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  • The Cookbook
    Page 1 of 2

    by Flora Mitidiero Raehl

    I returned home from my latest trip to Italy some time ago and I still have daily thoughts of my dad's hometown of Alessandria del Carretto. What time is it there now? What is the weather like? What are my friends and family doing? And like any good Italian, hmmm, what are they eating today? Surprisingly, I can answer these questions fairly easily because even though I was born and raised in the United States, the more time I spend with my family and friends in Italy the more I realize how my American life mimicked theirs. For example, it's early October, the weather is getting cooler, and in Italy it's time to pick the grapes for the wine, it's time to pick everything from the gardens and do the canning, it's time to go to your plot of land on the side of the mountain to chop the wood for the long, cold mountain winter.

    Growing up, now was the season to buy the grapes to make the wine, and now was the time my dad would spend hours after work gathering the tomatoes, peppers and beans for my mother to can, and well, thank goodness we had a regular furnace because my mother drew the line at chopping wood, even though I'm sure if my dad had had his way we would have done that as well. You see, my dad was born in Italy, and both my paternal and maternal grandparents came from Alessandria del Carretto, but mom was born in America. Once they married, my father did everything he could to recreate the life he had left behind. So with dad's love of his heritage and the fact that my grandmother taught my mom how to cook all the Calabrese recipes, I've lived Italian in America. We always followed all the holiday traditions, cooked everything from scratch, and learned to use all of what we had so we never wasted anything.

    I also learned at a very early age that even though the basics of Italian cooking were very much the same from cook to cook, every family had a set of tried and true favorite recipes, and these were kept under strict lock and key. Many, many years ago my mother decided it was important for the younger generation of this family to master these old world recipes, so she started writing them down, compiled them into binders and passed one out to me and each of my cousins. In fact, somewhere in the archives of family photos, we even have a videotape of one my aunts making rosettes! I've prepared at least one recipe from this "cookbook" each week during the 28 years that I've been married and throughout the years as I've traveled to Italy, I've acquired more hometown recipes, so my "cookbook" has grown. Over the years, friends have reminisced about my mother's cooking and have asked for recipes for certain dishes, but the family motto about these recipes: We'll only share if you're from the family or if you married into the family (ok, not the first day you marry into the family, you have to prove you have the stamina to stay and THEN you get the recipes!).

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    Article Published 10/13/11

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