Dear Jack: You Love Nonna’s Authentic Mexican Burritos

7 years, 10 months.

Dear Jack,

Last weekend as we spent the weekend in Alabama at Nonna and Papa’s house, you quickly learned how much you loved Nonna’s burritos. In fact, that’s all I remember you eating the whole time.

I guess it helps that Nonna’s mother was Mexican. You’re getting the real deal.

Her burritos even look Mexican. What’s funny is that when our family goes out to Mexican restaurants, you never order a burrito, so perhaps Nonna’s burritos are the most authentic burritos you’ve ever had.

You ate a lot this past weekend… thanks to Nonna’s burritos.

Love,

Daddy

MyHeritage DNA Test Results are Back… But Do You Agree with the Results?

Either my DNA results from MyHeritage are inaccurate, or what my family has believed this whole time about our ethnicity has been inaccurate.

Currently, I am sort of baffled. I am still sorting out the confusion. My Italian grandfather, Alberto Victorio Metallo, whose own father arrived in America a hundred years ago from Italy and could only barely speak English when he died in 1983, was Italian.

However, my results from MyHeritage do not remotely reflect my Italian heritage. Instead, the test shows I am literally 0% Italian. I went through the trouble of looking up exactly what countries of origin my DNA traces back to, according to the regions that MyHeritage provided, and removed the countries in which the test showed I have no DNA connection.

Here’s my DNA:

Nick Shell

100.0%

37.4% Central Western European (Germany, The Netherlands/Holland, France, Austria, Belgium, Switzerland)

31.8% Iberian (Spain/Portugal)

21.6% Central American (Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama)

6.1% Eastern European (Russia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Moldova, Croatia, Slovenia, Slovakia)

2.3% Balkan (Romania, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Albania)

0.8% Middle Eastern (Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Kuwait, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan)

0% (England, Finland, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Scandinavia, Greece, Italy, Sardinia, EstoniaLatviaLithuania, Ashkenazi Jewish, Yemenite Jewish, Mizrahi Jewish, Native American, South American, Indigenous Amazonian, African, Asian, Oceanic)

My whole life I have had reason to believe I am one quarter Italian, but I was open-minded to the idea my test would reveal instead of being 25% Italian, maybe I would only be 12.5%, as my great-grandfather Joseph Metallo (the one who came here from Italy) married a woman named Maria Vite; who could have possibly been of French descent, based on vite being a French word.

(That’s my Italian grandfather pictured above on the left; opposite me, with my son.)

However, my great-grandmother also emigrated here from Italy and spoke Italian. Maria “Mary” Vite died at age 38 in the year 1938, so there is definitely some mystery as to her family tree. But even if she was 100% French yet born in Italy, my great-grandfather would have had to been mainly of Spanish or Portuguese descent and his family would have had to at some point adopted Italian names, including their last name, Metallo.

Even if the test was a little inaccurate, I would still think I would show up at least a little bit Italian. After all, Middle Eastern DNA showed up in me, along with Eastern European, but not Italian?

If you’re wondering why I show up as nearly a quarter Central American and nearly a third Spanish (or Portuguese), it’s because my grandmother (who my Italian grandfather was married to) was Mexican.

(This is her, pictured below, being able to meet my daughter.)

That actually brings up another surprise. By quadrupling my Central American DNA, which is 21.6%, that indicates my Mexican grandmother was actually 86.4% Central American, only leaving 13.6% (that’s close to one eighth) to be Spanish. Then, once I subtracted that 13.6% from the Spanish part of me (31.8%), it left 18.2%. I then multiplied that percentage times 4 again, to assume how Spanish my Italian grandfather must have been: 72.8%.

According to my theory, my Mexican grandmother was mainly Central American (barely Spanish) and my Italian grandfather was mainly Spanish (not Italian at all); leaving the rest of him to have been 9.2% Balkan (Romania, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Albania). That brings my Italian grandfathers DNA up to exactly 82%.

Next I added the 3.2% Middle Eastern he must have been; now totaling 85.2%. That implies the rest of him had to have been Central Western European, which includes French.

This also means, by default, my dad has to be of Spanish descent as well, because there’s still Spanish DNA to be accounted for.

Most of my test makes sense. My last name is Shell, which in German, means “loud and noisy.” So that accounts for some of the 37.4% Central Western European.

But is this test accurate? Is it possible that I am truly not Italian at all? What do you think?

In the meantime, my mom is taking the test too. Being half-Mexican, half-Italian her whole life, I’m curious to know what the test says about her. We should know by October…

And if you’re interested in taking a DNA test like I did, here’s the link to MyHeritage.

I Will Be the 1st Person You Know Who Actually Took a DNA Test to Find Out Their Ethnicity (MyHeritage Results by September 2nd)

Some people could care less about what shows up in their family tree. They will just sort of laugh it off with, “Yeah, I’m pretty much a mutt, I guess… A little English, a little Irish, maybe some German- I even heard there’s some Native American Indian in there too.”

But I am not one of those people.

Instead, I am Nick Shell. Therefore, I have always been fascinated by the mystery of my ethnicity.

I suppose I have somewhat of an advantage in that I know for a fact that all my great-grandparents on my mom’s side were born in another country:

Her grandparents on her father’s side were born in Italy and her grandparents on her mother’s side were born in Mexico. It’s just always been taken for granted that my mother is half Italian and half Mexican.

But I can no longer assume that every ancestor on my mom’s side was either 100% Italian or 100% Mexican. Besides, “Mexican” isn’t actually a race; as I understand that Mexicans are ultimately an ethnic mix of Native Americans and Europeans.

Over the years, my mom has reminded me of what she heard as a young girl, when she was around the Italian half of the family: “Just because we have the Metallo name and we’re Italian, that doesn’t mean that’s all we are. There’s other stuff in there too: A little bit of Greek, a little bit of French, and a little bit of Jewish…”

 

And before my Mexican grandmother passed away last year, she told me something I never heard her say before; that when she was a little girl, she saw family members “who had black skin and tight, curly hair.” I believe it is possible there is actually a few drops of African blood in me.

As for my dad’s side of the family, no one really knows. A few years ago, my dad received a book containing all the family tree records, but the names all seem to be predictably “WASP”: White Anglo-Saxon Protestant.

But I won’t be wondering much longer. Because as of Saturday, July 22nd, I mailed off the DNA test I bought from MyHeritageThe results should be back within 4 to 6 weeks from that day; which would be August 19th be at the soonest, and September 2nd at the latest.

As you can imagine, I am looking forward to finding out the results! No matter what the results reveal, I am sure I will be surprised…

Even though I paid $79 (normally $99) plus shipping, I see there are running a special that ends tonight, on July 31st; for just $69.

And if you’re interested in taking a DNA test like I did, here’s the link to MyHeritage.

Dear Holly: You are My Golden Senorita who Loves Munching on Tortillas

1 year, 1 month.

Dear Holly,

I doubt most people would guess it, but you are indeed part Mexican. My grandmother’s parents were born in Michoacán, which is in southeast Mexico. She was born in Buffalo, New York, but was completely Mexican. So Nonna is half Mexican, I am a quarter, and you are 1/8th.

You’re 12 and half percent Mexican. Of course, your golden hair sure doesn’t help imply that. Nor your blue eyes. Nor your fair skin.

But if nothing else, you have definitely been showing your Mexican roots in that you are currently obsessed with Tortilla Land brand tortillas.

I like them because right there on the package, it says there are only 5 ingredients: wheat flour, water, canola oil, salt, sugar. No unpronounceable chemicals or preservatives. Plus, I can eat them because they are vegan.

Mommy gets them at Kroger, which is where we buy most of our groceries each week.

You just can’t get enough of these tortillas. I love watching you use your little figures try to aggressively grab the little morsels that Mommy and I tear for you. You quickly stuff them in your mouth as if each time were the last time.

Of course, your brother regularly eats them for breakfast, so I suppose there is indeed some legitimate concern that we could run out of these tortillas before you’re ready for another one.

And Mommy makes quesadillas out of them as well. She uses avocado instead of cheese, since I can’t have dairy.

I’ve been trying to get your brother into spicy foods, but he thinks black pepper is spicy. So if I can’t convert him, maybe I can convert you. I need to have at least one kid who can appreciate spicy food.

Perhaps it all starts with a 1 year-old little girl’s fascination with tortillas.

Love,

Daddy

This is 36: The Story behind the Pie-Face Picture on My 36th Birthday

Last Thursday night as my birthday came to a close, I posted a picture on Facebook that was taken just a couple of hours earlier. The caption simply read, “This is 36.” The picture showed me right after I had been pie-faced by one of the servers at our favorite restaurant, Tito’s.

Indeed, it caught me by complete surprise. I had no intentions that night of being pie-faced for the first time in my life. Sure, one of the waiters leaned over to me and muttered into my ear right before they sang “Happy Birthday” and told me, “We’re going to throw pie in your face… is that okay?”

I just smiled and nodded my head, assuming he was just joking. I still didn’t take him seriously even when he told my wife, “Grab your camera. You will want a picture of this…”

Actually, I didn’t even realize what had happened until I tasted the whipped cream. My mouth just happened to be open with the pie came at me. I never even saw it happen, as the girl who did it secretly had the pie behind me.

(And yes, I just have to count this as a “fortunate accident”, as consuming whipped cream violates my vegan lifestyle…)

Even after 24 hours and two showers, I was still sort of able to smell the whipped cream. It got pretty high up my nose.

To me, that image is the perfect concept of how I interpret being 36 years old.

I had just turned 18 when I graduated high school in 1999. That means just as many years have passed since then. I am 36.

And I am proud to be 36. I embrace change. I accept the minor (or are they major?) evolutions in my personality that come along with being age 36. I gladly commemorate what this seemingly insignificant age symbolizes to me.

It’s like getting surprisingly pie-faced, then instantly laughing because you already know that it’s the little things in life that become the big things.

This is 36.