A Letter from the Editor
I have had such a great time putting together this book. Unfortunately, things are coming right down to the wire and there's so much else I'd like to do and say (pretty typical). Many of you weren't given a fair chance to contribute to the cookbook because of my late phone calls, but not to fear! I hope to put out the second edition of this cookbook next Christmas. The encouragement to contribute is put out to all friends and family. This would include not only recipes, but stories of gatherings, relatives, menus, pictures, or anything you think might be of interest. Thanks to everyone who did take the time to contribute, especially my mom, who's wealth of wonderful recipes make up the bulk of this book. A very special thanks to Christian for the wonderful Mother's Day gift of Micro Cookbook, and for encouragement and patience with a novice desktop publisher. Thank you for putting together my computer (and upgrading it many times), and for the many, many hours of joy-filled cooking together - for your love of tradition, and your creative spirit that loves experimenting with something new. I love you. And to my precious Al, thank you for your love of Sunday Dinners and all foods Italian. For your many, many hours of helping edit, collate, print and bind this book, and for your sweet and timely encouragements, I am grateful. Beneath the deepest snows, the secret of a rose Is merely that it knows you must believe in spring' I love you, Al
To God alone be the glory
Italians + Family + Food = Happiness
The above equation is strictly my own. But it was inspired by being fortunate enough in having been born into an Italian family. In El fact, I can easily insert the word MUSIC after food in the equation because I can't think of any Italian horn person who didn't have a passion for family, food and music. And family included not only the immediate family, first and second cousins, but friends and paisans (a person who came from your home town) who didn't have family in America or were alone for some reason. First, and foremost, "la famiglia" was the most important thing. You never turned your back on family. If one member of the family was down and out, the rest of the I family would pitch in to help until the man of the family could work. Often the wives went to work in sweat shops to help support their families. Many families still had brothers, sisters, or other family in Italy I that didn't have the money to come to America, so the family would save up what little they could until they had enough to send to their family members. That person, or persons, would usually stay with their I families here in America until they were solvent enough to be on their own. If there were people in Italy who weren't necessarily interested in leaving to come to America, but were at a low ebb financially, people here in America would regularly send them money. I know my mother used to do it when she got word through other people that this or that person was in need. Family was everything. And family gatherings (for I whatever holiday or occasion), were at the heart of what Italians lived for. That was their joy. That was their whole purpose for living...family gatherings, small, medium or large. That meant First Holy I Communion, Confirmation, Baptism, graduations, weddings, Christmas, Easter, actually, Italians would have a party for almost any joyous happening. I can remember our whole family getting together when the men and children would go crabbing and snail hunting. They would come home with bushels of them and the women would clean them and cook them and everybody would gather for the celebration. I I remember being fascinated by the snails. My Mom would put them in this huge pot and they would all be crawling up the sides, trying to escape. It was the children"s job to catch them and return them to the pot. I loved to have the snails crawl up my arm. It was such a ticklish feeling. But the crabs always scared me and I would go screaming when one got loose and would go skittering across the floor. But I always helped Mom in the kitchen, as all the girls in the family usually did. And the center of these family gatherings was FOOD. There's an Italian adage that all Italians live by. You can skimp on clothes, you can skimp on almost everything, but never skimp on food for your table! You really had to be POOR before doing that When people think Italians and food, they think pasta. But that's so far from the truth. True, pasta was at EVERY celebration, but Italians love all kinds of food. There's a whole book of Italian recipes for vegetables! And Italians love fruit of all kinds. They love fish of all kinds. They love meats of all kinds (and I'm talking the entire animal--the Italians have recipes for every part of an animal i.e. pig's feet, cow stomach (tripe), lamb's head (capuzelle), brains (cervello), and parts I'm sure you never heard of. If it's edible, then Italians have a recipe for it and even for parts most people don't consider edible (like pig's feet, tripe, etc.). Think about it, sausage is made with leftover pieces of pork, fat and stuffed into pig's intestines!! But to get back to the family gatherings...food was the center of these gatherings and women cooked for days before a holiday or celebration. Christmas Eve stands out in my mind. There would be 10 or more different types of fish. Christmas Eve was a strict day of fast and abstinence. You ate very lightly, but when the family got together (that meant the whole family -- grandparents, aunts, uncles, parents, children, babies) at night it was to a veritable feast of non-meat foods, mostly fish. Essential to the mix was: baccala, eel, fried flounder, calamari, scungilli or snails, crabs, mackerel, mussels and clams on the half shell and stuffed clams, shrimp and any other fish indigenous to the area of Italy you came from. Of course, spaghetti with clam sauce and crab sauce or butter and cheese. Salad was always a staple at every meal. Lots of fresh bread (round Italian loaves). After dinner, there was the exchange of gifts. We always exchanged gifts on Christmas Eve. On the exchange of Christmas gifts on Christmas Eve, this included the children as well. As far as I remember (and I verified this with my sister Vera), there was never any mention of "Santa Claus” and we never had gifts left by him. In Italy, there was Bifana (?), but it was an old woman, and she came on the Epiphany, not on Christmas. But it was always treated as a legend or fairy tale, and no gifts were left (although to Italian children, the legend told of her leaving gilts) to us as children. Christmas was always the birth of Jesus and the Baby Jesus was always the central character. Every household had a Baby Jesus and/or IC a small creche under the tree. Hymns were sung in Italian and English. And the big celebration after Mass on Christmas was a virtual feast. An ALL DAY affair with food. And I mean ALL DAY. You Ir sat down at the table around 1pm and were still gathered around the table at midnight, playing Fan Tan or Lotto. The menu for the day was usually as follows, with minor variations; FIRST COURSE (or antipasto): consisted of salami, prosciutto sliced wafer thin, capicolla, provolone, fresh mozzarella, black olives, Sicilian olives, huge green olives, roasted peppers, Soppressata, pickled eggplant and caponatina (that was made for eggplant and other ingredients that were home grown). SECOND COURSE: Lasagna and a variety of gravy meat OR chicken soup with capeletti THIRD COURSE: Capon or chicken with roasted white potatoes and boneless roast pork, served with whole artichokes, stuffed mushrooms, asparagus, broccoli rabe, roasted sweet potatoes, and tossed mixed salad FOURTH COURSE: A variety of fresh fruit, cheeses (sometimes including gorgonzola, (which is a blue cheese that smelled to this little girl like dirty feet), roasted chestnuts, dried figs, dates with nuts, mixed nuts, fennel (finocchio), Torrone (nougat candy squares in cardboard boxes, a MUST at Christmas) FIFTH COURSE: Dessert and Espresso coffee with anisette. Dessert 1111 consisted of assorted Italian pastries (store bought) and homemade desserts like struffoli, pizzelle, bowties, caccionelli (chestnut cookies - a pastry dough stuffed with ground chestnuts, chocolate. and nuts and up deep fried - exquisite!!), and again a variety of other things. Now you might think this is an exaggeration and that it isn't possible to serve and cook all that food. But rest assured that if anything, my sister Vera, Dick and I who were discussing the food served at Christmas are , forgetting some of the things that were served. Know th rest between courses there was a . Dishes would that th be cleared and the women would wash pots and dishes, prepare the food to be served in the next course. sometimes people would have to go back to their homes or apartments to get the food for the next course (relatives lived very close or fairly close to each other - usually next door or in the next apartment). One stove and one refrigerator could never hold all that food and one person couldn't do it all by themselves. It was definitely a family affair and everyone cooked up a storm for a week or more before Christmas. What began at 1pm in the afternoon would end at 7 or 8 at night. Then we would play Fan Tan or Lotto or both. I forgot to mention the wine...homemade wine. My father and mother, grandfather and Uncle Angelo all made homemade wine. They vied with each other to make the best tasting wine and the best of the batches was served at Christmas. My father's table wine was good, but Uncle Angelo's white wine was the best!! Sony, Poppa! And the men would get tipsy and my grandfather would start singing old Italian songs. Then they would end the evening with Strega (a strong, strong liquor with a branch of some kind in the bottle) and various liqueurs. Needless to say they eventually would fall asleep, while the women and the children played games. This scenario was repeated (to a lesser degree) at Easter and Thanksgiving. I can't think of a richer tradition to come from than the Italians. They're a people with a passion for living and loving. They worked hard and they loved passionately...music...people...art...and food...Oh! how they love food!! I'm so glad I'm an Italian. I wouldn't trade my memories for anything in the world. Thanks, Chris, for this recipe book. It will pass down some of our treasured recipes to the generations. May God bless us all. Enjoy! Buon appetito!! Mangia!