The shortest day of the year and the garden’s winter light seems crisper, a dryness to the cool air. As I get older, I realise more and more my gardening is taking on aspects of the Nonnos and Nonnas among us, as if by osmosis… checking each day, touching the plant leaves, saving seeds, happiness at seeing healthy worms in the freshly turned over soil. Perhaps one day I’ll even start planting by the moon like many Italian gardeners do, instead of plonking plants in and hoping for the best.
Mandarins and rosemary are reigning in the vegie patch at present. I’m soon to pick my first mandarin for the season and each day keenly check their growing blush of orange. Meanwhile, the rosemary is like a forest and as well as using it in cooking, I’m starting to put rosemary wands in flower vases and love their scent when I touch them while going past.
There’s an Italian saying… where rosemary bushes grow large and bloom, the woman rules the house. I’m not sure about that, although it might make Roger laugh, I’m sure! But I do love how it makes me think of Nanna Francesca’s rosemary shrub and how my Mum grew it too. They were both strong yet gentle as needed be, forte e gentile, and if those qualities rule a house, then so be it. Happy winter solstice! Zoe xx
So pleased I can share with you that Mezza Italiana is going to be broadcast on ABC radio’s, Nightlife from early December and into January. The audio book is voiced by actor and voice-over artist, Marcella Russo, who was fantastic to work with. I also recently found out that, Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar is to be translated into braille, which is a wonderful surprise. A few years back, I had the opportunity to do a literary talk at a luncheon at NSW Parliament House to support the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children and I’m really thrilled that this translation has come about.
In other book news I’m gradually coming toward the end of what has been a massive project of writing two books back-to-back including a lot of research over the past few years. I’m not yet sure what effect the current pandemic situation is going to have on this and to be honest it does feel a bit overwhelming and uncertain to be in the arts at present, but when the time comes that I have more news I can share with you, I will do so straightaway! In the meantime, I hope you are well, especially those who have been enduring longer lockdowns than others. My heart and thoughts stay with you and am wishing you hope, more fortitude and some light in your day, even if it is something as small and special as a bird popping by the window. In bocca al lupo. Zoe xx
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
It’s Nonno Anni’s birthday in a few days so there was once a time when all the family would be getting together this weekend at my grandparents’ house. Several tables would be pushed together, Nanna Francesca would cook huge bowls of pasta and either polpette or cotolette, and of course there’d be cake, champagne and maybe Franjelico, or Sambuca with a coffee bean lit on top.
Although Nonno Anni has been gone some while now, I still miss him terribly but I’m so grateful for the times we had and so on October 21st will raise a glass, or a polpette, to Annibale (Joe) who continues to inspire me. xxx
(For the record, that air-conditioner behind Nonno Anni in this photo is the one I wrote about that Nanna Francesca refused to let me turn on even on the hottest days because it created a ‘cold draught’!!) 😊
Buon compleanno, Nonno, con amore sempre. Tante cose belle. Zoë xx
Came across this in an old, cardboard box of photographs of my grandmother’s:
Fossa, 1975 – Nonno Anni looking melancholy (his first time there again since 1939), and Nanna Francesca, sleeves rolled, her usual harried look when about to get back to a pot on the stove or the washing or something. So very them.
Have kept it in a frame on my wall and whenever I wish I could seek their advice or miss just having a chat, it’s a comfort to remember how they were at times. (I think Nanna Francesca had almost this same look peering from the doorway when I arrived in Fossa for the first time 20 years later!!) xx
Mezza Italiana has been released in paperback in the US! With many thanks to HarperCollins 360, Mezza is now available at US bookstores, online or to order in.
So lovely and incredible to think this book that was first written on a kitchen table in Italy has made its way across another ocean! Thank you for embracing it!
Tante belle cose, Zoë xx
Life in Abruzzo is currently doing a series called, My Nonni from Abruzzo that looks at how such migrant heritage may reach well beyond its original Italian borders to other areas of the world through the influence of grandparents. Such a pleasure to be asked to contribute and be among these family stories.
If you’d like to read the article you may do so here… My Nonni from Abruzzo
Buon anno a tutti and warmest wishes!
The new year was generally start of harvest time at my family’s Applethorpe farm, with various fruit and vegetable picking over the first four months or so. Seeing photographs of that time, I’m taken by the generous camaraderie that comes across among the hard work and summer heat, especially knowing family and friends came from near and far to help my great-grandmother, Cesca and her youngest two left alone on their farm after her husband Mico’s sudden death at fifty-three.
At my desk again for the first time this year, while I await the next step on book three I am making a start to some research, a bit like ‘harvesting’ snippets and stories, that I hope (and I can’t believe I am writing this) will become book four!! Again, best wishes for the year and tante belle cose. xx
With Nanna Francesca and Nonno Anni outside the family house in Fossa when I arrived there for the first time all those years ago (bearing in mind by then I’d been travelling and living out of a backpack for several months!!)
Little did I know how much this first trip to see where in Italy my family came from would come to have such an effect, and when this was taken I certainly didn’t imagine that Mezza and Joe’s would follow. Have just completed work on the next book (fingers crossed!) and wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for joining me here along the way. It’s so lovely to have your support and to know you a little through your messages. Thank you!! Xx