Tag Archives: Italian migrant life

Epiphany, la Befana and pizze fritte…

January 6th – Epiphany and the visit of la Befana, the wise men and women and marking the end of 12 days of Christmas. Whatever your beliefs, ‘epiphany’ is a lovely word with connotations of insight, discovery and a sudden understanding of something that is very important to you.

Am pleased to say that la Befana brought my nephew some little toys rather than coal last night and also that she managed to find her way from Italy to Australia!

In another Italian tradition… after learning about Abruzzese pizze fritte – its song and secret recipe handed down from mother-to-daughter (and sometimes son), but only on New Year’s Eve – Roger and I decided to end the year by cooking these.

Except, not knowing all of the secret recipe that contains anise and saffron, we decided to make our own version with toppings of basil pesto and crispy prosciutto, bufala di mozzarella, melanzane, tomato and basilico leaves from the garden. The fritte were also cooked in a wok and finished in the oven, which worked well, but isn’t quite traditional! Yet they were delicious and I loved thinking about their connection with Abruzzo.

Wise women and men arrive on Epiphany. Fresco painted in 1303 by Giotto and his team of painters, Scrovegni Chapel, Padua, Veneto Italy.

And thinking about this today, I guess I had an epiphany of sorts that it doesn’t matter if something sometimes isn’t ‘perfectly traditional’. The fact I’ve grown up on the other side of the world from the Italy of my ancestors and still treasure the centuries-old traditions and recipes is still expressing a love and honour for them, the past and Italia. If it otherwise means not following a tradition at all because it’s too hard or the recipe is lost, perhaps it’s okay to adapt them at times. For that becomes part of our history too, all of us adapting here and there along the way over the years, while still understanding what is important overall. Tanti auguri di felicità per l’Epifania! Many wishes of happiness for Epiphany! xxx

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At the end of the year…

“On Boxing Day, Annibale, Francesca and the others loaded the back of the Chevrolet with cold drinks, some roast chickens and a couple of large watermelons. After several years of keeping the fruit shop and milk bar open almost every day, Annibale had decided they’d close for a couple of days over Christmas and the family would head to the beach for the day…

They chose a grassy spot in the stippled shade of a Norfolk Pine and set out the Esky on top of an old canvas tarpaulin. Maddalena and Vitale sat on fold-out chairs in the shade while everyone else headed for the beach. The sand was rough with bits of broken shell underfoot but it was a perfect day for the seaside, warm, with little wind, sunlight glinting on the water. Francesca hadn’t stood on a beach since her childhood in Palmi. Just the sound of the gentle waves breaking in little bubbly ripples around her feet brought a smile. None of them could swim but they only went in waist-deep, crouching and talking, ducking under at times to cool their heads.

At noon, Maddalena waved everyone in, and they traipsed up the beach for lunch. Towels wrapped about their waists, they sat on the edge of the tarpaulin, feet caked with wet sand sticking out onto the grass. Everyone devoured pieces of roast chicken, licking salt and grease from their fingers, before biting into slices of watermelon, the sugary juice flooding their mouths. Remo and a few of the young migrants who’d come with them competed in how far they could shoot black seeds from between their lips onto the grass.

After lunch, while the others went to get an ice cream or for another dip in the sea, Annibale lay back on the tarp snoozing, one arm flung over his eyes. The waves slapped with calming monotony. Children shrieked in their games along the sand. Seagulls strolled, squabbled and scooped water into their beaks at the water’s edge. With a chuckle, Francesca took a photo as Annibale dozed, unaware. Then she sat down next to him, watching Remo and Lorenzo building a sandcastle with a moat. There was no way the incoming tide would fill it until they’d long gone back to Brisbane. Francesca felt so happy being at a beach again she didn’t want it to end.”

From, Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar.

(Nonno Anni at Suttons Beach, Redcliffe.)

Like so many migrants running their own businesses, for years, my grandparents worked every day, including nights and weekends to keep their fruit shop and milk bar open from 7am to 11pm, and after several years of no holidays at all, only had a one-day holiday at the beach each year for decades. I will forever be inspired by their work ethic and have so much respect for all those migrants working hard in the same situation today. Grazie con molto rispetto. Zoë xx

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Bisnonna Francesca in her orchards, early 1950s…

I never usually know what ‘international day’ it is but happened to see that today it’s in honour of rural women, so thought I’d share with you this rare photo of my great-grandmother taken of her alone.

For much of her life she worked on their fruit farm at Applethorpe, also keeping it going for a time with her young children after her husband suddenly died aged 54. I believe the only holiday she ever really had was on the ship journey she took from Italy to Australia in 1934. She was a hard worker, determined, a loyal wife and raised three children. Sadly, she was also to die young at just 50, only a couple of years after her husband.

I love that in this picture it appears like a shaft of light is falling across her. I also love that this is the only one of her in bare feet. xxx

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Water… and figs

Our two birdbaths and various ground dishes about the place are being visited and almost emptied every day by both day and night visitors to the garden. 😊🐦🐝🐞🐾

And the fig update is… the tree net has certainly worked with several of these beauties about ready for picking. We have tank water and are using it sparingly so it’s incredible how generous nature can still be despite the heat, the dry, the smoke and hot winds. Please send us all a decent drop of rain soon… but not floods!! 🌿

(Previous fig tree post.)

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When the past catches you…

Doing things like an Italian you’d never have thought you would when growing up…

“Putting on the tree net to protect the figs.”

Yes, I did this last weekend and those familiar with Mezza Italiana will know there was a time I would never have imagined myself doing so. (Not sure my modest tree and net is any match for Nonno Anni’s past efforts! Although I think Roger’s makeshift stake of a star picket and old piece of hose is in keeping with honouring making do and not letting anything go to waste – no matter how it looks!) 😁😊💛

 

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Saluti a Nonno Anni…

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

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Small moments of beauty

Granny Maddalena harvesting from her vegie garden before going inside to cook for all the family. Sometimes it’s the simplest things…

#worldkindessday

 

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the “good” cabinet….

The “good” cabinet – filled with items only to be used for special guests, certainly never for family. These were Nanna Francesca’s modest, glass-fronted cabinets of hi-ball glasses, espresso cups, coffee pots and bonbonniere of figurines and sugared almonds (left) in the late 60s and (right) in the early 70s with me, Mum and Nanna Francesca (same Christmas tree).

By then, my grandparents had an additional “good” cabinet and covered the VJ walls of their Queenslander house in fibro sheets painted with white, high-gloss for a “fresh, clean look” (p.6 Mezza Italiana).

And yes, this was the era of the plastic hallway runner over the carpet. What I’d give to be able to see it all again! The cabinets themselves were lost in Brisbane’s 2011 flood but below right are some items from them I managed to salvage beforehand (they don’t look Italian at all?!!) haha. And the same clock now sits in my living room. Something nice about seeing it each day knowing it was in my grandparents’ living room all those years.

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