This week was an exciting one! On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of co-hosting “Amici”, part of the Wake-Up Italian Style morning show on CHIN Radio here in Toronto. “Amici” is a great venue for younger Italian-Canadians to connect and share how they are active in the community. The format is unique too: the host, Edoardo speaks in Italian and “Amici” co-hosts speak in English. This isn’t unlike how many Italian-Canadian households function now, with some members speaking only Italian and others only English, but everyone understanding what is going on.
A lot of the conversation centred around how I identify within the community (Italian-Canadian or Canadian-Italian?), as well as other second- and third-generation Italians. Also of interest was the discussion of language, and whether language and culture are so intricately tied that if you don’t know how to speak Italian, can you call yourself such. I find these topics fascinating and language, in particular, is often brought up to me as a question given that this blog covers Italian topics, but in English. In honour of that conversation, and to spark more chatting about it, I’ve reposted my article that appeared Panoram Italia last year that was based off of this blog post about language.
First, I’ve included the best bits of the morning show below (minus the music, sorry!).
They also taped parts of the show to feature online, so you can see me as a YouTube star…
Finally, as promised, the article that starts a lot of conversation…
Losing Your’s Parent’s Language (originally appeared in Panoram Italian Montreal Edition, July 2012)
When Oliviana Mingarelli visits her grandmother in Montreal, she admits she speaks “Frenchtalian”, a combination of French and Italian. For someone who can speak English, Italian, French and Spanish, mixing two languages or more comes easier than one might expect.
“If there was a word I could use for the combination of three languages, like neapolitan ice cream, I would describe our conversations that way too,” says Mingarelli 31, who notes that Spanish mixes with her Italian conversations often as well.
There’s been a little pause in the blog…mostly because I had a little excitement: I co-hosted the Italian morning radio show Amici on CHIN Radio here in Toronto yesterday! More about that tomorrow…but first we need to get to a recipe! The last recipe of All Food February is a big one. Firstly, it’s about sausages, which is a request I get a lot. But secondly, it’s for a sausage recipe I can’t find anywhere else. Have you ever made potato and pork sausages?
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).
Last year my husband decided he wanted to make these sausage that he hadn’t had in years and we searched desperately for a recipe. We found nothing: not on food recipe sites, not in books, not even on blogs. I started to doubt that it was possible to even make these sausages (wouldn’t the potato go bad?) and only came around when I was watching an episode of Lidia’s Italy and she was mentioning different types of sausages found in Italy. Potato and pork were mentioned – so they do exist! Too bad she didn’t give a recipe for them! We ended up inviting over the Nonni and got to work putting this old recipe back together and making some mighty fine dried sausages.
The recipe is approximate, you’ll need to gauge your needs based on the amount of pork you use and the flavours you want. As always, before you dive into recipes that preserve meat be sure to read up on proper meat handling and curing techniques.
Potato & Pork Sausage
1 pork shoulder, ground
Equal part boiled potatoes (Yukon Gold preferred)
1 liter of red pepper sauce
2 handfuls of salt
1/2 a handful of fennel
2 tablespoons dried hot pepper flakes
Last year, I started my Italian-Canadian reading list. A writer by trade, and an avid-reader, I focused on books about history, community and creativity in Italian-Canadian life. But my bookshelf has grown considerably with Italian cookbooks over the past year as I’ve been recording my family’s recipes and trying a few more. There’s nothing I get a kick out of more than seeing an old, old recipe from my family in an Italian cookbook in some variation.
Since my desk has a scattering of cookbooks, and I get a lot of requests for recipes, this time around I’m writing an Italian-Canadian reading list for cookbooks. I’ve included the “bibles,” books that those looking to learn about Italian cooking need to have, and also books that focus on Italian desserts, as those are much more rare than regular cookbooks.
All Food February continues on An Italian-Canadian Life with one of my favourite breads to have in the house: ciambelle with fennel!
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. I believe she’s perfected getting the outside crispy. It freezes very well, so they are easy to keep and then warm up in the oven to have with dinner or appetizers.
Besides just being awesome bread, I now expect it for any family gathering, it’s just part of tradition. But my favourite memory with this bread happened just last year. My husband and I served it for the first time to his grandfather. His Nonno immediately began to tear up. Turns out, his sister (since passed) used to make this bread for him all the time and he hadn’t had it since he was quite young. It brought back all sorts of memories for him. For Christmas, we baked up a double batch and brought him a huge basket full to store in his freezer and have whenever he wanted. He was thrilled and still talks about it. Best. Christmas. Present. Ever. That’s an old recipe come to life.
Ciambelle with Fennel
12 cups of all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
2 tablespoons of dry active yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
3 cups warm water
Last year I wrote about how the first snowfall of winter always reminds me of Shurabetta – my grandfather’s winter dessert. After a storm, my grandfather would take the cleanest, freshest snow from the backyard porch, carefully spooning it into a metal bowl and mix in a number of ingredients to make a snowcone like dessert. It was always a special treat. Shurabetta is not only a great memory to me, but represents a lot of what I’m proud of coming from a family of immigrants. (You can read more here.)
Well, it turns out that last winter there was never enough snow to actually try and make some. (I think I shovelled once the entire season last year). This year we’ve been “fortunate” enough to receive a huge dumping of snow, so much that my work closed down so I could stay home and shovel three times in one day just to keep up with it. The mounds of snow on either side of my driveway are officially taller than I am.
In southern Italy, snow was a rare occurrence and when it did come it was more granular, a different texture from what we get here in Canada. But the excitement about it was the same and when you are using what you have to get by, snow brings the opportunity for a rare treat. As in Italy, when my grandfather made this for me here in Canada, he used what he had on hand in the house. I did the same this weekend. Where he would normally use Tia Maria to help flavour his Shurabetta, I didn’t have any in the house so I turned to Bailey’s instead. He used mini chocolate chips, I only had regular. I had never made it for myself, so trying it out made me a little nervous. But when I took the first bite, I was jumping around like a 5-year-old, clapping my hands. It was exactly like I remembered it! Delicate, light and just a little sweet.
If you’re game, and you’ve got some fresh snow, you should give it a try. I’m not going to give an exact recipe this time around…it’s just too hard. It depends on the type of snow you get and also how strong you like your flavours, but here are the basics…
Honey or Molasses
Liqueur of your choosing (Tia Maria, Kahula or Baileys are good options)
Mini chocolate chips or chocolate sprinkles
As budgets and banks around the world crashed over the past few years there has been a call for the dreaded “austerity” measures. In Italy media articles documented the need to go back to war-time eating, “food austerity” as they were calling it. Gourmet chefs embraced the recommendation, showing off menus that used all parts of a pig, or calling up old-time recipes and putting a modern twist on them.The Repubblica even published a roundup of “nearly forgotten dishes.” A 2012 report by the Italian Bureau of Statistics found that over one out of three families in recession-hit Italy cut their spending on food last year.
“Old recipes are a richness that Italy boasts, that were perfected during periods of poverty and are a way to come through the crisis eating well,” said Carlo Petrini, the head of the slow food movement, which campaigns for traditional, sustainable foods. (from the Guardian)
I realize how much of my food habits and recipes, handed down from my grandparents and parents who immigrated here, have the austerity idea throughout. What we eat and when we eat it has just as much to do with Italian flavours as it has to do with making do. Yes, it stems form the poverty of years past, but it’s not entirely cucina povera (that is dishes that used ingredients common to the poor areas of Italy) as it is making the most use of your food and cutting out the waste.