Today we welcome a guest post from Abril Liberatori, a doctoral candidate in the Department of History at York University. Her dissertation explores immigrants from the Campania region in Italy who migrated to Canada in the post-World War II period. She aims to compare Campani immigrants’ experiences in Ontario and Buenos Aires. (Photo above: Family birthday party for the author’s grandfather. Buenos Aires, 1941. Author’s private collection.)
People in Buenos Aires refer to themselves as ‘descended from the ships,’ a poetic way of saying that the city is founded on the backs of immigrants. My own ancestors were newcomers there once, when they crossed the Atlantic from the small villages of Campania into the then-bustling and promising South American country. Many of my ancestors’ friends and families ended up in Canada and the United States, and so these waves of migration developed networks of families scattered across the globe. Those networks were resilient and strong. Families across the Americas kept in touch with their relatives in their hometowns and abroad. They wrote letters, sent photographs and mailed remittances. These networks were so strong that they lasted years, sometimes even decades. So, as a fifth-generation ‘Italian’ (can I even call myself that?), I grew up feeling that migration was an important aspect of my identity.
When I was six years old, my parents moved our family from Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Toronto. The experience was one of the defining moments of my life. But migration was not a new concept for me, in fact it has long been a part of who I am.
As far back as my memory permits, I remember my grandfather mapping our family tree. Over dinner tables I would trace my fingers over browned photographs, sleuthing to find the same features I saw in the mirror. I would pore over charts and tables of endless ancestors, seeing the same names over and over again. I would hear stories of heroes, and pioneers, sinners and workers. I was young, but I knew my family’s stories well. Later, as an immigrant to Canada myself, I reveled in the distant adventures of those who looked so much like me and lived such similar experiences. To this day, those family stories continue to be etched in me. Migration, it seems, defines me.
In a way, I believe migration defines many of us. In a country that allows us to celebrate the multiple aspects of our identity, many of us connect with our ancestors’ migration histories (or even our own) as vital aspects of who we are. Many of us have family in different parts of the world. My project is an attempt to trace the migration stories of these Campani families that are spread throughout different countries, but who have their hometowns, and their experiences of migration, in common. From my own family’s roots, I have developed a passionate interest in the migration stories of migrants from Campania. I find it fascinating that these family ties continue to survive across decades and continents. I would like to create a space where those stories can come together.
From my dinner table to yours! If you or your ancestors are from the Campania region and you would like to share your migration story with me, I would love to hear from you. Please contact me directly at email@example.com.
I look forward to hearing your story!
I’m ending out 2013 with a two-in-one post: a traditional recipe that tries out something new AND a giveaway! Get ready to enter to win a great prize from Catelli Pasta!
We start by mixing the old with the new, just in time for New Years. With more and more frequency, we’re encountering dinner guests to our house who must avoid gluten (a protein composite found in foods processed from wheat and some other grains). That means our quick go-to pasta recipes are out and our homemade pasta is definitely not an option. In order to enjoy our pasta dinners, we’ve had guests actually bring their own gluten-free pasta to dinner, which is unacceptable to us as hosts. So we’ve been searching out pasta options for our guests and Catelli recently shared their Catelli Gluten Free Pasta with me to try. It is made with rice, corn and quinoa and is produced in a dedicated gluten free facility, so I can guarantee my guests a meal they don’t have to worry about.
A good pasta has to hold up to a traditional recipe, so I tried it with Sicilian Anchovy Pasta. The pasta definitely has the right taste, it’s very close to traditional white/wheat pasta, so you and your guests shouldn’t notice a taste difference. The cooking time is much quicker than “regular” pasta so be sure to use the timing on the box and keep it “al dente” (still firm, but not hard). As with most gluten-free pastas, when overcooked, the pasta may begin to break apart. Time it well, like with this recipe below, and you’ll have no problems.
If you like this recipe, or have one of your own you want to try out, you are in luck!
The good folks at Catelli are offering two lucky readers of this blog a Catelli prize pack: 12 boxes of pasta for you to enjoy at home!
To enter to win: Leave a comment on this blog post about what new recipes or ingredients you are going to try in the new year by January 6.
Want a second entry? If you are a subscriber, or sign up now to be a subscriber to An Italian-Canadian Life, your name will be entered in the draw twice. Use the Subscribe form at the top, right hand side of the blog (enter the same email address that you use to leave your comment).
A winner will be chosen, using a random generator, on January 6 at midnight. Enjoy the recipe and I’m looking forward to your entries!
Sicilian Anchovy Pasta
340g pasta (I used Catelli Gluten-Free Spaghetti and served four)
2 cloves of garlic
10 anchovy fillets
dried hot pepper flakes
Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
The end of December marks the second anniversary of An Italian-Canadian Life. When I started the blog, I committed to evaluating its’ success every year. I’ve had another great year of fun on the blog and judging by the comments and emails I get from readers, I think it should continue. You tell me you love the recipes, the memories and the opportunity to build community. Also, this year the blog:
- received a Canolo Award as an Authentic Italian Food Blogger
- was featured on CHIN Radio
- had recipes featured on Foodgawker and TasteSpotting
- was able to hold a few contests (and there’s still another coming up!) and be a judge for other online contests
- had some amazing guest bloggers share their writing and photos with us.
But what matters most are the posts that resonate with readers and friends. So here’s a look back at the top five posts, based on views, that were published in 2013. Not surprisingly, recipes are the most popular posts, though posts about Italian culture and traditions aren’t far behind. If you have any requests for posts in 2014, let me know in the comments!
Top 5 posts of 2013
Ciambella (or chiambella) is a word used for pretty much anything round with a hole in the middle really, even cakes appear with this name. However, this is a bread that is a crunchy-on-the-outside, chewy-in-the-middle, great-for-dipping-or-with-cheese kind of bread that I always like to have in the house. My mother started making this bread after getting the recipe from a friend and it’s become one of my family favourites.
Cookies made in a roll or log shape are common among old-fashioned Italian cookie recipes. I’ve had variations of this cookie but in this recipe I mixed two of my favourite things together. My mother makes this log roll with lemon pie filling in the middle and it tastes divine! I used her dough recipe and substituted the lemon filling for Nutella and it is a great alternative. The orange flavouring of the dough mixes well with the chocolate and is a play on the classic bread and Nutella snack.
Not all desserts are meant to be tooth-achingly sweet. And old Italian recipes are prime examples of slightly sweet treats that meet the sweet tooth craving without going clowingly over the edge. As a matter of necessity of course, many of the old recipes are sweetened by nothing more than grape must or honey, like this family favourite is. Mostaccioli were made by my grandmother and great aunts regularly and while they look like biscotti, they are soft and moist as they don’t go through the second baking process.
Limoncello has long been produced in southern Italy and, in fact, is the second-most popular liqueur in Italy. It’s made by steeping lemon zest in alcohol and mixing in a simple syrup. You can use this method to make a number of different types of liqueurs (hazelnut, coffee, orange, etc.) as long as you get your quantities and steeping times just right. Limoncello offers a smooth, sweet lemon taste, without any of the usual bitterness associated with lemons.
This recipe comes from my husband’s family. He fondly remembers eating these as a kid on family road trips. They would pack the sausages, straight from the freezer, into tin foil and place them in the back windshield of the car to warm up in the summer sun as they drove to their destination. The recipe itself is typical of southern Italian cooking, and Italian austerity measures, as it uses potatoes as a filler for meat (which there wasn’t a lot of years ago).
For Christmas, I’m offering an extra recipe this week – it’s a little something fun to surprise your friends and family with when you bring out the desserts during the holidays!
I’ve been wanting to make a chocolate salame for the past year and when I found myself with a few extra egg yolks after completing another recipe, well, there was no time like the present and I’m thrilled with how it turned out after a little testing.
While not traditional to my family, I remember eating sweet treats like this when I tagged along with my grandparents and parents visiting friends, family and neighbours throughout the holidays. The hint of alocohol underlying a deep chocolate taste makes this classically Italian to me.
I’ve seen modernized versions of this recipe where the cocoa is replaced with melted chocolate and all sorts of nuts and fruits are mixed into the dough. Tying on the decorative string to make it look like a salame is a great addition to the surprise. Feel free to adapt, that’s half the fun. A warning about using raw egg yolks: when eggs aren’t cooked there is always the risk of salmonella. To avoid this, be sure to use clean, pasteurized, properly refrigerated grade A eggs.
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, soft or melted and cooled
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 ounces Amaretto di Saronno (or rum, Grand Marnier, Kahlua, etc.)
1 cup crushed dry biscotti (you can use store-bought cookies or I used leftover Zia’s Biscotti)
1/2 cup shelled, unsalted pistachios
Powdered sugar for decorating
We’re so close to Christmas and baking is in a frenzy. I can see that many people are searching for turdilli recipes and my family’s turdilli recipe, which I featured last year, is very popular.
But there’s more than one way to make this traditional Calabrese fried cookie. Turdilli, also called tordilli, turdiddri or turtiddi depending on your dialect or how you want to spell it, almost always have the same base: flour, yeast, eggs and wine or flavoured alcohol. Then different families get a little crafty, kneading in their own flavourings (like orange zest) or additions (like dried fruits) or switching up the honey coating for fig syrup. Our family recipe, for example, includes coffee, cocoa, cinnamon and walnuts.
But if you don’t like those flavours, and want something more simple or that can be easily adjusted, then I have the turdilli recipe for you. This basic recipe is light on flavourings and creates pale-coloured turdilli. It can act as a base for any flavours or additions you want to mix in. My mom originally picked up this recipe from a great-aunt sometime ago who, we think, got it from a friend. The heading in her notes is “Turdilli di Paolina.” Who’s Paolina? Your guess is as good as mine. Let’s just say she’s a great-aunt to all of us, sharing her recipe so we can all enjoy. We adapted it a little bit ( of course the original recipe said “as much flour as is needed”) and it does make a lot (a lot!) so be sure to cut the recipe in half before starting out on your first try of this!
Turdilli di Paolina
2 cups oil
2 cups water (to boil)
1/2 cup warm water
1 envelope dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
13 cups cake and pastry flour, plus an additional half cup to flour the board when kneading
1 tablespoon liqueur or vanilla
Vegetable or another light-flavoured oil for frying
Honey for coating
(note: I’d recommend cutting this recipe in half)
My grandparents were storytellers. The stories they told all centred around the emotions related to family, to struggle, to laughter and to traditions. There is no better time for storytelling than Christmas.
Over the past two years, I’ve contributed articles to Panoram Italia, an Italian-Canadian magazine, about Italian culture and community. Panoram does fantastic Christmas-themed issues that give me the chance to reflect on Christmases past. Last year I contributed the article “What we used to get for Christmas” which chronicled the gifts that Italians gave at Christmas back in Italy. Oranges, chestnuts, sugar dolls were all recalled with fondness and I am still in awe at the smiles those memories of Christmas gave to all the older Italians I interviewed.
This year, I wrote “Remembering our First Christmases in Canada“, an article that tried to recapture what Christmas in a new land with new traditions felt like for Italian immigrants. For some it was a hardship, spending Christmas without family, for others they were reunited with sisters and brothers. And, as usual, shared food was a key part of the memories.
Here’s an excerpt from the article where I got to share a story from my maternal grandfather:
For immigrants to Canada there are many new experiences and customs that colour the start of their lives in a new country. Christmas in Canada, away from the family, rituals and comfort of home back in Italy, was one of the first notable moments they experienced. Everything was new and unexpected, from the weather to traditions.
My grandfather often told us of his first Christmas in Canada in 1952, which was memorable indeed. While working for the Canadian National Railway, the company provided all the meals for the workers, deducting the cost of the meal from the worker’s pay. He looked forward to the dinner provided by CNR on Christmas Eve, expecting a festive feast that would help celebrate the special day. But on December 24, he was greeted with a plain meal of chicken soup. Disappointed and alone, he went to a grocery store to buy all he could afford: one chocolate bar and one pound of grapes to celebrate.
However, on December 25, he experienced what came as a surprise to most Italians: that Canadians hold their Christmas celebrations on Christmas Day. The railway offered a big celebration meal to all workers and my grandfather came to learn a new tradition.