Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Hot lemon drink

Like most people I know, I've struggled with the cycling cold/flu bug for far too long this year. While I haven't found a cure, my hot lemon concoction has helped me make it through many, many days and nights. This goes out to CS who is relapsing with a cold.

In your favourite mug, add:

juice of 1/2 lemon

1 T honey (to taste -- I like mine tart)

a few dashes of hot sauce 

a 1/4 inch slice of fresh ginger, peeled and squished a bit

Add a little bit of boiling water and stir to melt honey.

Fill mug with hot water and stir.

Bundle up with your laptop and a wool blanket and get well soon!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter Eats

Growing up in a Calabrese-Canadian family Easter was a big food holiday after the long fast of Lent. Even with Nonna reciting "Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi" -- spend Christmas with your family and Easter with whomever you want -- we stuck close to home for all the great food.

Both sides of my family immigrated to Canada from Calabria well over 50 years ago so what we consider Italian traditions are more likely family microcosms of traditions that no longer exist in Italy or with other families. Our food traditions have evolved based on ingredients available in small towns, culinary skills, and individual tastes, likes and dislikes. Today we celebrate our food mash-ups.

The names of foods I claim as our own, based on dialect, faint memories and the influence of Italian neighbours from Abruzzo, Tuscana, Friuli, and other regions. If you share any of these food traditions I’d love to hear your stories.


This is a favourite of mine because it falls in my category of one-pot cooking, that is, it’s really easy to make. For us, pastieri is a cold pasta square made with eggs, ricotta and parmigiano or romano cheese. It’s great for Easter brunch.

Baskets & Paparelle (Ducks)

Nonna Filomena would make these for her grandchildren. The paparelle or ducks were made for the girls and the baskets were made for the boys. Making these decorative breads requires a lot of skill and patience. Our family has preserved these traditions through the family cookbook that I mentioned in a previous post.

Straw Poll

Straw poll isn’t an Easter delicacy, it’s a quick poll I put out to my Facebook friends and family asking what they were making for Easter. Here’s a sampling of responses:

TB: I am making the traditional Perugian/Umbrian? Pasqua dinner -- lamb. I was thinking about making a nice Easter Bunny stew, but my butcher said agnello per Pasqua

JA: Matzoh with charoset and smoked salmon salad (not combined, and in lieu of Gefilte fish).

PH: perogies

CM: Veggie patties and veggies grilled on my baby Weber...and a few ice cold beers to boot. 

WA: those new pre-made Easter cookies ... (grin)

I love my family’s diversity!

Easter Pizza

This is my favourite Easter food, probably because of its off-the-charts fat content. The Easter pizza is bread dough baked around layers and layers of sliced meats and cheeses, evenly stacked to make a geometric pattern when cut. The pizza is served cold and feeds a large extended family. I’m working on a version made in a loaf pan.

Easter Bread

All my nonnas made sweet Easter bread often with whole eggs baked into them. Sometimes braided, sometimes shaped into an alphabet letter to represent your first name. I ran into my Italian neighbour the other day and asked her if she makes Easter break. She said, “I don't make the Easter bread with the eggs in it anymore. No one eats them, it's a waste.” I don’t recall eating the eggs either.

Do you want more?

If there’s any interest in recipes or how to make these family delights, leave me a comment.

Buona Pasqua!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Lutto Nazionale

Good Friday, April 10, 2009 is a national day of mourning in Italy for the victims of the Abruzzo earthquake. 

Please take a moment to remember the victims. 

Now take some time today to hug your loved ones.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Italian Groundhog Day

"Quattro Aprilante, giorni quaranta" was a proverb I learned from my Nonno T. My grandparents knew many, many proverbs and whenever I asked they would recite them, all strung together, usually challenging each other as to their accuracy (that's a polite way of phrasing their typically loud Calabrese interactions). 

"Quattro Aprilante, giorni quaranta" is literally April 4, 40 days. It means that whatever the weather is like on April 4th, is what it will be like for the following 40 days. I think of it as Italian Groundhog Day. I know nothing of its derivation but I suspect it's Italian and not regional to Calabria or our southern villages. For Nonno, it didn't have any meaning in the new world, Canada. It may have been more important when they lived in the old country and had to tend animals and plant crops. 

In my part of the world, today is sunny and the first day the sun has shared its warmth along with its brilliance. I'm taking this as a good sign that spring is here to stay.

If you know anything about this proverb, I'd love to hear your wisdom and your stories.