I’ve already missed a bunch of great events that took place this last weekend, but I had my own Italian heritage experience. Both my grandparents on my father’s side passed away last year and the past weekend saw the family gather together to empty and sell their house. It was the house they bought when they came to Canada so emotions were high and every item had a meaning. The more we went through and discovered, the more I got a taste of my own Italian heritage – plates that were first bought when they arrived in Canada, a trunk that came from New York where my great grandfather landed, shoemaker’s tools from my grandfather’s first profession, damigiane and mason jars in the cantina and so on.
Having the time to consider my grandparent’s life experiences made me realize how inspiring it is to be part of a family that had brave members that started a new life here in Canada. Our great grandparents, grandparents and parents are leaders in our families, not only for their ages, but for what they did to bring our families and lives the change that they did.
There is much to be inspired by within the Italian Canadian community, not just from our families but from our community leaders and I’m so happy to see many events within Italian Heritage Month that focus on just that.
The one I’m most excited about – Inspire 2012! Last year, a group of Italian-Canadian business and cultural leaders came together to offer Inspire, an event where youth can hear and interact with the life experiences of successful Italian Canadians. The event had such great turnout that it was also run in smaller venues at three universities in Ontario. The large event is back this year and open to youth of all communities.
The stories, advice and experience of the speakers will give youth the opportunity to learn, aspire and be inspired to motivate change in their own lives. This year’s event, which is free and held on June 17th in Vaughan, features Rick Campanelli of MuchMusic and ETCanada fame; Dr. Jonathan Cardella a vascular and endovascular surgeon; Raine Maida the founding member and lead singer of Our Lady Peace; award-winning reporter Sue Sgambati; and business leader Frank Carnevale.
The event is growing from the 150 audience members last year and has attracted large sponsors like Scotiabank and The Canadian Italian Business Professionals Association, Hilton in Vaughan, Ferrero Canada, GEOX Canada, Marketwire, Longos, Pizza Nova, Molisana Imports and more. Some of the sponsors are even offering internship opportunities to participants.
I’m excited to hear inspiring stories from Italian Canadians and will definitely be there. Join me at Inspire 2012 – all you need to do is register online and show up on June 17th. Happy Italian Heritage Month!
May was a whirlwind of family events and weddings of friends. The weekends were taken up with presents and cakes and dancing and while I was really exhausted as this month came to an end, I didn’t mind it a bit. But I did want some time to ourselves to get the house back in order. We had also, in cooking quickly all month, emptied some containers of food in the freezer including our fresh pasta (even the spelt pasta). So we finally carved out some time to make fresh homemade pasta.
But we wouldn’t be Italian if we didn’t over do it a little bit. And since my husband’s parents have a farm full of chickens, ducks and geese, we had all sorts of eggs in our fridge. Put the two together and we made “Papara Pasta” (papara meaning duck in Calabrese dialect).
15 cups of flour
1/2 tablespoon salt
One goose egg, six duck eggs, four chicken eggs
You can see from the picture just how large that goose egg is (it’s about equal to three normal chicken eggs). The smaller, darker six eggs are from the ducks, the remainder are Andalusian chicken eggs. The eggs are so fresh, and free range, that the yolks were nearly orange and the pasta turned out a dark yellow. Ingredients for a “normal” batch is also included below. No matter the quantity you set out to make, the process is the same. Although be warned, if you’re crazy enough to make a big batch like us, make sure you have someone with serious arm muscles on hand for the kneading part.
Every month, I’ll cover the online news and items of interest to Italian-Canadians collected from Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs, online newspapers and more.
A lot of planting went on this last long weekend, including in my own garden and in my parents’. In the process, I ended up spending some time with a younger cousin, teaching her Italian words for the vegetables my mother was diligently preparing to sow. It was a moment that made me consider, and I consider it fairly often, how much I know and don’t know about communicating in Italian.
At home, my grandparents spoke almost entirely in Italian. My parents a mixture of English and Italian though I always answered in English. In grade school, my parents enrolled me in Saturday morning Italian school (I think I still have the workbooks somewhere). In high school I became uninterested in it all. In University, I took courses in Italian trying to gain it back. As a result I can understand Italian fluently, I have written 20 page essays in Italian but my pronunciation is limited so I don’t speak it except in single words here and there. I’m at a loss of how to fix this, or how it came to be, but I do intensely feel as though it mars my connection with my heritage. I’m apparently not alone in this thinking.
Recently, BBC Radio 4 broadcasted an interesting show titled “Losing your Parents’ Language” that interviewed immigrants to Britain and their expanding generations about growing up with parents who have a different language, what it is like to have a language barrier within a family and those trying to keep languages alive.
One of the more interesting items in the piece is the poem “Mother Tongue” by poet Dean Atta. His mother, born in Britain from Greek parents, spoke to her parents in Greek but her children in English. The language barrier was tough on Dean, who often felt like an outsider when his grandparents were around or on trips to Greece. The poem repeats the idea that “our mother has swallowed her tongue.” Of his trips back to Greece with his family, Dean writes:
Made in England, we’re half this and half that
But they could more easily overlook that fact
If we could speak with our mother’s tongue
Not let our skin speak for us
The weather is looking good (20 degrees+ from here on in!) and we have neighbours that cook everything on the barbeque. If you are outside enjoying the weather, you are also smelling their dinner. So we decided to top their hamburgers last weekend with pizza on the barbeque. We went with our standard pizza dough recipe with a few twists.
Besides getting that slightly charred thin crust, I love pizzas off of pizza stones (or ideally from real pizza ovens) for that grainy flour texture on the bottom of the pizza and the sound of the paddle removing it from the stone. It reminds me of my parent’s restaurant, sold years ago now, where pizzas came fast and furious from the ovens. There’s something about the smell and sounds of pizza straight from the pizza oven that is ingrained in my memory and heart. Trying out our new pizza stone on the barbeque brought back memories and brought the neighbours over to ask what we were cooking!
40 grams of yeast (or 2 packages of instant yeast)
1 cup of lukewarm water
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 cups flour (plus extra for dusting)
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp olive oil (plus extra for rising process)
It’s a rainy day, so it’s a good day to look back and reflect. Lucky for me, I’ve found a great trove of vintage Italian-Canadian photos to check out and share with you. Simon Fraser University offers a wealth of images, audio and video that gives a snippet of what life was like for early Italian immigrants to Canada. Here’s a few and there’s more to come…