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…
I was digging through recipes trying to find an Italian breakfast cake to serve my mom for Mother’s Day, when I realized that why would I cook or bake for the best cook and baker I know. It might actually be an insult. (The vintage ad image above is meant to be ironic! Just a note!)
So how does one celebrate an Italian mom on Mother’s Day or Feste della Mamma? Besides a small gift (that I can’t mention here right now), I’ll take the time to remember why Italian mothers are so great and hope my own mother is reading this.
1. The food. Lots of food.
2. Love. Lots and lots of love.
3. Passion. Whether in happiness or in madness, they give their all.
4. Her house is my house. It always feels like home.
5. Advice. They are full of it and always ready to listen.
Don’t take my word for it? Well, there’s been a lot of talk in the media lately about which cultures have the best mothers (Chinese and Jewish for example). Writer Joe Queenan from the Wall Street Journal penned “Why Italian Moms are the Best” and got quite the reaction from even more mothers that think their culture does it better. Here’s what he wrote:
I’m a little behind on the blog already this May – I’m celebrating three weddings, six birthdays, two mother’s days and one 40th anniversary so it’s a little busy. But that’s what comes with big Italian families and I love it just the same.
So I’m just going to go out there and say it. It’s my birthday today. Let’s not get into age (particularly the differences between Italian and Canadian birthdays, where the Italian one always puts me a year older), but let’s just say it’s a day to reflect on what has passed and what’s to come. This blog has been an adventure this year and there’s lots to come from it too. So let’s mix birthday with blogging and here’s what we get.
An Italian-Canadian girl’s birthday wish list:
1. I wish for the days of “just dropping by.” I remember a childhood when everyone – siblings, cousins, friends – just dropped by. My grandparent’s house always had a different car in the driveway and a lot of chatter on the back patio. It’s how I remember a lot of summers. It doesn’t seem like anyone just drops by anymore to anyone’s house or maybe I’m remembering with rose-coloured glasses. There’s always scheduling and calling, checking calendars. Maybe we’re all too busy or maybe it’s all just too much effort these days to get off track by a surprise visitor. But I wish for the days with a full house and people just coming by to chat. I wish that I could make my life open to that.