Monday, December 8, 2008


Pizzelle are one of the few traditional Italian cookies that I can make on my own. But this year I was lucky to have my mom's help with them. We traditionally make them for Christmas. This year we added a "secret ingredient" we picked up in Calabria. Any guesses on what it is?


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Making scalille

It's been far too long since my last post. I'll try to get back into the weekly swing and catch up with my Europe trip stories and photos.

About a week after we got back home, mom & dad arrived from their trip to Egypt. They stayed with us for a couple of weeks so they could come to our annual cousins' party. Lucky for me, mom was able to show us how to make scalille (or scaledde, literally, little ladders).

I have fond childhood memories of the epic making of scalille by a kitchen full of nonnas and zias. One of the few things I wanted from my last nonna's house was her board and her scalille stick.

Scalille: coating with honey

It's a very simple recipe but requires great skill to wind the dough around a stick, creating the final design. These are traditional Calabrese cookies that my family makes at Christmas time. They were a hit at the cousins' party. Yum!


I'm submitting this cookie to Food Blogga's Eat Christmas Cookies event. Check out the amazing cookies on the round-up page!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Free meat

During our afternoon stroll through Warsaw's Old Town, we stepped into a small, local shop to buy some meat & cheese for tomorrow's train trip to Inowroclaw. It's probably the only shop in Old Town that's specifically for locals and where no one spoke English. The woman helping us rattled on and on in Polish but we couldn't understand a thing, except for her cheese chopping hand signs. After we had picked out a few things for our snack bag, she went into a great passionate monologue of which we could only understand "telephone" and her pointing to a piece of paper. She put some free meat into our bag and wrote her phone number for us, while also insisting -- we think -- that we give her our phone number. We did but left wondering if we just exchanged for free meat.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Warsaw Chocolate

A few drops of rain were our excuse to duck into E. Wedel, Warsaw's marvelous chocolaterie. For 12 zlotys each, we ordered the classic chocolate drink that they've been serving for over 150 years. It was the best chocolate I've ever had: thick, rich, creamy and devilishly chocolatey without being overly sweet. AT was right about the Poles and their love for chocolate. The charming place was packed and we seemed to be the only tourists.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sunday: food, family & churches

Had a late start to the day after an evening of Vin Santo and a morning finding bus tickets for our journey to the deep south of Italy. We raced out to Saint Peter's for a quick peek at the basilica before a fabulously rich lunch with cousins I hadn't seen in over 20 years. Then we walked to a nearby church, which had a long line waiting to get into the the start of a bible reading marathon featuring the pope. The old & new testaments are to be read continuously, lasting about a week. All the porta-potties were set up and ready for the crowds. My eldest zia was anxious to get there but no one was anxious to wait. Then we strolled along the ancient wall of the city, feature some Mussolini additions to build roads through them, ending at S. Giovanni in Laterano -- the pope's main church in Rome.

After the stroll and many stories between the eleven of us, we departed. I wonder if I'll ever see zia again.

A quick coffee and then off to dinner with cousins I've spent much time with but haven't seen in decades. I recognized them by there mannerisms before I recognized the features buried below memories of youth. We had a lovely dinner -- more food, drink and sweets, then parted, sadly.

We head to Cosenza by bus early tomorrow morning so this may be the last post while I seek out Internet access.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Florence: food & family

I'm falling a few days behind with this blog because of being away from Internet access. I hope to post photos and more updates if we ever get into wifi range. As we're leaving Rome in a few days for Calabria, this may be one of the last posts until we get to Poland.

Yesterday, we had a marvelous time reuniting with our cousin from Brazil at his home in Florence. We toasted with champagne the long-awaited meeting; for my parents, 40 years. We were also delighted to toast with our Terry cousins ;) who are spending a wonderful year in Italy.

A feast of simple Florentine cooking, including the renowned bistecca was followed by a morning walking tour by our art historian and cousin. Because our family is loaded with foodies, the tour took a delicious culinary twist and included samplings of maron glace, 15 year old balsamic vinegar, vin santo, and pecorino romano. Oh, and the best cafe macchiata. Yum.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The eternal city of tourists

It's been twenty years since I was last in Rome and I've noticed lots of change. The most obvious is the number of backpack toting, water bottle guzzling, running shoe sporting tourists.

We're staying a few blocks from the Coloseum and I was amazed at the number of tourists flocking to its gates. I didn't hear a word of Italian until I ventured further into the Centro.

Back in the 80s I never had to line up for any attraction. Now it makes more sense for me to enjoy the neighbourhoods and not battle the crowds to glimpse St Teresa in Ecstasy, La Boca della Verita, or the Foro -- so sad that there is now a fee.

Despite all this, it's still a fabulous city. I feel my heart belongs in Rome more than any other place. It's not my home but there is a comfort, a familiarity that I can't ignore.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Siamo arrivati!

Well here we are, back in the motherland, arriving on Nonno Tony's birthday... he would have been 97. It was amazing to hear Italian again. We arrived at our apartment quite late but still had time for cornetti from the 24 hour place next door. When my alarm clock went off at 8:00, I hit the snooze to try and overcome the jet lag. But then the Roman wake up call started: hammering and drilling. So, good morning Rome! Off to find espresso and fresh fruit!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Booking seats

We're flying British Airways to Rome for the family "roots" trip. BA doesn't allow you to pre-book seats until 24 hours before your flight. Last night we had our countdown with two laptops to book 7 seats together as soon as the website would let us. It was more stressful than I imagined.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Ritorno a Roma

In a week, on what would have been Nonno Tony's 97th birthday, I arrive in Rome for the start of my "roots" trip. We've been planning this for almost 10 months, not expecting the turbulent year it has turned out to be. I haven't prepared enough for the "roots" part so I am open to more unexpected encounters and adventures. However, until I'm on that first plane, I'll be fretting about mundane things like which foundation garments to pack.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Olive oil cures

Last week my ear was plugged up, making it difficult to concentrate and walk in a straight line. The only thing I could think to do was go home and sleep. After a day it had passed but it reminded me of Nonna Fausta and her olive oil cures. She was one of the few remaining people who could master the art or science of curing ear aches, sprains, eye problems, and many more ailments with warm olive oil, the right pressure points, and, I'm sure, some special words. No one in the family is left with this special skill.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Glasses and old photos

I went shopping for new eye glass frames this week -- long overdue! I tried on dozens of frames and the more I tried on the more they reminded me of old family photos from the 1960s. The strongest images were of my aunt's glasses and my mom's sunglasses. Of course images of my dad, a la Drew Carey, also weighed in.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Where in the world...?

Conversation overheard at my local coffee shop. Two young women, both new to the job; let's call them "baristas":

Barista #1: Is Amsterdam in Holland?

Barista #2: No, that's Europe. Amsterdam is a country.


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Monday, August 4, 2008

"La rosa nera"

Nonna Elvira had a collection of Italian 45s that she bought on her first trip back to Italy in the 1960s. I spent much of my childhood listening to those records. Here's one of those songs, "La rosa nera."

As a kid I liked the tune but when I listen to it now I wonder if Nonna was taken with the lyrics, particularly "stanno cambiando il mondo" -- they are changing the world. For someone who was born in a time and place with no electricity and lived well into the age of the Internet, she experienced an amazing amount of change. Wonder if I will see that much change in my lifetime?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Chic-a-let Gum

I was sampling a new long-lasting gum today, which reminded me of my Nonno Joe. He used to carry a green box of spearmint chiclets in his shirt pocket until he died in the early 1970s. The gum was for him, not for the grandkids. I loved the box because it had a cellophane pane and when the box was empty we would blow into it and make squaking sounds like a bad kazoo.

I’m not a huge fan of the new long-lasting gum. I like my gum to wear out before I do.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Welcome to Nonna's house

I had the great fortune of knowing three of my nonnas: Nonna Filomena, my Dad’s mom; Nonna Fausta, my nonno’s step-mom; and Nonna Elvira, my Mom’s mom. All three were born in the province of Cosenza, which is in the Calabria region of southern Italy.

This blog is dedicated to them, their wisdom and their tenacity, which I carry in my memory and my everyday living.