Thank you for joining me here throughout the year! Many of you have been here with me for a decade now and it’s a joy to connect with you through stories, cooking, gardening, old photos and of course, Italy. I’m very grateful to you all! The festive season for me has so far been a short ‘holiday at home’ with (mostly) big, blue skies, gardening, swimming, park picnics, cooking, catching up with those I can, and missing those I can’t. As always, the ‘bleeding heart’ vine is flowering right on time in Christmas (and Italian!) colours of red, white and green. There is panettone, Roger’s Xmas tree bread rolls and my cousins made lovely crostoli.
In these past few days leading up to Christmas, when in the backyard, I’ve caught drifting scents of delicious cooking from the kitchen of the Italian lady two doors down and it reminds me so much of Nanna Francesca’s cooking it squeezes my heart. This time can be wonderful and also very hard in various ways. There are those we look forward to seeing, those we wish we could, and those we remember. Again, thank you for being here together this year, especially for your comments, stories and all the ways you connect. I will be back at the desk bright and early at the start of the new year and will also be able to tell you more then about the next book out in 2022! Warmest wishes e Buon Anno! Zoe xx
Nonno Anni told me when he received an orange for Christmas during his childhood in the 1920s, he treasured it. I knew he and his Mum were poor and village life in Italy was hard at that time, especially with his father far away in Australia to seek work, but an orange… I couldn’t quite believe it when I found this out as a child in the 1970s and oranges were so easy to get then. But fresh oranges were considered treasures before refrigeration and faster transport. Especially at Christmas considering that since ancient times, oranges have been said to bring joy, good luck and to ward off evil. (What must Nonno Anni have thought once he had a whole display of oranges at his fruit shop and milk bar!)
So, with Christmas oranges in mind, I decided to bake an orange cake since it’s that time of year and it wasn’t until making it that I realised, this one cake of simple ingredients is also made up of elements from several generations… the Christmas orange story from Nonno’s Italian childhood, the cake tin well-used in baking for countless cake stalls and Australian country shows before my mother-in-law handed it onto us, the orange cake recipe in her mother’s 1930s cookbook, also passed on to us with affection. (And I love how the recipe’s first line is, three eggs and their weight in sugar…)
If I’m honest, Christmas isn’t always the easiest time for me as it feels bittersweet with the happiness of those present mingled with the quiet of those unable to be or now gone. But food is so special in that certain dishes can trigger those lovely memories of people dear to us no matter how long it may be since we’ve seen them and this year, I feel happy that oranges can bring that little bit of sunshine.
Warmest wishes and thank you for your lovely support and messages throughout the year. May 2020 be filled with light and some happiness no matter what else it may bring! Wishing you tante belle cose – many beautiful things, Zoe xx
Christmas Eve, 1970s, Nonno Anni shouting, ‘Everyone get ready!’, Nanna Francesca already with tears in her eyes, family crowding onto the plastic runner over the carpet in my grandparents’ narrow hallway, the clunky, black, Bakelite corded phone ringing with that booked international call to relatives faraway in Italy. A few precious, expensive minutes to talk at a time when overseas holidays weren’t so common or affordable and relatives far away were sometimes never able to be seen again.
Wishing you much happiness at this time whether near or far, however large or small your day may be, hope the coming year is wonderful! Thank you for all your messages and support over this past year, it really means a lot to hear from you. Zoë xx
(Top left, lane outside Fossa house 1970s, and below, town hall Xmas tree Brisbane same time.)