Today we welcome a guest writer, Cassandra D’Amico-Mazza, who, in honour of Italian Heritage Month, brings us the great story of her family’s celebration of 50 years in Canada. Cassandra D’Amico-Mazza was born and raised in Montreal and is currently a film studies student at Concordia University. An aspiring writer, you can follow her on twitter @CassDM.
As I was perusing twitter late at night, as I often do when sleep evades me, I came across the fact that June is the start of Italian Heritage Month in Ontario. Being from Montreal and a proud hyphenated Canadian-Italian, I immediately grew nostalgic and then envious, as Montreal doesn’t have such a month but a week in August, Semaine Italienne de Montréal, instead. As great and as much fun as the week is, I can only imagine how much fun an entire month must be.
While I was reading up on different events taking place in Ontario (and becoming increasingly jealous!) I realized that I had my own special Italian heritage event that took place in June. This past Sunday, June 2nd, 2013, my father’s side of the family celebrated 50 years in Canada, while my mother’s side is close to celebrating 43 years in Canada. My mother and her immediate family immigrated to Montreal in 1970 from Silvi Marina in Pescara, Abruzzo, while my father, and subsequently his whole family and a good chunk of his village of Cattolica Eraclea in Agrigento Sicily, immigrated to Canada in 1963.
In the past fifty years my family has come to adopt Canada as our own home and native land while maintaining a strong connection to our heritage, roots, and culture. So, as per my Nonno’s wish, a celebration was in order for this milestone.
Happy Italian Heritage Month! (I just love that photo above from the Windsor Star from last year’s celebrations!)
In 2010, the Province of Ontario declared June Italian Heritage Month. Why? Well, Ontario is home to more than 1,350,000 Italian Canadians. Since the 1880s, the Italian Canadian community has made and continues to make significant contributions to the growth and prosperity of the province. Since that declaration, a festa (party) has ensued for all of June across Ontario, but also across the country.
You can visit italianheritagecanada.ca for a listing of events, though there may be even more going on. There are multiple heritage day celebrations and Italian flag raising in cities across Ontario and even out in Vancouver. My favourite month-long event is the “Books and Biscotti” literary reading series. After the jump, I’ve made a list of my top celebrations to head out to in June. If you’re not in Ontario, or not in Canada, celebrate with us here at An Italian-Canadian Life. Try a recipe, share a photo, comment on a blog posting and discuss the many things there is to love about Italians and being Italian.
In celebration of our fourth #pastatuesday and the winner of An Italian-Canadian Life’s first pasta contest, I’m offering up a recipe for the perfect side or pairing for pasta: a recipe for meatballs and veal rolls (or polpette and braciole).
Meatballs are a classic part of Sunday dinner and braciola are always a special surprise. For southern Italians, braciole are veal cutlet roll ups but what is inside can be debated. Each family has their own version. Some just put herbs and cheese inside, others, like my family, puts a meatball mixture inside. While “braciole” which refers to “slices of meat” in southern Italy, this recipe is common throughout Italy, but called “involtini”, meaning “little bunches.” Whatever you call them, they are a little labour-intensive but worth the work.
Polpette e braciole
1 pound pork meat, minced
1 pound veal meat, minced
2 cups bread crumbs
1 cup parmigiana cheese, grated
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, ground
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup parsley, chopped
8 veal cutlets
vegetable oil for frying
No heavy reading in this blog post today – it’s all about pretty pictures and modern Italian art as we head into the weekend.
Short of having a picture of the Madonna and a large wooden spoon and fork in my kitchen, I’ve been considering ways to include more artwork and imagery of Italy and “Italianness” into my life and new home. Recently, I stumbled upon a new website that allows me to do just that – access new artwork and turn it into canvases, prints, pillows, iPhone cases, etc. all while giving the rights and proceeds to the artist. I fell in love with a few pieces, including the “Italian Grandmother” canvas above.
Society6, created by a network of artists, gives you access to current and upcoming artists from around the world. I’ve pulled some of my favourite Italian artwork from the site – either the subject matter is Italian or the artist is (or both). Click on the artwork to link to the artist’s page and info for purchasing (should you be so inclined!). You’ll support an upcoming Italian or Canadian artist in the process.
(above: a scene from the movie Big Night, where the timpano is revealed)
Happy #pastatuesday! If you haven’t joined us for a #pastatuesday yet, this is our fourth week of sharing pasta tips, dishes, photos, recipes, ideas and more on Twitter, all to do with pasta! To celebrate our fourth week, I’m running a little pasta contest.
I got the contest idea from a movie I watched only fairly recently: Big Night. Many people will be shocked to know that I only learned about the existence of this movie just last year from a family friend, who, after reading this blog, told me I needed to see it. For a really popular movie about Italian food, it isn’t the easiest to find at a decent price. It hasn’t been rereleased since the first VHS copies were sold so getting a copy is pretty steep. I prevailed, watched and was wowed.
Big Night is about two immigrant Italian brothers whose restaurant in New Jersey is failing. In an attempt to save this restaurant, they host an over-the-top dinner with their last bit of money to show a few VIPs the beauty of their food. The brothers stay true to traditional Italian food, refusing to “Amercianize”, and put on a plate-after-plate extravaganza. The meal culminates with the timpano, a pasta dish shaped as a drum. Wrapped in sheets of pasta, the “drum” holds meat, eggs, sauce, pasta and more. Once removed from the oven, the brother tap on the drum/timpano to ensure it is done. It’s a great movie. I had never heard of a timpano!
A tavola non si invecchia. (At the table with good friends and family you do not become old.)
Enjoying a meal with family and friends is the best way to spend a birthday. May is a crazy month for our families, we celebrate five birthdays in the first week. When I was younger we used to have cake literally every other day in the first week (May 6, May 8 and May 10). We had our fill of cake and now we merge birthdays to celebrate together. This year, my sister brought the best Italian birthday cake ever to the party! This beautiful chocolate cake was made to look like an old cutting board holding garlic, olives, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, sliced sopressata, hot peppers and the classic Italian red and white tablecloth.
My sister starting making cakes professionally just last year after creating her first one for my bridal shower. Now through her company, Sweet Details, she makes the most amazing cakes that are unique to their recipients. No cake says “An Italian-Canadian Life” more than this one! More detailed pictures after the jump, she even got the markings on the Parmigiano-Reggiano exterior perfect!