Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Panna, Panna or Panna?

Last night I had a very funny Italian experience.  It really wraps up the attitude of many Italians, the ignorance of a new arrival and the frustrations of an American that has been living here for many years.  And it was all over...panna.

Panna is the Italian word for "Cream".  And like in the states, we have many types of cream.  We have fresh cream, cream for coffee, non-dairy creamer, whipped cream, ice cream, etc.  In Italy there are many different creams too.  Primarily there are three.

Fresh cream (Panna Fresca)

Cream for cooking sauces that comes on a shelf

Whipped cream they call "Spray"(but they pronounce it SPRAI)

An American friend of mine was making a chocolate cake.  She needed fresh cream to make the chocolate ganache icing.  We went to the supermarket to find the cream and a few other items we needed for the Pollo Vino Bianco (White wine chicken - yum!)

We walked into the supermarket and looked for the cream.  We could not find it anywhere.  Fresh milk and yogurt yes, but no cream.  In disappointment she asked supermarket worker for panna fresca.  Here is the exchange...translated to English ;)

Worker: "Are you making a dolce (sweet)?"
Friend: "Yes, I'm making a sweet."
Worker: "Then you need the panna spray"
Friend: "No, I don't need the spray, I need the kind you pour"
Worker: "Are you making a sweet?"
Friend: "Yes"
Worker: "Then you need the spray"
Friend: "No, I don't need spray"
Worker: "It's SPRAI not SPRAY"
Friend: "I don't need S-P-R-A-I.  I need the kind you pour"
Worker: "You are not making a sweet.  You are making food that you cook and eat.  You need the panna over here on the shelf by the salt"
Friend: "No, I'm making a sweet that you need the kind of panna that you pour."
Worker: "What kind of sweet are you making?"
Friend: "An American sweet that you mix with melted chocolate"
Worker: "No, you need the spray"
Friend: "No, I need the kind you pour.  The fresh kind."
Worker: "Then you need this kind.  Come here and I'll show you."

Worker hands my friend a carton of Panna da cucina

Friend: "OK.  Let's just read the ingredients together, shall we?  First ingredient: Water, then Partially Hydrogenated Oil, then Salt....the last ingredient here is milk protein.  There is NO MILK in this carton.  This panna does not come from milk.  It does not come from a COW.  It comes from a COMPANY!  A FACTORY!  A CORPORATION!  It does not have milk.   I need panna that comes from a cow, that is fresh, that you pour!"

A bystander hears the exchange and she comes to our rescue!

Shopper: "Excuse me, are you looking for the "Granarolo" cream in the milk section?
Friend: "YES!"
Shopper: "The one that comes in the pink bottle?"
Friend: "YES!"
Worker: "She needs spray!"
Shopper: "No, she doesn't need spray, she needs Panna Fresca that you pour that is in the milk section."
Friend: "THANK YOU!"

We all walk over to the milk section and after much examination, the shopper finds that the area of the shelf for Panna Fresca is all sold out.

Worker walks away.

We leave the store to another store still in search of Panna Fresca.

I had a similar experience getting a manicure/pedicure recently.  I had an Italian manicurist that spoke English and after telling me my nails were too short for a French manicure (which I insisted she do anyway and she overly exaggerated how narrow to paint the white part, complaining the whole time that this was too hard)  she looked at my burgundy red color I picked out for my toes, applied it to one toenail and said...

Manicurist: "Why you pick this color?"
Me: "Because I like this color"
Manicurist: "This is the color of Thanksgiving or Christmas, not summer"

She gets up with my color and walks over to the other nail polishes.  She spends 2-3 minutes looking at the colors and comes back with a bright red.

Manicurist: "This is a better color."

And proceeds to paint my toes.  Meanwhile she tells me that I don't need the big house we are moving into, how my husbands commute will be too long (even though hers is longer) and how Americans are terrible to dogs.  Next time, I will go to someone who does not speak English ;)

They aren't rude.  They are Italian.  They are in your business and make you business their business.  They say things because they care and although they know EVERYTHING, there is still a lot you can learn from them if you don't get easily offended.  I'm thankful that I've had some of these experiences BEFORE I learn too much Italian and respond out of frustration.  It's most important to understand the culture even more than the language.  And when you are super frustrated, you can always play the "I don't understand you, I only speak English" card :)



  1. So glad you got to experience this with me :) I still play the 'I speak English' card sometimes. ;)