Tags: famiglia, family, food, gardening, memories, recipes
I have begun to read a favorite book The Lost Ravioli Recipes Of Hoboken. Once again it stirs emotions and memories. I’m not Italian but my husband is. Yet in spite of not being Italian something deep inside me calls me to the kitchen in search of special flavors to treat my family to. Like the authoress I did not learn to make ravioli as a child but I did learn to cook many other meals at my mother’s side. Years later it was my sister in law who undertook the task of teaching me to make pasta and the family’s favorite ravioli stuffed with ricotta and spinach smothered in rich thick tomato sauce.
While others thought me foolish because it is so simple to buy prepackaged pasta in neat cellophane-wrapped containers, she understood me.
But somewhere deeper inside me has been a yearning to explore further, not willing to settle. Time has been spent making our yard over into a large garden.
And when the first harvests this spring and summer brought us a huge bounty of lush vegetables, I found myself not yet satisfied.
The garden was redesigned; huge raised garden beds were added and the area enlarged. More detail went into our planting layout to maximize the yields.
It’s not that I want a farm by any means. Nor am I giving into wild fantasies of no food available to eat. But something compels me to continue this quest. Next came the challenges of preserving my own fruit jams and marmalades. Then it was homemade pickles and those followed by huge beautiful jars of lush roma tomatoes.
Our sons laugh and tease – they want to know how I am going to hide the herd of beef cattle here in our suburb yard. Yet they enjoy the jokes as they sit together over a meal of big plates brimming to overflowing with pasta and homemade sauce and fresh baked bread warm from the oven!
So it is now that my granddaughters want to linger in the kitchen with me as I cook. One of them has taken to watching cooking shows on TV but she admonishes her mom that none of those cooks are as good as her nona and nono! Juliana is fascinated with the jars of marmalade and had to help with the pickles and tomatoes. She watched as I started to prepare to can them. Soon she was wrapped in one of my aprons and standing on the stepstool at the sink helping.
Together we filed the jars with the tomatoes and fresh basil she helped pick from the garden. Nono lit the fire and set the big pots of water to boil. When the jars were finished boiling in the hot water bath, we listened intently for the magic “ping” of the jar lids to tell us they were set. Juliana was so content, so happy – and then she turned to me and said, “We’re cooking great memories together, aren’t we?” How is this six year old so wise beyond her years? She got it when I wasn’t sure what it was I have been seeking. Memories. Those fleeting wisps, fragile ties to family now gone from our lives. When I was young, my father every year would bring home bushels of pickling cucumbers. I would watch as he pickled them, boiling them with wonderful smelling spices in hot brine. How I loved the crunch of those pickles! How much more I loved watching him, being with him in the kitchen. Memories. I would watch my mother enjoy her gardens, digging in the rich Connecticut soil. She could make anything grow from gentle lady slippers to the sturdy patch of rhubarb tucked behind the garage. The aroma of her fresh baked rhubarb pie would fill the house! My mother in law, too, could make a garden grow to incredible harvests. She grew everything from artichokes to eggplants. At her elbow I learned to pickle eggplants and crack green olives! We picked dandelions for salads and mushrooms for sauce. And we made fresh ricotta cheese and solid cheese for grating from fresh goats milk.
Memories. I realize it is family I have been seeking. I yearn for the family of my past …. And I want to share it with my family that they can also pass it on, my sons and their children. Through the richness of the earth to the pleasures of the food as we sit together at the table eating. Amore e’ Sapore di famiglia. May it always be so……
As many of you know my mother has a difficult time the last two months combating a broken femur/hip that needed surgery, then a heart cath and stent, and that followed by small bowel surgery. At her age, recovery is slow and her energy levels are low. But through it all she worries more of others and how she is causing them problems rather than dwelling on herself. So while I wrote this a while back for her, I think too of all the moms out there – and with all of the manmade turmoil and natural disasters, I pray for all of you!
This shows my mom (left standing) with most of her siblings when all were still living. Most were either ordained minister/missionaries or married to one or active laypersons in their church! What a glorious legacy they have all left for my generation!
I Am My Mother’s Daughter
I am my mother’s daughter
Sitting at her knee
Too young life’s twists and turns to see
Now young and yes so strong
Easily lost in the throng
Holding ever so tightly to her hand
Anxious to be off exploring all the land.
I am my mother’s daughter
Walking by her side
This is the day long awaited
I’ll be my intended’s bride
No longer very young, still strong
No longer lost in the throng
Holding ever so tightly to his hand
Anxious to meet the future we plan.
I am my mother’s daughter
Sitting now next to me
Proudly holding her grandchild for all to see
No longer young nor strong
Seeing in her grandchild only perfection, non wrong
Holding ever so tightly to the tiny hand
Anxious to share a life so grand.
I am my mother’s daughter
Sitting now at her knee
She’s now so very far from young and not strong
Eager to be a part of the angels’ throng
All life twists and turns able to see
Holding so tightly to my hand
Tells me again of His Plan
She’s read to the end of the bible story
He’s awaiting her in Glory
The angels too her await
Soon she’ll be at heaven’s gate
It’s not the ending to this life
Always full of fear and strife
It’s only the beginning
To eternal life so bright
Full of joy, and no more night.
©Bonnie DiCrocco 2007
Tags: Easter, famiglia, family, Italy, Itri, love of family, memories, photographs, religion, traditions
Easter 1957 – There I am on left wearing a dress I still remember because I loved it so much – blue and white soft stripes!
Typical Easter fare sold in stores in Italy – huge chocolate eggs wrapped in glossy foil colors – the eggs are hollow and filled with small toys!
Easter Sunday passagiata in Sperlonga
Easter flowers for Padre Pio, Itri, Italy
Easter Egg Hunt, Melbourne
Tags: ancestors, Carnival of Genealogy, famiglia, family, family history, Itri, love of family, memories, Women of March, WWII
All of this month most of the genealogy bloggers have been following prompts to write about the women in their lives. March is headlined as 31 days of Women. Due to some circumstances in my offline life I have not stayed on task day by day but today it’s the day we write about timelines for one of the women in our lives. Both my mother and mother in love were young women during WWII. Both were raising young children but in decidedly different circumstances.
My own mother faced the anguish of her husband being gone 38 months – much of it overseas. They were able only to communicate infrequently via letters that were always censored by authorities to prevent leaking secrets accidently. My mother had a map that she often would mark as she figured out where my dad was – he was pretty surprised she could figure any of it out considering he wasn’t able to give hints. But she would compare news from overseas with tidbits gleaned and her strong faith kept her focused tightly on praying him home!
My father in law was considered too old to serve in WWII but he had served in Africa during his Italian army days so Concetta too felt the pain of a husband gone for long periods of time. During WWII he helped the town’s folk figure places to live safely when the bombs from both sides were a constant threat. I have written before how Concetta survived the bombing and total destruction of her home. More than 65% of Itri was obliterated by the bombs before liberation came. Our family was moved to a cave on their property outside town but many families also built Indian style teepees or large lodge huts with a center pole to allow for smoke from the fire to ventilate. She not only grew her own food, she also ground own wheat for flour to bake bread and make her wonderful pasta! She scavenged for wild mushrooms, wild asparagus, and dandelions along with circoria. Her family ate well as she was so wise and attentive.
Yesterday we were supposed to choose women to represent our ancestors in movies. The obvious choice for my mother in love would be Sophia Loren. Sophia is perceived as a “sex-goddess” and a tall elegant woman. Yet as an actress, she is a chameleon who would truly understand the depth of the character and the adversity she faced in WWII with her children. My mother would be aptly portrayed by Diane Keaton. She is a vivacious energetic woman who has played many women similar to my mother. I can see her as the young wife facing working a factory job with a young baby who would later become one of the leaders in her small town as well as an accomplished poetess and homemaker.
Tags: ancestors, Carnival of Genealogy, family, family history, love of family, memories, ramblings
This photo from 1972 shows five of the most beautiful strong women I have been blessed to know – the sixth wasn’t present for this photo when taken. My mom is the woman in the burgundy gown, surrounded by four of her sisters. Each in their own humble way displayed grace and love in all areas of their lives. . Aunt Bessie was never married but she was a devoted aunt. How I enjoyed our times together. When my first son was born, she was a proud great aunt showering him with gifts! Her little sleeper was one of the tucked away and saved for memories items! When she passed away she bequeathed her beautiful platinum and aquamarine ring. We both shared a March birth month and she knew I admired the ring always. Now it is a cherished memory of her. Aunt Jean was a quiet woman devoted to her husband and son. She too was a proud great aunt crocheting colorful baby blankets for my sons. When she learned I regretted not knowing my grandmother (she had passed when I was 9 months old), she gifted me a magnificent crocheted bedspread that had been handmade and gifted to her by grandmother as a wedding gift! How I treasure that spread! Aunt Mary was also a quiet woman who took pride in her family and home. Her delight would be luncheons spent at her table, my mother, she, and I sharing stories of their childhood and old friends. My little one would be entertained feeding her pet squirrels in the backyard and running around in the grass. Aunt Ruth was our world traveler when I was young. She and her husband spent over 20 years in Thailand as church missionaries selflessly giving of themselves to others.
There are only three sisters left now, Ruth, Beatrice, and my mom Lillian. Visits are not as often although they try to catch up often via the phone. Aunt Ruth is still a hoot with her dry sense of quiet humor. We always knew Aunt Bea loved to joke and tease, and of course I grew up enjoying my mom’s sense of humor, but it is Aunt Ruth who surprised us the most. Her lips hardly smile but her bright eyes dance when she starts to joke and tease! Her dry wit is always a surprise!
Mom fell this week and broke her hip so we will be facing surgery for her and a long road to rehab and recovery but even now at 89, her gentle spirit makes her loathe to be a burden or cause anyone worry! She hates to complain so the nurses keep reminding her to not ignore the pain just because she is trying to not annoy anyone! It will be a long recovery period but she is well worth the time!
Tags: ancestors, Carnival of Genealogy, famiglia, family, family history, genealogy, love of family, memories
Thanks to Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist I am going to submit a few posts this month in Honor of Women’s History Month. This post will be a catch-up because I am a few days behind the start though. I was named for my grandmother Jane Brown Hyndman. She was also called Jean. Born and married in Scotland, she came through Ellis Island and brought her children with her to join with her husband James. No easy task for any woman, it was more difficult for her because she was lame from a childhood illness leaving her with one leg shorter than the other. Her son-in-law (my dad) chose my name for his mother-in-law – what a wonderful complement! So I was named Bonnie Jean to honor her and her Scottish roots!
I have often written about my husband’s family and often about my parents but haven’t really written about my maternal grandmother. She passed away when I was about 9 months old so I was not fortunate enough to have known her personally. Most of what I know has come through stories told by my own mother and my aunts. They all agreed there probably was never a sweeter woman than she born. She loved the Lord dearly and she encouraged all of her children to know Him in a real and personal way. Although lame she was mother to 10 children who lived. Half were born in Scotland and half here stateside. Even still her children always felt compelled to take care of her and protect her. They thought they had hidden the whereabouts of one son serving overseas in WWII only to learn later that she was well aware of his whereabouts!
Tu Sei Matta! (You Are Crazy!)
Bonnie had been married before, but he was a drunk and would beat her when drunk. There did not need to be a reason, being drunk was the excuse. Finally it was enough and she knew he would not change. She began to save money to move and for a lawyer. Life was sad and lonely for her. She lost herself in work. One evening girlfriends decided she needed to go out and forget everything else for an evening.
A group of twenty some friends met at a local club to dance and listen to music. The girlfriends wanted to introduce her to some of the men in hopes that she would consider dating for fun. As everyone else got up to dance, Bonnie chose to sit it out and watch. Every time she looked up, Valentino was standing at the far end of the long table. He would catch her eye and she would laugh and look away. Finally Valentino walked over to her and asked permission to sit down. She replied of course because it was all of his friends there. Then he asked if he could ask another question. She laughed and told him alright. He wanted to know why she laughed at him every time he caught her eye. She replied, “Everyone needs a gimmick!” “What?” “You ignore all the girls flirting so my gimmick must have worked!” Valentino laughed too but told her she was crazy! They laughed and talked until the club closed in the wee hours of the morning. Everyone went out to the parking lot where her girlfriends said they were all going down to the local diner for breakfast and cheesecake. Some of the girls hustled Bonnie into the car with Valentino but then they jumped out and left in a waiting car. So there she was alone at 2AM with Valentino and not happy at all. When he asked why she was so upset, she angrily told him she was not in the habit of being in a car at 2AM with a man whose name she did not know! He was very insulted and told her they had been introduced by their friends. She then told him no one listens to names in a bar because no decent woman goes to pick up anyone that way! He put the car in drive and sped to the restaurant at top speed. Everyone friend and stranger knew they were both furious when they arrived! She doubted they would ever speak again.
A day later she went to work at the store she managed in Cranston. One of her employees was a young woman Lina from Naples in Italy. She told Lina how foolish she had been and how sorry she was. That Italian was one of the most handsome men she had ever met and his eyes were beguiling! His smile was sweet too. Lina finally asked if he was by any chance about 5 foot 7 and brown hair and eyes. Bonnie was totally exasperated – after all just about every man in Italy had dark hair and eyes. “Sure”, Lina replied. “But not all of them are right here with a rose in hand!” Bonnie turned around to see Valentino with a long stem red rose – he leaned over to place a small kiss on her cheek as he handed her the rose. He told her she was about the most beautiful woman he had met and would she please go to dinner with him to start over! Every now and then Valentino would still tell Bonnie she was crazy but even after thirty years they laugh together in memory as she would remind him she had always been crazy from the first night on!
And now this weekend it is thirty four years later and it is just as if it was yesterday! Four sons, five precious granddaughters later, it is still Valentino. Through good times and bad, he has been her rock, her anchor in all storms. When the world seems set to fall apart it is he who holds her hand and her heart. They still laugh and Valentino still tells her she is crazy – but now instead of only one red rose, it is always 3 – for “I love you”. And for Bonnie it is a true love story, a life-long story. This precious man who still makes her heart sing, her heart burst with love and joy each time he laughs with her. Io ti amo amore mi! She truly is Valentinoswife….. per sempre.
Tags: Carnival of Genealogy, cooking, famiglia, family, food, Italy, love of family, memories, recipes
Cold winter nights often bring along flu and other respiratory symptoms. Nothing feels more like “Mama’s love” than a pot of warm soup. Val’s mother knew how to stretch her meager coins to feed her large family. Her tricks included never letting anything go to waste, growing her own vegetables as much as possible, and baking lots of bread. Even the stale bread was used in a meal of soup – a few pieces of stale bread could be broken into the bottom of a bowl and hot soup would be poured over it and then topped with homemade goats cheese. Needless to say, Mama always made her own broth from scratch but we now use one such as Swanson’s Roasted Garlic as a time saver without sacrificing flavor! No one ever felt they were not being fed!
Here’s one of the family favorites for a cold night:
Escarole and Bean Soup
6 cloves garlic minced 1 sweet onion chopped
2 – 15 oz. cans cannellini beans 1 qrt. Veg. or chicken broth
2 large bunches chopped escarole
Cook and stir onion and garlic in very large pot with a bit of olive oil. Do not brown. Add stock, salt and pepper to taste (remember broth is usually salty already).Add chopped escarole and beans – cook until escarole is tender – best when still slightly crispy. Serve with lots of grated cheese and Italian hot bread!
Tags: Christmas, famiglia, family, Holiday Spirit, Italy, love of family, memories, Presepi, ramblings
Christmas is always my personal favorite – and fortunately I married a man who also loves the holidays. Growing up in Italy Valentino approached the Holiday Season a bit differently than most Americans. The emphasis was never on extravagant gifts but rather on family and sharing love, hospitality, and spiritual values with those around him. He doesn’t remember a tree being the central theme but rather the presepe – nativity – was the center of the family holiday. Later there would also be a tree that family would pose near. But it was the large nativity display that he most eagerly awaited setting up every year. Coins would be saved to buy a figure or two whenever they could afford. These were the old composition figures, many wax-coated to make the colors shine. The display would consist of all of Bethlehem as they thought of it. There would be many shepherds and their sheep scattered all over the mountain on the way to the crèche.
When Valentino and I first married, he was reminiscing about his childhood presepe and my parents were soon interested. We lived with them in Connecticut the first few years. Dad asked if Valentino would build a display for everyone to enjoy. We shopped until we found the perfect set – naturally it was from Italy, a Fontanini! Made of a safe polymer in old fashioned wood tones, it was the perfect choice for an outdoor display. Valentino built a small display right near the front entrance and covered it over with pine boughs and set small twinkly clear lights like stars all throughout them. The ground cover was sand with white flour roads to move the Three Wise Men along their journey day by day closer and closer to the crèche. Scattered about were small wood huts and shepherds with sheep. What a sweet memory – but sadly Florida hurricanes years later would ruin our few photos!
When we made the move to Florida we knew it would be even nicer to build this tradition for our children. The temperate weather here and a big covered entrance meant we could enlarge the display year by year. The boys anxiously awaited their trip to our favorite Christmas store to each choose a new figure to add to the display. It became a family affair to set up the display – usually taking a long weekend to get everything in place. Valentino would take the time to share the wonderful bible stories of Jesus’ birth in simple enough terms for the boys to understand. Soon many of the neighborhood children would want to listen too. Year by year the display grew larger and more elaborate as more shepherds and then angels and townspeople were added. Then we began to find that some smaller children were dropping by when we weren’t home to play with the figures. The Fontanini figures are unbreakable but the money we had invested in them had grown considerably. Fontanini had started a collector’s club and offered special limited edition figures that we had begun to enjoy. Sadly it became obvious we would no longer be able to make the display an outside one. About that time we moved to a newer home and gained a huge family room with plenty of space to set up the display. I discovered a group of collectors online and our involvement with Fontanini and all things Italian nativity related grew into an almost obsessive compulsion! Then we were able to visit the actual Italian factory on a trip to Italy! What a joy! The Fontanini folks are some of the warmest and most enjoyable people. They treated us to a tour of the facilities and gifted us with a few special figures that were never sold in America! Now our display is still huge but inside so we can enjoy it all hours!
May You all have a very Blessed Christmas Season and Happy New Year!
Tags: Fall, famiglia, family, memories, photographs, ramblings, Three Signs of Fall
There are three signs for me that say Fall is upon us! Nothing says fall like beautiful the beautiful changing colors of leaves and flowers and of course pumpkin patches. When younger I delighted in the crisp piles of leaves we played in – frustrating my dear father who was attempting to rake them! What fun it was to jump and bury ourselves in those leaves. They always had a wonderful unique scent to them. I knew it meant soon we would be having bonfires to roast marshmallows. We would often go to the local farm where we could choose a wonderful chrysanthemum plant in glorious fall colors. They had rows and rows planted and would dig them up and put in a clay pot, any size you wanted. We would bring home several huge pots to put out near our front door on display until after Thanksgiving. Hanging on the front door would be big bunches of multicolored Indian corn tied with a big straw bow.
But the most fun was to climb over all the pumpkins in every size imaginable until the perfect one was found. It had to be huge of course and just right to carve a face! I am too old to climb over the pumpkins as I did when young but instead I can enjoy my grandchildren as they hunt for their perfect pumpkins!
We always opted for the traditional jack-o-lantern smile with teeth and triangular shaped eyes. Now my own sons are so much more creative than me.
No silly faces for them – now we have wonderful spiders and scary faces as well as BOO!