Sunday, January 25, 2009
I am very proud of my Italian heritage. My paternal grandma (whom I have been very close to my entire life) is a wonderful little Italian lady. My Papa Tuddy (who is no longer with us) was French-Italian, and between the two of them, we would have amazing family meals together. I spent 10 years of my childhood growing up in South San Francisco, California and lived just a few short minutes from my grandparents house. I will always have the fond memories of visiting the little Italian bakery with my gram for the amazing foccacia bread (you all don't know focaccia the Italian way!), or eating homemade minestrone soup at The Garden Club, or walking into their home and immediately being offered something to eat (we Italians always have food on our minds). I would be served all of my favorites - anything from mush in the morning, to a simple piece of french bread with blue cheese, to grand dinners with multiple courses. My papa always had a cheese plate and french bread brought out after every dinner and our salads were always eaten after the meal (not before like restaurants serve - the roughage aids in digestion and cleans the palate) with the oil and vinegar mix my grandma made. My gram usually always made me green peas (frozen, not canned) as they were (and still are) my favorite. Anything from calamari steaks to fish dishes to pastas, my grandparents were geniuses in the kitchen! No other pasta sauce compares to my gram's homemade meat sauce, she has a famous Italian sausage dressing that can be stuffed into a turkey or ravioli shells, and ciopinno - oh the ciopinno! - a seafood stew we feast on once a year. Desserts were rather simple - a pie or some cookies (with all the food we ate at dinner, who had room for more?). My gram's cookie jar (that has been passed on to me), was always full of cookies. Usually the Mother's Cookies bag mix, or double chocolate sandwich cookies were the norm, and occasionally some Lorna Doone shortbreads (my grandpa's fave). One of my favorites though were the Stella D'oro Lady Stellas. These little Italian cookies were amazing and are now very hard to find. Every once in a while, my aunts or myself will stumble upon a random box or two at a store that normally doesn't stock them. When we find them, we clear the shelf! After all these years, Lady Stellas still taste the same as I remember from my childhood, although there are a few cookies that are no longer a part of the mix (like the mini biscottis, the sesame seed rolls, and the jelly thumbprints). This year is off to a great start - ciopinno on New Year's Day and a randomly found box of cookies found by my aunt at the local Rite-Aid. Buon Appetito!