Beyond the earthquake…

Since the earthquake, my family’s house in Italy remains too damaged to stay in. Much of the village remains empty. And now, thieves have broken into the house. They mainly upturned drawers adding to the mess of earthquake damage, since belongings inside are mostly of sentimental value, but of course it is another blow.

For the past week, my cousin has been there cleaning up and an unexpected side to what’s happened is that she’s come across old documents, letters written by our great-grandparents and photographs, including this lovely find!

My mother (on the left) was just twenty-two at the time when she and my Dad were the first to travel back to the house after the family migrated to Australia decades earlier. Pierina (on the right) is the relative who lived in the house and kept it maintained all those years before the family could return. This was taken in Fossa just before Christmas in 1970.

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Sitting still…

Sometimes it’s those little slivers in a day that you remember and miss most when you are far away… like stepping onto the balcony of my family’s house in Italy in late afternoon to sit overlooking the laneway seeing people stroll by below, hearing a Vespa buzz past and with the only thing to think about perhaps cooking dinner.

 

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Connecting through old cookbooks…

I love cooking from old cookbooks for their connection to the past and family recipes.

This 1934 Goulburn Cookery Book belonged to my grandmother-in-law whom I didn’t get to meet but I know and much admire that she cared for her eight children in their country town through prudent circumstance and for many years independently after she was widowed.

I love that her middle name was Philadelphia and that in this cookbook she pasted cut-out recipes and wrote some in as well. (Roger has made the grapefruit jam like his grandmother’s handwritten recipe.)

There’s even a recipe for Eggs in Purgatory, albeit a bit different to the version likely cooked in 1930s Italy or the ‘eggs in tomato’ my great-granny Maddalena cooked!

Interestingly, recent studies have revealed that despite the use of ingredients like butter and eggs, most recipes in 1930s cookbooks have a third less calories than current ones, often due to their smaller portion sizes.

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Festa della Repubblica from afar….

Brisbane’s Victoria Bridge lit in the colours of the Italian flag for Festa della Repubblica – Italy’s national day… if only my grandparents and great-grandparents could see this!

So lovely to have my hometown honour its history of Italian migrants in this gesture. Auguri per Festa della Repubblica to all those with an Italian migrant connection!! xx

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spaghetti per cena…

This is one of the first photographs I chose that I hoped would make the cover of Mezza Italiana (it’s on the back). Taken in the 1960s, it was dinner for my uncle’s birthday and one of the rare times the family got to eat together since one of my grandparents were usually doing a shift at their milk bar.

I love how the young, fair-haired friend (second from left) looks happy to be at the dinner table eating spaghetti among three generations of an Italian family (reminds me a bit of how Roger was when he first came to eat at my grandparents’ house). And of course that is my Dad in the front right corner, being his usual larrikin self!

 

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pasta arrabbiata and an almost full moon…

A little while ago I mentioned some wood-smoked chillies that I’d bought from a roadside stall. I’m going to use some as a bit of a twist on pasta arrabbiata.

In Italian, ‘arrabbiata’ means ‘angry’ and refers to the heat of chilli peppers in this sauce. The recipe varies but usually has some type of chilli mixed with garlic and herbs in a tomato passata. This time I’m also adding red and spring onions.

As for the pasta, I couldn’t resist these little moons and stars… looking out the window I think it is sort of a half moon tonight although almost full! (I will hold back from making any puns about the dish being heavenly. Knowing how hot these particular chillies are, I think it will be the one having more of a say!)

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Cocullo serpent festival…

This Thursday the festival of the snakes will again happen at Cocullo in Abruzzo as it has each year on the first Thursday of May from at least as far back as 1392. It still has an impact when I think back to when I saw it twelve years ago. The crowds, the food, the anticipation, the snakes… Most of all, I came away with a feeling of euphoria. I mentioned in Mezza Italiana that I reached out and touched one of the snakes (it was one of those held in the third last picture). I wasn’t sure how I’d be around literally hundreds of snakes for the first time but I have to say I felt compassion for them more than fear. The last picture is a painting Estella Canziani did of the festival for San Domenico back in 1913. Compared to when I was there 92 years later, it seemed little had changed…

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Some of Fossa’s laneways…

 … at around dawn while most of the village still slept.

These are just a few of the lanes that wind under, over and around the village and to me they are magical. Some tunnels have small frescoes and lanterns in them.

Most are just wide enough for a tiny car, others only able to be walked. The dog on the steps is Musso Nero, the village dog who was looked after by everybody {page 328, Mezza Italiana}.

I took these photographs with black and white film and an old Pentax camera more than a decade ago while staying in the village writing Mezza Italiana.

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Mezza Italiana to be released in the US next year….

I’m thrilled to say that in 2018 Mezza Italiana will be available in the US  in paperback and ebook.

Many thanks to ABC books, HarperCollins AUS and HarperCollins360 US.

More closer to the date! xx

 

 

 

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Pasta alla chitarra…

Making pasta alla chitarra just as my Abruzzese great-grandmother, Maddalena used to make. The shoebox-sized wooden box strung with steel wires must be ‘tuned’ like a guitar (chitarra). A sheet of pasta is laid over the strings and pressed through with a rolling pin, slicing it into strips. And the pasta sauce is like the ‘gravy’ Nanna Francesca cooked (with a few extra greens I added!)

I certainly don’t use the chitarra too often unless I have a few hours to spare but it was lovely to make this and remember my grandmothers. I like how in a way cooking can bring together different generations, even after some are long gone, as only handed-down recipes can do.

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Old photographs and family stories…

Even though Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar is completed, it is a pleasure to keep hearing more stories from my older relatives who always seem to have a little more to reveal about this era of their lives.

Talking to my great uncle Vincenzo recently I found out the varieties of produce they grew on the family’s Applethorpe farm included Granny Smith and Delicious apples, Santa Rosa and Wilson plums, Packham pears and green beans, also known as French or string beans. And the beans were the easiest to pick come harvest time.

(My great-grandmother – back left – was in her 50s when this was taken and though having recently lost her husband was working hard to keep the farm going.)

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back roads…

Love roadside stalls with honesty boxes… cooked with some of the wood smoked chillies last night and they were actually pretty hot!

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Dolci con il caffè…

The dilemma of what to have with a coffee… took this in the gorgeous Gran Caffé, Assisi a few years back.

{Music: Coffee Cold by Galt MacDermot.}

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From a laneway in Fossa…

I took this from the tiny balcony of the house in Fossa. As Roger walked along the laneway below on his way to the Boccabella shop and passed someone on their phone, he had no idea I was taking a photograph from above.

It is some years ago now, at a time when we were staying in the family house at the village in Abruzzo for a month and I was starting to write Mezza Italiana. It feels so strange to know that the damaged house now stands empty and the village a ghost town since the earthquake.

But I also feel so fortunate and grateful for the times I got to the experience the village at its happy and lively best, the connection it gave me to family and for the stories it has given, and hopefully will continue to give.

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First of the purple snow peas…

…keeping up with the eggplants (see previous post). Not sure what it is but there seems to be quite a bit of purple produce creeping into the vegie patch this summer. This is the first time I’ve grown these heirloom variety purple snow peas so (apart from eating one to try first up straight from the garden) I’m thinking of putting them in a salad or perhaps a stirfry.

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in the vegie patch…

The first of the eggplants are starting to emerge…

I’m already thinking melanzane involtini, eggplant lasagne, baked, stuffed eggplant and slices grilled on the barbecue and preserved in smoked salt and olive oil!

 

Related article: Involtini di melanzane al forno…

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buon anno a tutti…

A much younger me at the window of the medieval Castle Ocre above Fossa in Abruzzo…

It’s now more than 20 years since this was taken on my first trip to the village in Italy where part of my family came from. I never expected the impact this journey would have, how it would come to be something I would write about or that the castle would be badly damaged by earthquake and partially collapse thirteen years later.

Change is constant – both the good and the difficult. I hope this fresh year brings you a lovely, new experience no matter how small or large that may come to make you look back and feel such surprise and gladness. Tante belle cose, Zoe xx

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Christmas shopping…

Christmas shoppingCouldn’t resist taking a quick picture of these Italian products I saw as part of a Christmas display in the general supermarket of a country town in Australia. And both northern and southern Italy represented!

There was once a time when it was unusual to see even a panettone in the supermarket of an Australian capital city let alone a smaller town. So lovely how food can quietly keep on bringing different cultures together!

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pomodori verdi ~ green tomatoes…

green-tomatoesUnexpectedly found these beauties growing behind another plant in a pot on the balcony. Completely self-sown! There must be at least thirty cherry tomatoes on the plant. A lovely, surprise present from nature. Can’t wait for them to ripen!

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Stitching, thread and pine needles…

Came across this lovely linen, hand towel, circa 1940s/1950s, hand-embroidered to be a keepsake from Norfolk Island. (The picture frame is circa 1920s that I already had and happened to be a lucky fit!)

As some may know from my books, collecting hand-sewn, vintage linens began for me with pieces I inherited from my Australian and Italian grandmothers. Continuing to collect such pieces crept up on me and took hold after I found myself sorting through a trestle table of vintage linens at a market stall in L’Aquila.

Good sellers of vintage linens will always have them in neat, clean condition, usually ironed and often starched too. I love to wonder about who may have taken the time and effort to have made that item many decades before. Perhaps this one was sewn by someone snug inside on a windy, wintry day on Norfolk Island!

{Linen is from Geordie Lane, Maleny.}

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Spaghettini with lemon, chilli, garlic and herbs…

lemon-basil-and-chilli-spaghettini

 

Looking forward to cooking spaghettini with these lovely fresh ingredients!

The ‘dosa spaghetti’ implement for measuring out dry spaghetti portions comes from a little shop in Orvieto, Umbria.

Still often cook too much though…

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From over the Aterno Valley, Abruzzo…

Santa Maria Assunta, Fossa, AbruzzoThe steeple of Santa Maria Assunta in Fossa… the church that sits opposite my family’s house in Abruzzo. It was lovely to walk along the lanes below and listen to the bell tolling the time of day or to hear it from afar when you were on your way back to the village.

When I took this in 2005, it was a beautiful, serene day with no hint that just four years later the steeple’s turret would be gone when the earthquake caused it to crash down through the church roof.

Originally built in the 1200s, the church was expanded during the 1400s and then partly rebuilt following the earthquake of 1703. (At this time, my family’s house was about a decade old and had experienced its first terremoto.) I took this photograph with my old Pentax camera on black and white film. Although just over a decade ago, I didn’t yet have a digital camera then!

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from Italia to Australia…

glory-box-calabriaAnother piece from my Italian great-grandmother’s glory box… {Bisnonna Francesca (Cesca in my books)}. This hand-embroidered pillow sham from 1920s Calabria travelled in the hull of a ship across the world to a new life in Australia and remained tucked away for many decades… a keepsake of another place and life that might have been.

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flowers and the scent of memories…

carnationsThe first carnations are in bloom in the backyard and have a lovely scent…
I could smell their perfume on the breeze as soon as I walked outside. Decided to grow some of these to remember my great-grandmother, Charlotte who had them in her front garden. (Charlotte got a small mention in Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar when I wrote of her scones, along with Granny Maddalena’s frittata, revealing a bit of their everyday lives through what they cooked.)

Perhaps carnations are considered somewhat old-fashioned at present but I never worry about fashion when it comes to things like flowers, to me they’re all lovely and bring a little happiness…

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a stone house among the lavender…

Swiss Italian, Aquilino Tinetti originally built this stone farmhouse at Shepherds Flat in central Victoria circa 1860. He and his wife Maria had thirteen children and the 100 acres were run as a dairy farm for the next 120 years.

In the 1980s, Carol White purchased the property, restored the historic stone buildings and planted lavender and it is now called Lavandula.

It is a beautiful place to visit and as part of research for the next book especially interesting for me to see the original 19th century farmhouse set up including a great cellar below a very steep, internal staircase, and also some friends in the kitchen garden…

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first fig for the season…

first-figUsually we end up eating most of these picked straight from the tree in the backyard but perhaps this year some might last long enough to cook with…

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with needle and thread…

Another piece from the chest of drawers containing linens sewn by my grandmothers…  since it was last a picture of my Italian great-grandmother’s initialled linen pillow cover (or pillow sham) from 1920s Calabria, it seemed fitting this time to take out this doily with embroidery hand-stitched by my Australian grandmother, circa 1950s in Brisbane – mezza italiana/mezza australiana….
I currently have it on top of a duchess, as in furniture (now there’s a term that possibly makes me sound Iike I’m about a hundred years old!)

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Earthquake in central Italy…

Amatrice before the earthquakeStretti abbracciati to all in Accumoli, Amatrice, Arquata del Tronto, Pescara del Tronto and the surrounding towns to have faced the most recent earthquake in central Italy. I have not experienced such a terremoto though being in Abruzzo weeks after the 2009 earthquake I saw up close the devastation on towns and the despair and pain wrought on people and animals. I keep thinking of those who are currently living through this tragedy and those survivors of 2009 who felt the quake being fifty kilometres south. Both quakes occurred just after 3.30am, the most dangerous time when people are vulnerable in sleep. While the people of the Apennine Mountains in central Italy are strong and know living amid such exquisite beauty has its underside, this is a great blow to bear when recovery is still ongoing from the 2009 earthquake. There were those who experienced it and moved north to be safer and have now had the trauma of another. Again, abbracci to all…

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Late winter rain bringing the lemon tree back to life…

lemon leavesChatting over the fence my Sicilian neighbour, who is in her eighties, recommended to put a lemon leaf under polpette (those Italian slightly egg-shaped meatballs) when frying them in olive oil in the pan – not necessarily to eat the leaf but for it to impart flavour during cooking. I haven’t tried that yet however seeing these fresh young leaves I might need to give it a go.

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Books update…

Mezza Italiana and Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar are both now in bookshops in Italy!

It is such a thrill, especially to think back to when I first started writing Mezza in a notebook on the kitchen table in the Abruzzo house of my family. What might the generations who sat there before me have thought?!

Thank you to all of you who have shown such affection and support for these books (and to those who’ve messaged me after spotting the books already in Milan and Florence!) I am very grateful! Tante belle cose, Zoe xx

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To come from what is left behind…

Bruno Catalano sculptureAs much as migrants love and embrace their new country, many cannot help but feel they’ve left a piece of themselves behind… and often those born in later generations still feel that bind as well.

This poignant sculpture at Marseilles is by Bruno Catalano, Moroccan-born in a Sicilian family who later moved to France. Being ten years old and watching from a boat his native land fade away had a profound impact that would stay with him throughout his life.

 

 

 

Bruno Catalano

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From the glory box of my bisnonna…

Francesca Carrozza initials

The initials of my great-grandmother, bisnonna Francesca Carrozza, hand-stitched onto this linen pillow cover in 1920s Calabria for her glory box that was to end up in 1930s Australia. I didn’t fully appreciate these linens when I was young but they have since become precious to me.

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Mini ‘tomato day’…

mini tomato dayWhen I came across cherry tomatoes selling cheap a little while back, I couldn’t resist. This was my mini ‘tomato day’, well, couple of hours, not with all the family but just me, and not to make passata but to make ‘sun-dried’ cherry tomatoes.

A little olive oil and smoked salt, a couple of hours in a very slow oven and once cooled they were ready to put into jars drizzled in more olive oil to preserve them (not that they lasted too long!)

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Books update…

Mezza Italiana by Zoë BoccabellaMezza Italiana now available in the UK

Including at bookstores such as Foyles, Waterstones, WHSmith and others as well as online stores.
It is available in paperback, ebook and audiobook.
Many thanks to ABC Books and HarperCollins 360 UK!!

________________________________________

 

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From 6th June, 1946…

Annibale, Francesca and Remo outside shopToday it is 70 years since my Italian grandparents, Nonno Anni and Nanna Francesca signed the lease on premises to start up their fruit shop and milk bar in Australia.

And so began many years when they opened the shop from 7am until 11pm, only the two of them working there (with a baby in tow) and closing just two days a year at Christmas and Easter.

Thinking of them with much gratitude for all their hard work and sacrifice to make it such a success.

 

 

 

Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar

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last day of autumn Australis…

Tree of Life by Diana SudykaDiana Sudyka

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the Violet Coast of west Calabria…

Costa Viola…the Violet Coast of west Calabria (when I took this the violet colour of melding sea and sky seemed even more vibrant in reality).

This view of the Tyrrhenian Sea is what my Italian grandmother, Nanna Francesca, saw from the balcony of her childhood home – her grandmother’s house – where she and her mother lived after her father went to Australia in 1927.

The house is now gone but I took this from the street where it stood. Those hills across the sea in the distance are in Sicily. Closer are some of the palm trees that give the small, coastal town that was my grandmother’s birthplace its name – Palmi. Though hard to spot, the tall-masted boats on the sea are sword-fishing boats.

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Last of the summer basil…

Pizza MargheritaTime for an Italian classic…a take on Pizza Margherita.

I can’t claim any credit for this one – it all goes to onorario italiano Roger who has perfected pizza dough alla casa.

For the topping this time…San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella di bufala and the last of the summer basil from the vegie patch.

Buon appetito!

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Ethel’s Chooks…

Ethel's chooks webPerhaps it’s old-fashioned but I still have a wall calendar where I write up all that’s happening. This year it features paintings by William T. Cooper (1934-2015) an Australian artist who painted mostly natural subjects, especially birds. He painted with extreme precision so if there were a certain number of a certain colour feathers then that is exactly what he depicted.

While he painted many exotic species too, I love this painting, Ethel’s Chooks, which Cooper painted of his neighbour’s chooks that free ranged around the farm. When I sit down to my desk each day, seeing the work and precision Cooper put into his art is inspiring. His career as an artist spanned more than 50 years and he continued to paint into his 80s.

williamtcooper.com.au
paperparrot.com.au

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Seven years on from the earthquake…

Chiesa PaganicaOn the anniversary of the 2009 Abruzzo earthquake today, I’m thinking of the 309 people who lost their lives and the many thousands who continue to reside in temporary housing seven years on.

This recent article from the Irish Times sheds some light on where reconstruction efforts in L’Aquila currently stand…

Seven years on, shadow of earthquake still hangs over L’Aquila.

As well as the damage to the Abruzzo capital, many surrounding small towns also continue to be affected in the aftermath including the villages where my family comes from and the house that has belonged to the family for generations. Many of these once lively villages remain almost ghost towns while it is assumed they have been rebuilt.

Stiamo pensando di tutti voi.

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Italian Australian Easter…

Brisbane News articleWith Easter coming up, I was asked about my Italian family’s gatherings for part of an article in the latest issue of Brisbane News. In the photograph, I have in front of me a Colomba di Pasqua, an Easter dove cake similar to the Italian Christmas panettone.

I also fondly recall Nanna Francesca making Pane di Pasqua, Easter bread, with whole eggs in their shells tucked among the plaited dough (the eggs became like hardboiled as the dough baked).

By the way, to the left in the photo is her Sunflower coffee set, which I treasure. It is now almost 70 years old!
Buona Pasqua!

 

{Click on article for a larger version.}

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Backyard harvest…

grape harvestFrom the Isabella vine that grows over the pergola, some of the grapes harvested this year (in one of Nanna Francesca’s salad bowls circa 1960s/70s.) Each year the grapevine yields enough to make about half a dozen bottles of wine…a modest, homemade vintage but a tiny bit of Italy in an Australian suburban backyard.

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Window light….

Fossa windowThis window in the small house in Italy, that has sheltered different generations of my family for centuries, is my favourite. It is the tiniest and gives a view out over the village of Fossa like peering from a cubby house. I also love that it shows how thick the stone walls are.

Currently, the house still stands uninhabited and damaged as it was from the day of the earthquake back in 2009 but the good news is, after a long wait, it seems several villagers are now in the process of their houses starting to be repaired.

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Grandmother memories ~ memorie nonna…

Francesca at parkToday, my Italian grandmother, Francesca, would have been 90 years old. This is one of my favourite photographs of her, taken with friends in the Botanic Gardens circa 1950s.

Although it has been some years now that Nanna Francesca has been gone, for me she lives on in memories of our cooking, shopping and going to the ‘picture theatre’ together, and every time I put one of her tablecloths on the table or there is simmering ‘pasta gravy’, made just like hers, on the stove.

Con amore, molte grazie e auguri, cara Nonna Francesca. xxx

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Hand-bound books…

bookbindingIn Bendigo not long ago, I came across a bookbinding shop that is the most similar I’ve found in Australia to the one I came across in Florence (p.212 Mezza Italiana). I couldn’t resist these handmade books and the owner kindly offered to emboss my name on them.
I wrote the first draft of Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar longhand in foolscap exercise books. The pens I used were cheap, plastic biros. The ink ran out in close to a dozen by the end. Mezza Italiana also began in longhand, at the kitchen table in my family’s house in Italy. That time I wrote in several diary planners that were out of date, with similar plastic biros.
These hand-bound books are so beautiful I feel almost afraid to write in them!

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The path toward a fresh year…

Verso FossaA new year stretches ahead and there is something thrilling and also sobering in not knowing where our paths may meander as the months unfold. Hope this year is a wonderful one for you that brings much happiness! I couldn’t go past this beautiful painting by L’Aquila artist, Juan Alfredo Parisse to begin the year. He painted it on the road below my family’s village of Fossa in the Aterno Valley of Abruzzo and it is called, Verso Fossa.

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19th century Italy in regional Australia…

20151104_121733Recently, while in Victoria I visited the Bendigo Art Gallery and it was wonderful to see their collection of 19th century Australian art (inspiration for the next book!)

It seems Italy is never too far away however as I couldn’t help noticing this circa 1879 painting of women carrying their copper conche to collect water, such a common sight in Abruzzo especially.

Titled, ‘Peasant Water Carriers’, it was painted by Pietro Barucci {1845-1917} who was mainly known for his paintings of landscapes in the rural areas surrounding Rome.

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Italian Christmas sweets…

Christmas treatsTime for some Italian Christmas treats… these poco zeppole {zippoli} are flavoured with citrus zest and Boronia Marsala {yes, the bottle with the little horse and cart on the label for those in the know}.

This small, bite-size version of the dumplings is very light {making them dangerously moreish!}

We always ate them on Christmas Eve at my Italian grandparents’ house after another Italian tradition, the fish dinner the night before Christmas.

 

 

* Recipe on p.338 of Mezza Italiana

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keeping the past present…

Hotel TrenthamI have been in central Victoria doing research for part of the next book and am completely taken by all the beautiful, historic buildings still being utilised and looked after in so many towns. This hotel in Trentham was badly damaged by fire a decade ago and yet rather than being given up on, it is great to see it brought back to its former self. Seeing the new corrugated iron roof you can almost imagine it when first built back in the 1860s…

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Milk bar glassware, circa 1950s…

milk bar glasswareOriginal, circa 1950s glassware from Nonno Anni and Nanna Francesca’s milk bar… milkshake glasses, the glass for the homemade orange drink and the bowl used for ice cream sundaes and fruit salads.

Built to last, once they were used everyday, often banged down on the milk bar counter and washed ready for the next customers. Funny how time changes objects – these days I keep them in the ‘good’ glass cabinet in the lounge room – smiling.

 

Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar

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Tower of Palazzo Vecchio and the Galleria degli Uffizi in Firenze…

Firenze…taken in 2005 when I was about to join the queue to the gallery. At the time, it was 240 years since the Uffizi Gallery officially opened to the public in 1765 and I love the thought that perhaps standing in this spot a couple of centuries ago with everyone wearing the clothing of the time, we could still look up and see almost the same view…

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pizzette fritte…

pizzette fritteA decadent version of little pizzas with the fluffy dough fried then oven-baked – pizzette fritte. {Apparently, considered the way pizzas were first made.} They are very light and if made well in the traditional way, should not absorb the olive oil.
On the left, pesto, prosciutto e parmigiano. And to the right, tomato, basil and bocconcini. Buon appetito!

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the Astoria Café…

Astoria cafe Astoria cafe buildingThe Astoria Café in Brisbane, where my grandparents worked in the 1940s, had long been demolished by the time I wrote about it. I relied on my grandparents’ stories and old pictures and wished it had still been around for me to see.

Recently, I was in Sydney to talk about Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar at a conference and author, Estelle Pinney, who’d been in the audience, approached me afterwards. Estelle told me she’d enjoyed reading Joe’s very much and that she had frequented the Astoria Café many times in the forties. (I don’t think Estelle will mind me saying that she is now in her eighties and extremely sprightly!) It was wonderful to hear her recollections of the café and as always, I’m so grateful for the insights into the past that writing this book has opened to me.

Thank you to all of you who have shared how Joe’s has connected with your own lives, past and present.

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the “cash register”…

Cash boxThe “cash register” at my grandparents’ fruit shop and milk bar was this wooden cash box. For decades, pounds, shillings and pence made their way in and out of it and for the final few years, dollars and cents. All calculations were made in one’s head (and no doubt at lightning speed when the pressure was on with a crowd of customers waiting!)

The wood feels very battered from much use, the lid has come off its hinges and has some watermarks as though much opened with hands damp from retrieving wet bottles of soft drink or making ice-creams. I love how a band-aid has been stuck on the bottom corner where the wood began to split! It looks like an old timber box perhaps ready for the tip but for me it contains so much history as an integral part of the fruit shop and milk bar.

Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar

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Inside the milk bar…

Annibale behind counter in the shopNonno Anni behind the counter of the milk bar – one of very few photographs taken inside. Great to see the milkshake machines to the right. It is difficult to decipher some of the brands of sweets, cigarettes and biscuits around the counter though I can see Mars chocolates {invented in 1932}, Violet Crumbles {first made in 1913} and a sign for Peters ice-cream {since 1907}.

Despite the long hours and many years without weekends and holidays, I can appreciate he was happy to put in such time and effort as it must have been so wonderful to have the milk bar and fruit shop after some of the challenges and having so little for many years beforehand.

Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar

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milk bar glass, circa 1950…

milk bar glassAn original glass {circa 1950} from Nanna Francesca and Nonno Anni’s milk bar. These were mostly used for my grandfather’s sought-after, homemade orange drink but customers would also request milkshakes in them too if they preferred glass to one of the metal canisters.

The milkshake flavours available at the time were chocolate, strawberry, vanilla, custard, lime and caramel, with chocolate always the most popular. The only flavours I had in the house to make this one were maple syrup and vanilla bean, which turned out quite delicious. And yes, that is an old-style, waxed paper straw!

Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar

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Classic lasagne…

LasagneTraditional lasagne, for me, is in the same category of favourite, comfort food as a good, old-style hamburger with the lot. {Perhaps a reflection of an Italian-Australian upbringing!} I learned to make lasagne when I was about 11 or 12, and must have made hundreds over the years.
Recently, I cooked the first in my new lasagne dish from Umbria. My previous lasagne dish that my Mum gave me I used for 20 years {sadly, it got a large crack in it}, so this dish has some work ahead of it!
Some say Italy didn’t have spaghetti until Marco Polo discovered noodles in Asia and that may be the case, however Italians did already have pasta. In Roman times, they cooked sheets of pasta in a dish similar to lasagne and therefore it is possibly one of the original pasta dishes.

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Italian internees, Australia 1942…

Internees and tent at Western CreekItalian internees at the ‘secret’ Western Creek internment camp in 1942. My grandfather, Annibale (far right, standing) was 18 years old and working as a farmhand at Applethorpe when he was interned.

Those familiar with Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar will know that despite much searching I have to date been unable to uncover any document that officially shows this internment camp existed. This is despite much anecdotal evidence gathered from internees, a guard and residents of the nearby Queensland town of Millmerran. As well as photographs taken inside the camp (see tent to left) and a tiny newspaper article that appeared in The Western Star and Roma Advertiser in 1942.

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Joe’s milk bar, circa 1950s…

Annibale and Vitale in milk barOne of the very few photographs taken inside my family’s milk bar in the 1950s (and also one of my favourites). Nonno Anni is behind the counter and Bisnonno Vitale is leaning on it.

This is the era when my grandparents were working 7am-11pm, 363 days a year at their fruit shop and milk bar. My great-grandfather Vitale helped out at the busy times yet continued in his own job at the Brown and Broad sawmill beside the Brisbane River in Teneriffe.

Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar

 

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Slow-roasted artichokes, fennel and red onion…

roasted artichoke, red onion and fennelSlow-roasted artichokes, fennel and red onion… perhaps not as pretty as when in their natural state {see link below} but a little more tasty. These I roughly chopped to similar sizes and slow-roasted for about an hour drizzled with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a sprinkling of salt, brown sugar, smoked paprika and rosemary leaves.

Related post: From the kitchen table…

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From the kitchen table…

artichokes, fennel and red onion…beautiful shapes and colours. Thought I might try these three together for a different take on roast vegies…

 

See them straight from the oven: slow-roasted artichokes, fennel & red onion

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the fairy tree dwellers…

The Fairy TreePart of The Fairy Tree in Fitzroy Gardens, carved in the early 1930s by sculptor Ola Cohn {1892-1964} as a gift to the children of Melbourne. Though my own childhood is distant, I found myself rushing through the gardens to find it. And while there were plenty of beautifully carved tree folk to capture, I was taken by this little group hiding in a notch near the base of the trunk, and especially like the owl.

Afterwards, I read, “A Way with the Fairies”, Ola Cohn’s autobiography, and it was interesting to learn more of this Australian sculptor and philanthropist. For many female artists of a certain era, sadly, their work did not always receive all the recognition it may have merited.

Fairy spiderA gift to the children of Melbourne…

“I have carved a tree in the Fitzroy Gardens for you and the fairies, but mostly for the fairies and those who believe in them. For they will understand how necessary it is to have a fairy sanctuary – a place that is sacred and safe as a home should be to all living creatures.”  Ola Cohn

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basil pesto orecchiette with crispy prosciutto…

Basil pesto orecchiette with crispy prosciuttoSo many traditional Italian dishes were created by combining leftovers, which I love as I can’t stand wasting good food by tossing it out. And while I know I would definitely not be the first to try this, it was a happy discovery when faced with some leftover prosciutto to fry it, sprinkle it and taste for the first time – basil pesto orecchiette with crispy prosciutto.
Several different Italian regions from north and south getting together cheerfully on a plate…

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Mercers Lane Mosaic…

Ingham mosaic 2Ingham mosaicA beautiful, mosaic artwork is emerging along Mercers Lane in Ingham, Queensland to commemorate the history of the local sugarcane industry. Really inspiring to discover around 2000 local volunteers and tourists so far have taken part in creating the mosaic and it’s wonderful to see local history recorded in art like this, particularly all the different cultures that have been a part. Ingham mosaic 3

more on Mercers Lane Mosaic…

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shelling peas…

PeasEach day the peas in the vegie patch are getting plumper and I can’t wait until they are ready to be picked, not that any will make it to the pot. Since childhood, I’ve loved fresh peas straight from the garden. And peas seemed to have worked their way into both my books: Nanna Francesca, her mother and grandmother in Calabria, sitting on their balcony overlooking the sea, shelling peas and feeling the breeze as lightning licked the horizon… And the pea patch Nonno Anni grew in his New Farm backyard in my childhood… Even now, though both my grandparents are gone, when I look at my own, much smaller, pea patch, I’m reminded of happy memories being a child among their pea plants that were taller than I was – my own little forest. Winter sun warm on my shoulders as I would make my way along the rows, eating the peas, my grandparents not far away…

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New life between beautiful old walls…

Laidley old bakeryRecently, I have been travelling in southwest Queensland for research for the next book. In the main street of Laidley, I happened across this beautiful old building that was originally a bakery when it was built back in 1905. It is currently empty and seemed to be being renovated inside. Lovely how so many country towns value and utilise their historic buildings. Seeing the words ‘Soft Drinks’ in faded paint across the glass over the front entrance, I could not help imagining turning it into an old-style, 1950s milk bar…

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home-baked focaccia e tramezzini…

FoccaciaHome-baked focaccia with rosemary from the garden and Australian-grown garlic and olive oil. Although I had a very brief knead of the dough, the credit all goes to Roger for this one. A lovely way to eat it is to make tramezzini by slicing the focaccia in half, spreading the inside of each piece with basil pesto and then for the filling, adding pieces of grilled haloumi, slices of barbecued eggplant marinated in olive oil, ripe tomatoes, a handful of rocket, roasted capsicum and thinly-sliced, roasted pumpkin.

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Stonehenge Boarding house…

Stonehenge 157 Leichhardt St BrisbaneStonehenge Boarding house at 157 Leichhardt St, Spring Hill, Brisbane, where three generations of my family lived during the 1940s. It is amazing to see how steeply pitched the roof is considering my father climbed to the top of it when he was not quite three and a half and my Nonno had to get him back down {p.281 Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar}. Sadly, this house, built circa 1859 of convict-hewn stone, was demolished in the 1950s.

 

Photograph courtesy of the Fryer Library, University of Qld and http://www.yourbrisbanepastandpresent.com/

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Eggplant harvest…

Eggplant harvestThe two eggplant bushes must be very happy in their spots in the vegie patch (despite their relative lack of attention!) Picked these three beauties this morning and there are many more growing. Looks like it will be eggplant parmigiana cooking in our house this weekend. Might also grill some sliced melanzane on the barbecue and bottle it in olive oil too…

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Sicilian orange and fennel salad…

Sicilian orange and fennel saladI had never tasted this before but decided to make it anyway. Sliced fennel, orange segments, a drizzle of olive oil and some salt may sound like a curious combination of flavours but I was pleasantly surprised. Delicious on its own or great accompaniment to slow roasted lamb.

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Official opening of Anzac Square, Brisbane…

Anzac Square 1930Official opening of Anzac Square in Brisbane on 25th April, 1930 (taken from Ann St looking towards Adelaide St).

image courtesy State Library, Qld.

More about Anzac Day…

{For those familiar with the Astoria Café in Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar, this building can be seen  in the far right of the photograph.}

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one-pot cooking…

Meatballs… ‘meat and veg Italian-style’ – polpette, melanzane e piselli in passata con due formaggi – meatballs, eggplant and peas in passata with two cheeses.

{Yes, there are vegies in there – under the cheese…}

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Queen Street, Brisbane in 1939…

Queen St 1939….as it looked when my grandfather, Annibale arrived alone in Australia at the age of 15. Met by his father, Vitale, who took him straight from the ship dock to this street to buy some new work boots. The very next day, they left Brisbane for Annibale to commence work at a farm 200km away. After seven years apart, father and son got to spend just 24 hours together.

{image courtesy State Library, Qld}

Related: Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar

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Milk Bar in the Regent Theatre, Brisbane circa 1936…

Regent Theatre milk bar{image courtesy State Library, Qld}

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a seat by the cove…

Sydney seat

— Farm Cove, Royal Botanic Gardens

So lovely that whenever in Sydney, despite the hectic traffic and millions of people, it is still always possible to find an empty seat to watch the harbour…

 

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Bisnonna’s frittata…

Zoe's version of Bisnonna's frittataFor my Great-Granny Maddalena’s frittata, the main ingredients were eggs, some salt and flat-leaf parsley. She also used a lot of olive oil (her frittata never stuck to the pan!)

In Italy, she included ‘mountain greens’ that she’d collected from the hillsides in her apron, such as agretti, wild asparagus, nettles and an array of ‘wild greens’.

The frittata may also be baked in an oven rather than in a pan. This is a version of her frittata I made with asparagus and red onion – I stress this is ‘home cooking’ not ‘chef cooking’!!

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from Italia to Australia…

remo ship in SydneyThe ship, RemoThe Italian ship, ‘Remo’, which is linked to four generations of my family… my great-grandfather, Vitale arrived in Australia for the second time aboard it in 1932, my grandfather, Annibale sailed from Italy in it when he was just 15 in 1939, my father was named after it, and my nephew shares with it his second name.

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‘Sali e Tabacchi’…

sali e tabacchiThis sign might be familiar to those who have bought a bus or lottery ticket, tobacco or, until recent years, salt in Italy. Yes, the traditional ‘Sali e Tabacchi’ or ‘Salt and Tobacco’ shop was for a long time the only place to buy salt while it remained a monopoly of the state, (a nod perhaps to ancient times when salt was worth as much as gold!)

However, we took this photo in Australia, not Italy, after spotting the sign hidden along a Melbourne laneway. Another little bit of Italy in the hearts of those in Australia. Looking forward to heading back to Melbourne again in March!

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uno zufolo ~ an Italian folk flute…

zufuloGiuseppe (Joe) Castellana was taught by his Nonno in Sicily how to play the zufolo (an Italian flute dating back to the 14th century). After he migrated to Australia, Joe continued the tradition – playing the folk music that he learnt from his grandfather in Italy at performances in Australia over many decades.

He swapped between playing the zufulo and the accordion at the launch for Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar and I was touched when, at the end of the evening, Joe, who is now 82, gave me a zufolo that he had hand-carved himself.

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Chiacchiere… chitter-chatter ~ carnival sweets

crostoliMy Italian grandmother made these all the time so I thought it fitting to serve them on one of her Florentine, painted wooden serving trays on the terrazzo table that sat on my grandparents’ patio for decades.

These crispy ribbons of pastry dusted with sugar are a sweet popular for centuries throughout Italy and across Europe and Asia. In Italy, they are traditionally eaten at the time of Carnevale, when cities, towns and villages celebrate their historical connections. The ‘chitter-chatter’ pop up under the guise of different names in different regions – chiacchiere, crostole, bugie, cenci, sfogliatelle, nodi, ali d’angelo, frappe, cioffe, galani, sfrappole…

Beware, for chiacchiere or ‘rumours’ can be addictive. They are best if light and flaky but still crunchy with some substance.

Ingredients:

  • 450g plain flour {plus extra for kneading}
  • 3 free range eggs
  • 50g butter
  • 100g caster sugar {raw, unbleached if available}
  • 50ml Marsala {grappa or brandy may be substituted}
  • 1tsp vanilla bean extract
  • oil for frying
  • extra caster sugar or icing sugar to sprinkle

Method:

  • Sift the flour into a mixing bowl. Make a well in the middle and add the eggs, butter, sugar, Marsala and vanilla, mixing thoroughly to create a dough.
  • Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth {dusting extra flour across surface to prevent sticking as needed}.
  • Use a rolling pin or a pasta machine to roll the dough to lasagna sheet thinness.
  • Cut into strips roughly 4-5 cm wide, or to your liking {an alternative is using a fluted, pastry/ pasta wheel cutter to give a crinkled edge}.
  • Heat the oil in a deep frying pan and fry several strips at a time until they are golden.
  • Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on absorbent kitchen paper.
  • Sprinkle with caster sugar while still hot, or allow to cool completely then cover with sifted icing sugar.

Serves a good gathering chatting over coffee or sweet fortified wine.

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vino e formaggio…

vino e formaggioFossa house, Abruzzo, a decade ago… pecorino cheese made by two women on a farm down in the valley, olives from the L’Aquila market, cerasuolo wine from a nearby vineyard, the paisley tablecloth Nanna Francesca purchased from a travelling merchant who drove from village to village in his small truck full of wares, an Italian folk song blaring from speakers to notify buyers he had arrived.

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the first copy…

First copyAn advance copy of Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar arrived on my doorstep today… It is quite incredible to hold the book in my hands, flick through the pages and smell the scent of the paper. I have known since I was teenager that this was a book I one day hoped to write so in essence it’s been 25 years in the making! I also received some posters like the ones that will appear in bookshops, which makes it all feel that bit more real. Only three weeks until Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar will be on bookshop shelves!

 

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Italian street painting in Sydney…

Pepe GakaGiuseppe, aka Pepe, is a Madonnaro whom we came across by the harbour at Circular Quay in Sydney. Since the 16th century, Madonnari from Puglia in Italy’s south have been itinerant artists who originally went to cities to work on the cathedrals and when the job was done found a way to make a living by recreating paintings from the church on the pavement. Aware of festivals and holy days in each town, the Madonnari would travel to different provinces throughout Italy to eke out a living from observers who would throw coins if they approved of the work. Pepe explained he makes a living based solely on donations and never sells his paintings. Once they are completed, he gives them away to charitable organisations that then raise money by auctioning his paintings. His most recent work sold for $16,000.

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December red…

…so many delicious berries in season perfect for a summer Christmas!

December red

raspberries ~ cherries ~ redcurrants

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sweet dumplings…

ZippoliThese little doughnut balls are also known as zippoli, zeppole or sfingi in Italy depending on the region where they are cooked. (I’ve also tasted the German version quarkbällchen – known too as ‘Bavarian snowballs’ – from a roadside stall not far from Schloss Neuschwanstein.) There’s something about eating them fresh and hot from the pan, dusted with sugar! Often a Christmas treat – although they are good any time of year – I have treasured memories of my Italian grandmother cooking them to have after dinner on Christmas Eve.

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the Book House…

book house malenyHappened across this gorgeous Little Free Library in Maple Street, Maleny where you can leave a book and swap it for another. Such a lovely idea. I’m definitely going to take a couple of books to leave there next time…

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Mulberry pie for supper…

Mulberry pieOn a Sunday afternoon walk, we discovered mulberry trees growing wild along the creek and were not the only ones who picked the berries – the largest, plumpest and sweetest we’d come across in ages. Almost half an hour later the trees were still heavy with fruit, plenty left to share with others, the birds and flying foxes. That night Roger made mulberry pie with crumbly, buttery shortcrust pastry for supper. A little bit of ‘Sunday afternoon’ to last throughout the week…

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un piccolo pezzo di paradiso…

Hermitage Foreshore Track SydneyAlong the Hermitage Foreshore track in Sydney Harbour National Park a couple of Sunday mornings ago…. absolute magic!

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café Katoomba…

Paragon CafeI cannot visit Katoomba in the Blue Mountains without going to the Paragon Café. Said to be the oldest café in Australia – trading since 1916 – it has retained its art deco, Greek café form since 1926 and still has its milk bar!

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Rosen in Deutschland…

Beutelsbach flowersSpring in Australia starts today {although the equinox is a few weeks off yet}. I wish I’d grown these myself but I took this picture during the northern hemisphere’s spring – in Beutelsbach, Baden-Württemberg, Germany, where I was doing research for a future book. It seemed every window box and garden were growing beautiful red flowers.

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capsico per cena…

stuffed capsicumSaw these sweet, baby capsicums at the market and couldn’t resist buying them, though I wasn’t sure how I was going to cook them. Decided to stuff the capsicums with a mixture of seasoned goat’s cheese, pine nuts, parsley and basil, then bake in the oven. Served with some crusty bread on the side…

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After the storm…

After the storm

….Wombat Hill Botanic Gardens,
Daylesford, Victoria.

 

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Piano accordion orchestra

Piano accordion orchestraFor the first time, we recently saw a piano accordion orchestra concert. It was great, some of the music taking me back to attending those big Italian weddings when I was a child and also our family gatherings when my uncle sometimes played the piano accordion. Of course, there were a couple of classics played, including Volare and Funiculi Funicula.

{Photograph courtesy of Germaine Arnold: http://deptford.tumblr.com/}

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Twilight over Scanno, Abruzzo – 1928 by Estella Canziani

Twilight Scanno Abruzzi

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July 26, 2014 · 11:59 am

Fossa, with Castle Ocre above, in Abruzzo, Italy…

panorama fossa

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July 9, 2014 · 9:36 am

Beautiful old buildings…

Wiss Brothers General Store, Kalbar, Queensland, 1921Wiss Emporium 2014One Sunday morning, we came across the Wiss Emporium in the town of Kalbar and came away with a number of vintage finds including an unusual wooden picture frame circa 1920. It was really wonderful to see this one hundred and five year old building with its original long counter and pressed metal ceilings being utilised and looked after so beautifully, its history and character much valued by its current owner.

Original Wiss Brothers store on the same site circa 1890

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Little finds…

PecansCrunchy pecans from a farm roadside stall {with a little honesty box} on the Blackall Range. Quite unlike any pecan I’ve ever tasted from a packet. No thought of cooking with them as they are so delicious straight from the shell!

 

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Restoration…

Glengallan ScOn a bleak, wintry day, the caretakers gave us the opportunity to explore this abandoned, sandstone house in south west Queensland. As we walked through the high ceilinged rooms, the wind whistled through cracks in the walls and I longed to find out all the stories it held. After many decades of dereliction it is now being restored. http://www.glengallan.org.au/Glengallan today

 

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Katoomba magic…

waterfallI can’t take credit for the cockatoo in flight, it just happened to appear as I clicked the camera.

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a little bit of Italiana…

IMGP3701Anyone with Sicilian connections or who have been to Sicily may recognise this doll in folk costume (right) and the decorated cart, carrello or carrozza…

Came across the display as part of an Italian migrant exhibition at the Commissariat Store Museum in Brisbane.

Along with some bomboniere… (below) familiar to Italian weddings, christenings and communions.

IMGP3697

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the old macaroni factory…

Macaroni factoryThe Lucini macaroni factory (circa 1859) is said to be the oldest building in Australia built by Italian-Australians. There are 150-year-old frescoes inside that unfortunately remained hidden as it was closed the day we came by. Sitting in the main street of Hepburn Springs in Victoria, the building was also the location for Jan Sardi’s film, Love’s Brother, about two Italian brothers in Australia and a proxy marriage to a girl in Italy.
Macaroni factory 2

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art in nature…

View from the Tweed Regional Gallery in Murwillumbah, New South Wales, Australia where we recently went to see the new Margaret Olley Art Centre housing rooms from her Sydney terrace house, her artworks, and exhibitions by other artists. This view from the café was like an artwork in itself.

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a lovely spot for lunch…

Lavendula cafeLavandula – the Swiss Italian farm at Shepherds Flat not far from Hepburn Springs in Victoria, Australia. The air was filled with the scent from fields of lavender growing nearby and a friendly flock of geese (not on the menu!) kept us company.
http://www.lavandula.com.au/

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solvitur ambulando….

Solvitur Ambulando

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March 12, 2014 · 2:20 pm

the little world of Don Camillo…

giovanni guareschi blurbCame across this bio for Italian author, Giovannino Guareschi in one of my father’s original copies of the Don Camillo books published in the 1950s, and loved it.

After my grandfather and my father, I’m now the third generation to be reading these sixty-year-old copies and treasure every yellowed page.

http://www.mondoguareschi.com/

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Homemade arancini with ragù alla Bolognese…

homemade aranciniIt is claimed that arancini originated in Sicily as far back as the 10th century. The balls of rice with various fillings are shaped, crumbed and fried, resembling an orange – the Italian for orange being arancia. (Rice cooked the day before and cooled in the fridge works best.) In Messina, they can be more cone shaped, while in Naples they are pall’e riso (rice balls) apparently. I think ours (made 11 centuries later in Australia!) ended up being influenced a little by both cities.

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Cavolo nero…

Great to see cavolo nero  (black Tuscan cabbage)
amongst the produce exhibits at the local show
in the small Australian town of
Bangalow late last year…
cavolo nero

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il Corno in Caserta…

il corno in Caserta…this 13-metre high sculpture of the ancient amulet,
il Corno (to protect against the evil eye)
appeared in the middle of one night to gain attention regarding
the deterioration of the world heritage listed Palazzo Reale in Caserta,
and has since been creating some heated debate.

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the melanzane are here….

black capsicum, basil, eggplant and silverbeet picked from the vegie patch… to eggplant parmigiana.

Eggplant and capsciumEggplant parmigiana

Related articlethe melanzane are coming…

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Italian paper dolls…

I couldn’t resist this Italian paper doll book with regional costumes from all over Italy. Sofia and Ernesto are the names of the two paper dolls that come with it. I admit I haven’t come across paper dolls since playing with a 1960s set owned by one of my relatives a very long time ago in childhood. I think it was American and being from the sixties, the paper clothes it in were very groovy.

Italian paper dolls

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The melanzane are coming…

So far about half a dozen at last count in the vegie patch. Every day I see them getting a little larger. I cannot wait to cook them and am trying to think of different recipes – eggplant parmigiana, crumbed slices fritte, melanzane involtini, stuffed eggplant, melanzane in passata

Related articles…

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Togetherness and separateness within la famiglia…

…this family from le Marche were photographed by Mario Giacomelli during time he spent with them between 1964 and 1966 for his series, la buona terra – the good earth, in which his aim was to capture the story of work, of life, throughout the revolving seasons, and endlessly repeated throughout a lifetime.

la buona terra

Related article: Priests dancing in the snow

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After recent rains…

the coffee flowers are beginning to bud…

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“Dolcetto o scherzetto” ~ trick or treat

as night falls, the children may call…

{vintage paper cut – ‘if these walls could talk’}

…vigilia d’ognissanti ~ eve of all saints ~ halloween…

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‘alla fontana’ ~ to the fountain…

Civita d'Antino AbruzzoThe woman in the foreground carries two conche, the copper vessels traditionally used in Abruzzo to collect water from the village fountain for the household. Perhaps she was teaching the young girl to carry it back on her head (depicted by the women in the background). The village women used to do so to transport all manner of heavy things with evidence of this including iron bedheads and, on occasion in very steep areas, even coffins.

The artwork pictured here was painted in Civita d’Antino in Abruzzo by Danish painter, Kristian Zahrtmann (1843-1917) who first travelled to the mountain town of Civita d’Antino in June 1883. Zahrtmann came to consider it his second home as he was fascinated by “the life there, the strong Italian sun, the brightness of colours, and the exoticness of Catholic Church rites”.

He spent every summer from 1890 to 1911 in Civita d’Antino where he stayed with the Cerroni family, and was named an honorary citizen of the town in 1902. In Civita d’Antino, a memorial plaque to Zahrtmann is set into the wall of the Cerroni house near the town gate.

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Spring greens…

I know it’s a modest harvest yet I was thrilled to pick the first greens grown in our kitchen garden and make a salad for lunch with red and purple lettuce, parsley, basil and stevia leaves. I also added some cherry tomatoes (from the farmer’s market not the vegie patch, though I noticed the tomatoes I planted have some baby ones starting to form!)

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Pane Casereccio…

Pane Casereccio – delicious served warm – R made this Pugliese bread studded with salami and cheese, inspired after watching an old television series with Antonio Carluccio making it. I love how so many Italian recipes have been created to use leftovers.

For the recipe… http://www.antonio-carluccio.com/Pane_Casereccio

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Flight of the angel… il Volo dell’Angelo

Il Volo dell’Angelo… {the flight of the angel} – something a little different to do in Italy – ‘flying’ between the villages of Pietrapertosa and Castelmezzano in the Dolomites of Lucania, Basilicata.

  Apparently, you start 1020m above the ground with the flight covering 1415m and reaching speeds of up to 120 km/h. Not sure if I’m game!

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the art of birds…

“Birds don’t only use their beaks to build: they press their breasts against the inner wall to make it round, imprinting their shape on their home, an interior formed by the steady rhythm of their beating hearts.”

Janine Burke
from Nest: The Art of Birds

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Castrovillari, Calabria…

I first learnt of this town when reading Old Calabria by Norman Douglas (published 1915), and on the map it looked a good halfway point to stay between Palmi and Pompeii. This part of the old town reminded me of some of the lanes in Fossa, (not so the 40 degree heat at the time) and even though it appears not to have changed much over the years, the town was quite different to the one Douglas had encountered about a century before when brigands were still imprisoned in the castle.

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Late afternoon walks…

a beautiful end to a Sunday, walking along Obi Obi Creek, Maleny…

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Castel del Monte, Abruzzo…

  • Castel del Monte – “Fortress of the mountain”.

    Castel del Monte, Abruzzo

  • Evidence of the site first inhabited as early as the 11th century BC.
  • Visited and painted by artist and folklorist, Estella Canziani in 1913.
  • Birthplace of a distant cousin I was pleased to meet the last time I was in Italy.
  • Location where George Clooney was filmed in, “The American”.
  • In mid-August the town hosts the annual event, La Notte delle Streghe – The Night of the Witches, a late-night spectacle I really hope to see in the future.

Castel del Monte by Estella Canziani, 1913

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In the Land of Submarines…

by Tim Sharp

 

http://www.laserbeakman.com/

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The Dome…

The Dome 1977 Jeffrey SmartJeffrey Smart, 1921 – 2013.

 

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freshly, baked bread…

“…whenever the loaf is put on the table, few foods will produce such joy and delight in others as when freshly baked bread appears, the aroma of fresh memories rising with every slice, and all things – poetry and miracles, friends and family, food and love – for a short time are as they ought be: one.”

Richard Flanagan, from The Food of Love.

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Giro d’Italia…

It’s ‘Giro time’ again in Italy at the moment.  {4-26 May, 2013}

Took this photo near the finish line of the leg of the bike race that ended in L’Aquila in 2005. Hours of waiting… seconds of cyclists rushing past…

The winner of this leg was Italian rider, Danilo di Luca {from the Abruzzo}. He rode the 229 km stage from Frosinone to L’Aquila in 6 hrs, 1 min. Waiting in the crowd was quite an experience! {p.197 Mezza Italiana}

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Hotel open for bees…

Bee hotels… and also ladybirds, lacewings and other garden friends.

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eggs in purgatory…

At home when I was growing up, we sometimes ate eggs baked in leftover pasta sauce which we called, ‘eggs in tomato’, not quite as evocative as ‘eggs in purgatory’ that I later discovered this dish is also called.

I’ve been told it’s origins are in Napoli {although the Abruzzo claims it too} and it is said that the eggs are like the souls in purgatory who are caught between the tomatoes {purgatory} and trying to escape to heaven.

 

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Litografia di Maurits Cornelis Escher…

Goriano Sicoli, Abruzzi, 1929, by M.C. Escher (1898-1972), a Dutch graphic artist known for his woodcuts, lithographs, and mezzotints.

After finishing school, he traveled extensively in Italy, where he met his wife Jetta Umiker. They lived in Rome from 1924 until 1935, during which time Escher travelled throughout Italy, drawing and sketching for the various prints he would make when he returned home.

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a beautiful place to sit and read, or lie and daydream…

Painted by Estella Canziani (1887-1964) who wrote {as well as drew and painted the illustrations for} one of my favourite books on the Abruzzo about her 1913 travels – Through the Apennines & Lands of Abruzzi.

She painted this picture {oil on paper} from inside her house in London at 3 Palace Green in 1922. The white bird in the painting one of the many birds she rescued and cared for.

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Maremma sheepdogs and penguins…

Abruzzo postcard picturing Maremma SheepdogThe Maremma Sheepdog is indigenous to central Italy, particularly Abruzzo and the Maremma area in Tuscany and Lazio, and has been used for centuries by Italian shepherds to guard sheep from wolves.

Recently I discovered a project in Australia where Maremma Sheepdogs are protecting a penguin colony almost decimated by foxes, and under their protection the penguins are increasing in numbers. {The dogs also guard free-range chickens.} A little mezza italiana/ australiana perhaps…

To find out more visit the Middle Island Maremma and Penguin project

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little free libraries…

Love this concept of the ‘Little Free Library’ – “take a book, leave a book” structures built with recycled materials and popping up beside footpaths, coffee shops, houses and parks around the world….

http://www.littlefreelibrary.org/

little free libraries

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an edible bouquet…

il bouquet perfetto for Valentine’s Day
that by evening may become
dinner for two.

Recipe for carciofi alla romana…

Take four fresh artichokes.
Peel the tough outer leaves and remove the choke,
then trim the stem to about six centimetres.

Immerse in hot olive oil until golden brown and crisp.
{The artichoke will open like a flower.}
Serve piping hot, seasoned with salt and pepper.

On the side of the plate add a dollop of mascarpone
mixed with some lemon zest and
a couple of lemon wedges to squeeze over the carciofi.

Buon San Valentino!

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Popes, murder and Dante…

{Il Portale. Watercolour by Juan Alfredo Parisse.}

It was unexpected to hear of Pope Celestino V {1294} being spoken of in the media until I heard it was in relation to the decision by current Pope Benedict XVI to resign. Celestino aka Pietro del Morrone, a hermit monk who lived in caves in the Abruzzo’s mountains, instigated the building of the Santa Maria di Collemaggio cathedral in L’Aquila (entrance pictured), where he was crowned Pope in front of a crowd of 100,000, including Dante who referred to him in his epic poem, Inferno.

It’s thought the naive Celestine was chosen as a stooge for those in Vatican politics, and when he abdicated in 1294 after just five months, the next Pope, Boniface, took umbrage, and imprisoned him. Celestino was found dead in his cell with a nail-sized hole in his skull, alleged to have been murdered by Pope Boniface. {More from page 314 in Mezza Italiana.} No doubt Pope Benedict XVI will enjoy a more relaxing retirement.

Related articles… Fossa sole…         una passeggiata…

 

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un amour des livres… a love of books

Miniature book art by French artist: Marc Giai-Miniet

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The beauty of walking in Italy…

…a fleeting glimpse down a narrow, side alley often reveals the unexpected and the beautiful. 

{Taken in Orvieto, Umbria.}

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Italian Christmas treats…

CaggionettiCaggionetti/calcionetti are traditional Italian Christmas treats particularly popular in Abruzzo. They have a filling of almonds, walnuts, chocolate, chickpeas, lemon zest, cinnamon and honey enclosed in paper-thin ravioli casings fried in white wine and olive oil then cooled and dusted with icing sugar.

Perfect for eating in front of a fire with nighttime snow falling outside… far from the heat and humidity that Brisbane promises for me this Christmas….

Merry Christmas! Buon Natale!

 

{Photo courtesy of Gabriella of Teramo, Abruzzo}
Find her recipe and step-by-step photographs here… http://ilrifugiodigabry.blogspot.com.au/2011/12/calcionetti.html

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the stillness of time…

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Lightly, lightly….

Life Behind by Maki Horanai

“It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them. I was so preposterously serious in those days…Lightly, lightly—it’s the best advice ever given me. So throw away your baggage and go forward. There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet, trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair. That’s why you must walk so lightly. Lightly, my darling.”

Aldous Huxley

From ‘Island’, 1962

 

Related articles: Watching Over

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Neve in Roccacaramanico…

I grew up with stories of villages in the Abruzzo being snowed in, sometimes the snow so high people couldn’t open the doors and had to climb out their windows. Hearing this in the heat of a subtropical summer in Australia, I could only try to imagine….


{Neve in Roccacaramanico. Photographer: Andrea Basciano.}  

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una passeggiata in italia…

Passeggiando Santo Stefano Sessanio by Juan Alfredo Parisse

~ a walk in Italy…

Costa Masciarelli, L’Aquila by Juan Alfredo Parisse

 

 

‘…success
unexpected in common hours.

Henry David Thoreau

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The need for a lie down…

…about seven hours into an Italian wedding. 

{Photographer: Giuseppe Leone, Sicily.}

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Next step in the coffee process… dehusking.

Each bean must be done by hand. Grazie mille to R for a great ‘dehusking’ effort over many nights in front of the television!!  {Many more than pictured here.}

Left – dried beans (seeds) from inside the coffee cherries.
Centre – the outer husks once removed.
Far right – the green beans…

… ready for roasting next!

Related articles…
Coffee bean harvest… (zoeboccabella.com)
Coffee beans drying in the sun… (zoeboccabella.com)

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the copper chocolate pot…

Among the Spanish paintings of royalty, religion, death and destruction at the Masterpieces from the Prado exhibition is a small portrait of a copper chocolate pot with its wooden whisk, pieces of cacao, bread, and biscuits shaped like churros.

Still life with chocolate service {Bodegón: servicio de chocolate}, 1770 was painted by Luis Meléndez {1715-1780} who was born in Naples and died in Madrid, a pauper, his paintings unappreciated, and owning only his pencils.

242 years later, among all the other talented artworks, it was his that stopped me still the longest.

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Coffee beans drying in the sun…

Next step in the coffee process – the beans (or seeds) from inside the coffee cherries have been washed and are now drying.

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Coffee bean harvest…

It’s coffee harvest time again… these we picked from our backyard tree. Then, by hand, R extracted the beans from inside the coffee cherries and the beans are now spread out on wide sieves drying.

Next comes the {lengthy!} husking process followed by the roasting, the grinding, and then the drinking!

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Cannoli, cantucci and cornetti…

Cannoli, cantucci and cornetti…   Pasticceria in Assisi.

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September 20, 2012 · 9:32 am

Italia at night…

….taken from the International Space Station above the Mediterranean Sea on 18 August 2012.
{The lights of Rome and Naples are clearly visible on the coast near the centre.}

 {Courtesy Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium, Australia.}

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Rogues, gargoyles and gallery….

Gargoyles, in their myriad forms include being carved to represent local heretics, controversialists, rogues, or personal enemies of the architect or building owner, particularly for ecclesiastical structures during the Middle Ages.

Photographer, Giuseppe Leone ~ known for his photography that ‘narrates’ life in Sicily, its traditions, monuments, landscapes and in particular, its people ~ has created a series that strives to match the faces of locals with gargoyles on nearby buildings.

Related article: the Italian wedding…

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The Strega Literary Prize (Premio Strega) in Italy…

Perhaps because my great-grandmother Maddalena was an Abruzzese village witch, there is something that appeals to me immensely that Italy’s most prestigious national literary prize, the Premio Strega is named ‘the witch prize’. In 1944 , Maria and Goffredo Bellonci began hosting, at their house in Rome, Sunday gatherings of writers and artists that became known as the Amici della Domenica, or ‘Sunday Friends’. This resulted in 1947 the Belloncis, together with Guido Alberti, owner of the Strega liqueur business, inaugurating a prize for fiction, the winner being chosen by the Sunday friends.

Winners include Italian writers such as Umberto Eco in 1981 for Il nome della rosa {In the Name of the Rose} and Giuseppe di Lampedusa posthumously in 1959 for Il gattopardo {The Leopard} – one of my favourite books.

Liquore Strega has been distilled since 1860 in the town of Benevento, located roughly between Rome and Naples, the place where witches from all over the world gathered (and still do at a certain time of year). There is an old legend, still very much alive, that this drink was a love potion witches created to forever unite couples who drank it. Strega liqueur continues to be tied to the sorcery of its origins. Some modern covens use the liqueur in their rites, burning it in bowls for various purposes.

More in Mezza Italiana in the chapters ~ The Village Witch p.137 and Witches’ Brew p.299.

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