Tag Archives: Italian family life

Four generations…

I have this one treasured photo with three generations of the Boccabella men in my life – Dad, Nonno Anni, Bisnonno Vitale (and my zio).

When I was born, I was the first girl in centuries of generations in my Boccabella line and very fortunate to have these older men around me. Men who showed me kindness, love, respect and generosity, who never hit or yelled, worked very hard and who could also be infuriatingly stubborn at times! Am very proud to share their name and their stories.

Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads and tight hugs to those missing Dads (and also Grandpas and Great-Granddads as I do too). With much love, Zoë xx

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Sempre avanti…

My Bisnonna, Granny Maddalena’s birthday was today and by complete coincidence, this morning I was talking to one of her relatives in Italy of her stories that I’m writing about. Like many of her era, Maddalena’s life was shaped by hard-earned experience as she lived through two wars, an earthquake, a pandemic, the depression and bringing up her sons single-handedly before she could join her husband in Australia.

I guess it’s no surprise there’s a saying among Italian Nonnas – ‘Sempre avanti’ – no matter what happens, keep looking ahead, keep going. The strength and braveness of these older women is remarkable. (Granny Maddalena still cheerful and cheeky in her late 80s.)
Sempre avanti! xxx

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From one hand to another…

I’m so thrilled that, Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar has now been translated and published in braille. In a way, the story is completing a lovely circle in travelling from my mind to be written by hand then to be read by hand and to another mind.

Thank you to all those at Braille House who made this possible. It really feels very special! 💙 Zoe xx

[Image descriptions: Image 1: blue book cover with braille along the spine and a black and white photo of Joe and Francesca and their little boy, Remo in front of their 1950s milk bar.
Image 2: a braille alphabet.]

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Polpette and peas in gravy…

Polpette and peas in gravy, such an ‘Australitaliano’ combination – meatballs and peas in tomato sauce. Comfort food at its best. Nanna Francesca cooked this a lot (and when I was a kid, I found it a bit confusing that, being southern Italian, she called the tomato passata or sugo – ‘gravy’ considering my Australian Mum called gravy a deep-brown liquid accompanying a roast). Nanna Francesca would’ve been 95 today so it seems fitting to cook her polpette e piselli in gravy. We always celebrated her birthday on the 12th, the day she was born though the official date on her birth certificate was the 19th (lodged late as her parents argued who to name her after). Tradition won, as did her father, and being the first-born, Francesca was named after her paternal grandmother.

This photograph of Nanna Francesca isn’t the clearest unfortunately, but she just looks so natural and happy in it, I couldn’t go past it. It’s from the 1960s and I love how the flowers she holds look like they’re from a garden rather than bought. It seemed all her life she worked so hard – at the farm, at home, in the fruit shop and milk bar, at the ANFE club and always looking after family. And she spent many hours at the stove cooking for four generations of us. It’s lovely to see her dressed to go out and given some flowers.

While it’s almost twenty years she’s been gone, I feel lucky to have had her in my life for the time I did and of course, the memory of our loved ones lives on, especially when we cook the dishes they cooked. (I’ve included the recipe that was printed in Delicious magazine and yes, the dish they made for the article photo is much more elegant than my at home version you see pictured here!)

Buon compleanno a mia Nonna, with love and recognition for all your love and hard work – and your polpette and peas in gravy! xx

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Milk Bar… open 7 days

Thinking of all those volunteering and working over this time when many get to take a break. It still amazes me how my grandparents opened their milk bar and fruit shop 7 days a week from early morning ‘til late at night with only two days a year off – for 20 years straight! And then ‘scaled back’ to 5 days a week for the following years.

Nonno Anni worked for 36 years before his first holiday and Nanna Francesca wasn’t far behind. It makes me feel blessed and so grateful to write for a living, something I dreamed of from when I was 7 and found out the stories that I loved writing could actually be a job.

Thank you for your lovely comments and messages throughout the year. It is always wonderful to hear from you. Fingers crossed I have some book news I can share with you in 2020! In the meantime, whether you are working, volunteering or taking time out over this time, please stay safe and all the very best for the coming year. Tante belle cose! Zoë xx

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Tanti auguri a zio Vincenzo… ottant’anni

Happy 80th Birthday to my great uncle, Vince. Lovely to celebrate this milestone with him on the weekend. To me, he’s always been a gentle soul and am so glad we’ve stayed close.

A wonderful ballroom dancer, loves local history and photography, was born and grew up on the family’s Applethorpe farm and I also have great memories of him working hard on tomato day bottling the passata, making Italian biscuits with Nanna Francesca and looking like an Italian Elvis with that wonderful hair slicked back.

Older members of a family are so important and I never tire of sitting listening to the old stories and memories. Buon Compleanno Vincenzo! Tante belle cose. xx

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