Off to the beach! This is one of my favourite photographs taken by Gina Lollobrigida that I thought I’d share in her memory following her death, aged 95, this week. To me, her photojournalism is as important as her acting career and I love how it captures lovely moments of the ‘ordinary’ in ‘everyday’ people’s lives.
This photo is from Lollobrigida’s book, Italia Mia, and the copy I have was originally printed in 1973, making it 50 years old. I’ll also be turning 50 this year (which I still can’t quite believe!) and it makes me realise how, at different stages of your life, time can pass both slowly and then very swiftly!
So many elements of this photo evoke something in my own past. Going to the beach as a child with Nonno Anni and Nanna Francesca (in their ute not a Vespa!) The same hat Nonno Anni sometimes wore. A similar basket bag Nanna Francesca carried. And then, there are the woman’s shoes – shoes that in my life I have seen so many Italian women wearing, in both Italy and Australia. I don’t know what it is but seeing small, broad, olive-skinned feet in these sensible yet stylish shoes is so lovely and comforting, evoking memories of Italian kitchens, women at the market, Nanna Francesca opening her purse to give me forty cents to buy an ice block. Incredible how one photograph can capture in that split second so much that can still stay with you half a century later. Vale Gina! xx
Spaghetti squash… a sunny winter vegetable. It grows on a vine like pumpkin and has yellow, star-shaped blossoms that only open for one day. Love how, once tender, you can gently fork the strands from the sides to create spaghetti in its own bowl.
I never encountered spaghetti squash when growing up. And when it came to spaghetti pasta, when I was a child in the 1970s, at home we mostly had fettucine not spaghetti. Going to Australian friends’ houses I envied how they had spaghetti and added bolognaise sauce on top. I felt self-conscious that at my house we had fettucine with my grandparents’ homemade passata mixed all through and twirled it onto a fork. I’d get tied up in knots about doing anything ‘different’ and not fitting in.
Now I think it’s wonderful that Australia having migrants from more than two hundred countries also means people cooking and sharing more than two hundred traditional cuisines and that’s as well as our First Australians’ rich culture of food and cooking. It’s said that different groups often come to be accepted when their food becomes known, enjoyed and sought after. To think, once spaghetti was so strange and foreign to some and now it’s such a beloved dish in all its forms. Hopefully there are now kids with Italian ancestry happily twirling their spaghetti in front of their friends and even teaching them to do so too. Maybe even with spaghetti squash! Zoë x 💛🍝
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
Whether this time for you is about faith, new happenings or taking stock with the changing of the seasons, I hope it brings you much happiness.
This article (pictured) appeared in a magazine a few years back in a feature looking at how French, Greek and Italian Easters were celebrated in Australia. I always feel a bit shy having my photo taken for these things and the main part of this photo is the Colomba, or Italian Easter cake in the shape of a dove that sits on the table in front of me. (I recall the photo shoot was weeks before Easter and it was difficult to get hold of one then!)
Colomba cakes are mostly bought and Nanna Francesca used to make a more modest Easter bread with hard-boiled eggs baked into it. This year I broke with tradition and made an ‘Easter lasagne’ for the family. It has been a rainy day so it seemed the thing to cook.
As for the rest of the Easter weekend, after it being very busy so far and with more rain to come, hopefully it will be dolce far niente, ‘the sweetness of doing nothing’. 😉 Tante belle cose! Zoe xx
Brutti ma buoni (ugly but good – hopefully!) 😄
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.)
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
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.)
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.