Someone today reminded me about Italians and their love affair with food! It’s almost a given for most Italian families. I’ve heard of a few who didn’t have that growing up and I always felt sorry for them. For me, that was the best part of growing up in an Italian family. It’s hard to describe growing up in an Italian family to those not reared by Italians: The flying arms, the loud voices, the cries of Mangia, Mangia!
The grandparents lived with us. They were part of the family and the shouts and cooking. We did have milk deliveries but we had Italian stores, like DeVitis and Sons, to buy our olive oils, vinegar, tomato paste, salamis, pepperoni, cheeses. The smells in those stores cannot be described. Walking through those doors, the smells made you take a big deep, deep breath, put a smile on your face and a song in your heart because you knew you were going to get some amazing things to take home and cook except for the pickles in the big barrel. You could pick out a pickle and eat it right there!
The Italian bakeries, like Ninni’s (my favorite), had the most amazing breads warm from the oven. Sometimes we couldn’t wait to get home and we’d tear off chunks of the warm crusty Italian twist bread to eat on the way home. Then no one wanted that craggy looking end when we got home and sliced the bread. Dinner with warm Italian bread sliced and covered with fresh ricotta cheese was dinner now and then. I remember the kids in school thinking how sad we just had bread and cheese for dinner. I remember knowing they had no idea how good it was and I felt sorry for them!
Tomato sauces were made from scratch. The smell of sauce cooking on the stove, stealing a piece of bread, covering it with sauce and eating it is a wonderful memory. Oh my, that tasted so good. My sister and I once did that so much one day, that we accidentally ate most of the sauce that was for dinner. Mom wasn’t too happy! We had wonderful soups and made pizzelles for Italian holidays. Sometimes we made bread too. Bread was for dunking in the salad dressing as we ate our salads. And we had a garden. When the garden was no more, we still grew Italian parsley because you could never get that in the stores.
So many more memories of being Italian and our love for food. I’ll save some for another time.
What are some of your favorite childhood memories related to food? Were any of your traditions from outside the US?