Mangia! Italian eating

Local author Eric Dregni lives out every college student’s post-grad dream and survives to write about it.

PHOTO+COURTESY+UNIVERSITY+OF+MINNESOTA+PRESS

PHOTO COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA PRESS

by John Sand

âÄúNever Trust a Thin CookâÄù AUTHOR: Eric Dregni PUBLISHER: University of Minnesota Press PAGES: 240 PRICE: 22.95 When traveling abroad, itâÄôs not always feasible to buy a run-down villa and hire out Polish contractors to fix it up while lounging on the terrace eating fresh-picked olives from the grove next door. For local author Eric Dregni, traveling has never been a scene pulled from âÄúUnder the Tuscan Sun.âÄù A&E spoke with Dregni over the phone about his new book âÄúNever Trust a Thin CookâÄù and his upcoming reading at Coffman Union. The part-memoir, part-journalistic foray expounds on DregniâÄôs time in Modena, Italy , teaching English and writing about his experiences. âÄúNever Trust a Thin CookâÄù is a refreshing non-ethnocentric dip into Italian culture, with essays on everything from the importance of hats in the Italian wardrobe to the exhaustive list of celebrated saintsâÄô days, such as the La Festa di San Antonio. On this day, DregniâÄôs friend Antonio brings his pet pig to the church to be blessed. After pining to return to Italy after a short stay during high school, Dregni eventually headed back to teach high school English, and the adventure thickened from there. âÄúI hooked up with all of these journalists,âÄù says Dregni, âÄúThey wanted to know what an American thought about Italians.âÄù He penned a book in Italian called âÄúThank God IâÄôm not from Bologna!âÄù some of which appears in this text, along with quite a few stories he was afraid to print while still in Italy. âÄúWe have this notion that Italy is sort of backwards,âÄù says Dregni, explaining that he has often heard that many Americans think Italy is poverty-stricken and dirty, âÄúbut the part of Northern Italy we stayed in âĦ was extremely sophisticated.âÄù Dregni expounds on traditions in Italy and successfully mingles them with his own American experiences, with a quick-draw tongue and numerous short anecdotes that only span a few pages. When he writes of his visits to an Italian opera house, he reminds us that this sort of thing isnâÄôt quite what he had expected when hopping on the plane. âÄúI grew up listening to punk rock âĦ my only real exposure to opera was through cartoons of Bugs Bunny as âÄòThe Bunny of Seville. âÄô or Elmer Fudd singing his heart out to âÄòKill da wabbit!âÄô over WagnerâÄòs cascading orchestral score.âÄù After returning to Minneapolis to receive his masterâÄôs in Italian from the University of Minnesota, Dregni is trying to spread his love for foreign languages to MinnesotaâÄôs young people. He serves as the Dean of ConcordiaâÄôs Italian Language Village, a summer student program for kids looking to invest a few weeks in learning another language and immersing themselves in cultures before hitting the big world. âÄúNever Trust a Thin CookâÄù shies from judging Italy based on American values; instead, the stories are fresh glimpses into a genre that once seemed exhausted.