Tag Archives: Italian migrant stories

Two dishes, from two regions and two bisnonne… Abruzzo and Calabria

When we cook the same dishes that our ancestors cooked it connects us to them, to our history and it also brings us back to something within ourselves that we mightn’t have thought of for some time or something we hadn’t yet discovered. Just the aroma of a dish cooking can release a trigger of deep memories that lets things rise up and take shape in us.

I grew up in Australia, far from where my great-grandmothers, Maddalena and Francesca lived in Italy. And yet, here I am, almost a century on, cooking the same dishes they cooked, a lovely connection to these two strong women. The dishes are maccheroni Calabrese (knitting needle pasta) and pasta alla chitarra (guitar pasta) made on a ‘chitarra box’ I got from Abruzzo. I sought to make sauces that reflected their history too. The maccheroni Calabrese (pasta rolled on a knitting needle for its shape) has a richer red sauce with melanzane and chillies that Francesca’s town of Palmi is known for. And the chitarra pasta has bitter, wild greens added to the passata, inspired by Maddalena walking hillsides near Fossa picking wild greens into her upturned apron and taking them back to cook with. It also has pecorino cheese on top because that part of Abruzzo is known for its sheep.

These dishes (pictured) are from my kitchen so they are a little rustic (as are their photos!) and mightn’t live up to those cooked by my bisnonne, but they made me feel happy and reminded me of those before and sometimes maybe that’s all we need when it comes to cooking.
Hope your next time cooking is delicious and joyful! 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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Some book news…

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

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Don’t know what it is, but just like seeing the sign, “spectacle maker” so much more than “optometrist”.

{And the café next door run by Abruzzese Italians has brilliant coffee.}

Castlemaine, Victoria.

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Mezza Italiana released in the US!

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

 

 

 

 

Mezza Italiana

 

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from Abruzzo to Australia…

Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar continues each weeknight on ABC Nightlife – thank you to all who’ve sent messages upon discovering the book – lovely to hear from you!

By chance, I came across this photograph when looking for something else for the next book and realised it might be the only one to show the family unit of Maddalena and Vitale and their two sons Elia (left) and Annibale/Joe (right) taken not long after they were reunited in Australia.

Financial hardship, separate migration, the Depression and WW2 forced Vitale and Maddalena apart for all but about three of their first 26 years of marriage, the boys without their father, and then Maddalena and Annibale apart for a decade after he migrated at 15. So lovely to see them reunited here. They remained close for the rest of their lives in Australia with Maddalena and Vitale even living with Annibale and his family for many years.

 

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My Nonni from Abruzzo….

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 

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From that first trip to Fossa…

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

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via dei Beati… and being almost home

Coming up this street in Fossa always feels like being ‘almost home’ whether returning from nearby L’Aquila or a long flight from Australia. For just around the next corner is my family’s house and while it has centuries of history, to me it also has that comforting feel like coming to stay at your grandparents’ house.

In recent years, this street was renamed via dei Beati for two saints born here, Bernardino in 1420 and Cesidio, 1873. But for me, this is also where Granny Maddalena stood not far from the church door you can see and watched her son, Annibale, then 15, walk away from her as he carried just one port to start his journey to Australia. It changed the course of our family history from then on, but his keeping a part of Fossa in his heart to one day share with us showed me that in a way it was part of us too. (For which, after resisting it a long time, I’m now very grateful!)

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Italian Christmas treats…

CaggionettiCaggionetti/calcionetti are traditional Italian Christmas treats particularly popular in Abruzzo (where my Granny Maddalena made them). 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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