sixty that wore pants in my town, I would owe somebody a Euro. I tried to sell my mother-in-law on the idea of pure comfort in the form of sweatpants, to no avail. Her knees were always cold where the rolled-down stockings ended and her skirt began.

    • Jann

      Grazie, Sandra. You know I hadn’t even noticed the trousers for some reason, but you’re right that she’s quite a trend setter! Highly unusual in Sicily, too, pants for the over-6o generation.

  • james

    My heart breaks for her. Even here in Brooklyn, NY I know so many women like this Sicilian woman because so many of them came here and act the same. They are the salt of the earth and the bedrock an foundation of their families. It generally appears that their husbands are the rulers and the heads of the family, but this is a subterfuge, in which their husbands willingly participate. The real head of the family is the mother, for whom the father will do ANYTHING and when he is gone, the mother usually lives on in the physical sense only – her soul waits to join her husband.

    What is so touching is that the things that come to mind of the Signora are the mundane things of life – like cooking Carbonara – I saw the same thing happen with my Mom after my Dad died.

    • Jann

      Yes, James, I like how you describe Sicilian women as the “bedrock of their families.” So true. Such strong strong women.
      And so true, too, about missing the mundane things when people close to use die…

  • emalene

    I love this story, it brought tears to me eye, and
    yes I’m certain if Paolo was still alive he would cite more
    reasons for staying married. We are celebrating our 50th this month,
    your post was a wonderful time for relection.
    Thank-You Jann

    • Jann

      Emalene!!! Happy Anniversary to you both! That’s a milestone to be mighty proud of–and am I right to suspect you’ll be celebrating in some wonderful new Italian location???

  • Cathy

    I agree with Sam…

    It is often just the simple things that make a couple strong; those simple things are the building blocks for these great marriages of 50+ years. For some anyway. I hope to be as blessed as Paolo’s wife!

    Jann, what are the postings on the wall? Are they condolences?

    • Jann

      Cathy, those are death notices that the family members put up on the house of the deceased. There are also bulletin boards in the town centers where these same death notices are posted. It’s the Sicilian version of an obituary. Instead of the obit appearing for a day in the newspaper, like in North America, these stay up for months, even years. Sometimes new notices are printed and posted to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the death.

  • —-Jann,
    Every photo. Every word.

    …is like pure poetry bleeding inside my bones.

    Xx Love Love Love

  • Nancy Hersch

    Such a sweet story.

  • Marvellous!!! I love it. So simple, yet powerful with layers of different meaning.

  • lucy

    How sad! My mom was married to my Dad for over 53 years.

  • Sam

    Something tells me that if Paolo could speak, he would cite reasons greater than cooking for staying married to this woman.

  • I absolutely love this photo essay with the accompanying quotes. Gorgeous photos + sentiment!

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