I just had the most anxiety-ridden 24 hours.

Sundays were meant for hangovers and brunching. Instead, I found myself on the precipice of a panic attack.

So, my name is Heather, I’m 29 years old and I picked up and moved to a foreign country 5 years ago by myself. I live alone and set up an entire (semi-functioning) life for myself here in Italy. I just have one thing that turns me into the biggest chicken shit: cooking for a guy. I can’t do it.

It’s not that I can’t. I just won’t. I’m not challenged in the kitchen by any means, I’ve been told I’m a rather good cook. But the idea of cooking for a guy, let alone an Italian guy, is something I’m terrified to do. So I just don’t.

Why, you ask?

Um, let’s see. Ridicule, criticism, disappointment, the list goes on. But really, let’s look at my competition here. I’m not about to go up against some mom somewhere in Naples who’s been up since 6AM on a Sunday morning slaving over a pot of gravy. No contest. She wins. She always wins.

And you know the never ending list of unspoken rules in this country. When I lived with the Italian guys years ago, it was a constant game of looking over my shoulder anytime I even stepped foot near the stove. Anything I made that was remotely “Italian” was called into question. A plate of pasta, they asked me if I had added the salt to the water before or after the water started boiling. As if they could tell the difference by eating the finished product. But of course everyone here is an expert on making pasta. And by expert I mean they know how to boil the water, when to add the salt and when to strain the pasta. That’s the extent of it most times. But I’m naturally at a disadvantage being American and all. My heritage automatically makes me incompetent in the kitchen. A completely uncultured American who would put ketchup on pasta for God’s sake!! Italians have actually asked me if I do that. I have to explain to them that we do have sauce in the USA. And I’ve actually never known anybody, well not in my circle of people at least, who has put ketchup on pasta.

I basically couldn’t take this kind of pressure in the kitchen and I think I was probably scarred from that moment on.

I had had plans yesterday (Sunday) to get lunch with the Napoletano police officer (in case you have forgotten about him read here). It had been a while since we’d seen each other and we kept trying to meet up. So we settled on having lunch on Sunday. Saturday night as I was settling into bed, I got a text from him saying:

What time tomorrow? I’ll bring the drinks and the dessert.

Woah woah woah, back it up. What? I’m supposed to cook?

I shit you not, I had that panicky feeling in my stomach, like the kind I get when I’m on a plane and I’m praying we don’t take a nose dive during take off.

I need a xanax.

I playfully responded saying that I was a terrible cook and I didn’t think it was a good idea, but he persisted. So playful took a turn to an outright and bitchy NO.

To which he responded with a big smiley and peace sign emoji. Conversation over.

I then text all of my girlfriends with this dilemma. Because they have nothing better to do on a Saturday night than listen to me whine about having to cook for a boy. And all anyone kept saying was, just make pasta!!

Does nobody get that even making pasta is giving me anxiety?

When I woke up yesterday morning I contemplated over coffee just shutting my phone off, pulling a Houdini and just spending a glorious day alone shopping. With money I don’t have.

Call me crazy, because I am. But it’s just one of my weird quirks. I’ve never ever cooked for an Italian guy in five years here and I didn’t intend to overcome this fear yesterday. Especially with a guy from Naples.

By 12:45 we were nearing the lunch hour and still no peep out of him.

If only I could get blown off today, that would be so amazing.

But no. 1PM he texts: Are you up? Did you make meatballs??!

Ok. Game on. I’ll just friggin do this.

So I pulled up a conversation on skype from about a month ago when my friend (from Naples) described to me how she made pasta al forno. I booked it to the supermarket, phone and old skype convo in hand.

I even bought besciamella. And I don’t typically fuck with besciamella (excuse my French). It’s like a white sauce they use when making lasagna here, but they talk about it as if it were liquid gold. Like it’s only a “real” lasagna if you use real, homemade besciamella. Well, I’m squeezed for time and cooking for a Napoletano that I barely know and might just hate everything. We’re not gonna attempt homemade anything today. Paper carton it is.

Long story short, I made it, he loved it. I have glorious leftovers.

Baked pasta Baked pasta

I’ve made giant leaps here overcoming this fear and who knows, maybe I’ll be skydiving, throwing myself out of airplanes next.

I also had to laugh because he brought the wine. Which came in a plastic water bottle:

Homemade Wine

Some kind of moonshine wine from Naples, made in the home of some old Neopolitan woman.

Ah, I feel so cultured.

And there you have it. Just an all around typical Sunday in Milan…