Italians love their sweets. For breakfast it’s always, always dolce. You cannot find a plain croissant in Rome. Most are stuffed with jam or custard, and if you ask for a plain one it’s been glazed with sugar, because why would you eat it otherwise? And for treats throughout the day? Well, of course, more dolce. At my daughter’s school we’ve been battling this part of the culture. I sucked it up as long as I could, biting my lip and tongue as I watched them giving her cocoa puffs in chocolate milk and cookies dipped in Nutella every single day of the week. The flood gates opened, however, when I came to pick her up and watched her having her first soda. At 3! I explained to the teachers that while I want to respect how things are done here, motherhood (and values) must come before cultural integration and this mom would like her daughter to have a more nutritious snack. After much negotiation they allowed me to bring in rice cakes and fruit for her. But unfortunately, I was not clear enough, and the next time I came to school during snack time I frustratingly watched them dipping the banana in jelly. When I explained again that no, please, just give it to her plain, they looked at me completely blank, as if the cultural divide was just too great to even comprehend, and then they looked at my poor little one with such pity for her deprivation. For in Italy there are 3 food groups: pizza, pasta, and dolce; sugar, sugar, and sugar. Of course, I write all this with a stash of chocolate in my drawer and a glass of wine in my hand.