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I remember the huge chunks of homemade soap when we were growing up. When we spent the summers in Italy, the women would go to the local fountain or cibia to wash cloths in the morning and they would bring the soap along with them. Most fountains had a built in wash board and if someone was already there washing cloths, you would wait your turn as you caught up on town gossip. (Washing machine? what’s a washing machine?) Few people still go to the fountains to wash cloths anymore but the wash boards are still there… a reminder of days not too long ago.
Two women making sapune in Calabria
Thanks to family friend Jennifer C. for the photo.
My family still makes soap – there was soap made from pork fat when we used to kill the pig every year and there was olive oil soap. I’m happy to say that we still make the olive oil soap and we’ve been making it here in the US now that we are bringing our family olive oil over from Italy. It’s an every day soap that’s great for sensitive skin. In Calabrian dialect it’s called Sapune – Sapone is the correct spelling in Italian… for me, it brings back happy memories – it’s sad to see a lot of these old traditions disappear, so hopefully we can continue to bring some of them back so that they’re not forgotten. The recipes, the way of life, the traditions that we grew up with – they can only be passed along if we do our part. What family traditions do you wish you still had?
Olive Oil Soap made here in the US with oil from our family groves in Calabria.
Hi Italyville readers… sorry for the extended absence but as I’m sure many of you can relate – life sometimes just gets in the way! I’m hoping and planning on posting more often.
I wanted to share my recent New York City “Eataly” experience with you. Eataly is a high-end Italian Specialty store started by Oscar Farinetti who partnered with Mario Batali, Lidia Bastianich and Joe Bastianich to bring it to NYC a few years ago. The best way to describe it in my opinion is an Italian themed Whole Foods. It may be a little pricey but for me it was a great experience because we have a hard time finding some of their quality items in my area. I could spend the day looking at all the products and eating at the various shops/areas within Eataly…. so I did.
Next time you find yourself in NYC, stop in and check it out… would love to hear what you think of Eataly.
Mushrooms in the Mercato
Octopus – PolpoFresh PastaMacelleriaMaking Mozzarella in a Yankee’s Hat
Black Trumpets that is… found these delicious little guys in a secret place near some trees by a road in the woods around the way. You didn’t think I was going to really tell you where I found them did you? If you haven’t eaten black trumpet mushrooms (AKA: horn of plenty mushrooms) you don’t know what your missing! I’m the first to admit that they don’t exactly look all that appetizing but once you start to cook them and get the first aroma from these mushrooms, you’ll be hooked. They are on the top of the list for many mushroom hunters and chefs alike and have a wonderful aromatic, buttery and nutty flavor that goes very well with pasta dishes. Perfect for me since I LOVE mushrooms and I LOVE pasta!
The beauty of the black trumpet is that it doesn’t have any poisonous look alikes, which is great for first time mushroom hunters (but as always, if you don’t feel comfortable with what you find, don’t eat it!)
Here’s a delicious black trumpet pasta recipe if you’re lucky enough to find these little treasures.
What you’ll need:
Fresh Black Trumpet Mushrooms chopped
Pasta ( I used gramigna)
2-3 fresh cloves of minced garlic
1/2 of a small onion diced
ground sausage meat (1/2 pound more or less)
2-3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup of half&half or heavy cream
salt & pepper
grated parmigiano cheese
What you’ll need to do:
Start by simmering your garlic (which I got from my garlic supplier, Chef Chuck thanks Chuck!) and onions in some olive oil until the onions start becoming transparent. Then add your sausage meat. I used the meat from 4 sausage links that I had left over from a bbq and simply removed the meat from the casings. Break the sausage meat into small pieces as you stir and let it cook until the sausage is almost completely cooked through. Then add your black trumpets and continue cooking for 5-10 minutes. When you’re ready to drop your pasta into the water (in a separate pot of course) add the half&half and salt & pepper to the sausage and black trumpets. Let it simmer until your pasta is done cooking. Drain your pasta and combine. Top with grated parmigiano. Enjoy and buon appetito!
It’s a been a while! Hope you’re all doing well and enjoying the Spring. I’ve been out and about and all over the place in the last several months… keeping busy and not having much time to devote to Italyville but I hope that changes. I did want to share a few of the best things I’ve eaten recently.
I’ve been in the woods looking for free food – The winter cress were delicious as usual! Some fresh bread and glass of wine and you’ve got a delicious light dinner or side… don’t forget to top it off with some extra virgin olive oil.
This dish blew my mind at one of my favorite restaurants in San Francisco a few weeks ago: Pork skin spaghetti with morel mushrooms, fava beans and truffles. If you haven’t been to Incato yet… GO!
I couldn’t stop eating my aunt’s sun dried black olives that were still sitting in the Calabrian sun… simply amazing.
If you’re an Italian American you probably have a long list of mis-pronunciations, made up words and funny sayings that your Italian family uses regularly. I know we do! So when my friend Maria introduced me to her new apparel line Che PecatI LOVED it! Che Pecat (pronounced kay Pa-cod) is a play on Cape Cod (here in Massachusetts) Just ask an Italian who doesn’t speak English to repeat “Cape Cod” for you and “Che Pecat” is what you’ll get. Che Pecat is also an abbreviation of “Che Peccato” which more or less translates to – What a Pity. Che Pecat’s slogan? “It’s a Pity you can’t be here!” Read about how Maria came up with the brand here.
So check out Che Pecat and maybe I’ll see you there this summer. We’ll be there the first week of August. If you’ve never been to Cape Cod…. Che Pecat!
*Che Pecat will be at the Boston Gift Show at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center March 27-30.
The in-box is full and I haven’t been doing a great job of getting back to everyone… it’s been a busy 2011 so far and I can’t wait for all this snow to melt away and enjoy some warmer weather! I’m headed to Calabria in a few weeks so I’ll get a little reprieve from this brutal New England winter.
So what’s in the in-box? Here are some highlights.
La Piazza di Carolina is organizing an amazing summer language program in Italy this summer for children and parents that includes learning Italian through singing, cooking, art, horseback riding and swimming! (there’s cooking and wine classes for parents too!) Now that’s a great way to spend a summer vacation. Click here for details.
Borgo San Benedetto in Montaione (outside of Firenze) is the location of the summer language program
Colors Italiano: It’s here! It’s here! Sonya Caruso followed-up her first Italian Baby book (ABC Italiano) with Colors Italiano. A wonderfully illustrated book for children that takes them through the names of colors in Italian. A great way to help your child to learn Italian. Great job Sonya! We hope to have Sonya back on Italyville soon to talk about her new book but until then check out the Q&A post on her first book here.
BreakThru Radio in New York City recently had a performance from Andrea Parodi with Livia Ranalli that you need to check out called “La Ninna Nanna del Maggio” Bravi Andrea e Livia! Check it out here.
There aren’t many people who don’t know about Starbucks by now and you may also know that Starbucks is based on CEO – Howard Schultz’s vision of bringing a little bit of Italy back to the US.
This is a clip from Starbuck’s website:
“… in 1983, Howard traveled to Italy and became captivated with Italian coffee bars and the romance of the coffee experience. He had a vision to bring the Italian coffeehouse tradition back to the United States.”
Although it has an Italian name, do you want to know what’s not Italian? The new “Trenta” – 31 oz coffee size that Starbucks launched this past year. Even though I realize that American fast food and everything that comes with it has invaded Italy along with most of the world (as my father says: “tutto il mondo e’ paese”) large portions are not very Italian. I’ve always disliked the fact that the food industry here in the US is obsessed with BIG portions. Super-size, more, bigger, huge, double! … which is exactly what happens to most people’s waste after a while in addition to increased health risks. Most of the time, more isn’t better… it’s just more. I’ll take a little less of better please.
PS – I would like to thank everyone for their comments and condolences regarding the recent passing of my nonna. It’s been a busy and hectic few months with our launch of Tre Olive, the holidays and my nonna’s passing but I’m hoping to get back on the posting track soon.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here… sending you all Auguri di Buon Natale e Felice Anno Nuovo.
And to all of our loved ones who have left us this year including my Nonna – who passed away yesterday – two days before her birthday – may God hold you in the palm of his hand and keep you safe until we see you again. We love you.
Still looking for a great gift for the Italians in your life? Here are a few more Italian themed gift ideas that might help you out.
1- Adopt an Olive Tree: Adopt an olive tree from one of our groves in Calabria and we’ll send you the olive oil from your tree in the spring. It’s true, my two cousins and I started Tre Olive earlier this year… so here’s the shameless promotion! You’ll receive a beautiful welcome package that includes: an adoption certificate, a photo of YOUR tree in a hard cover table tent so that it’s easily displayed, your tree is tagged with your name for the year, an informational brochure and a welcome letter from our family to you. Then you’ll receive 3 liters of extra virgin olive oil from your tree in the spring. Our family grows the olives, picks the olives and presses the olives in our mill in Calabria… so you can be sure that it’s 100% Italian and never outsourced to third parties. Imagine the look on people’s faces when they try the olive oil from your adopted tree.
2- Marcus of Umbria: Ever wonder what it would be like to live in a small town in Italy? Justine van der Leun’s book details her adventures about moving to Italy for love and ends up falling in love with a dog instead. She gives us a look into country life in Umbria as she tries to adapt to Italian life. A fun read!
3- Sauce Maker: Are you looking to make and jar your own tomato sauce next year? or better yet, have someone else do it for you! Here’s a great gift to help get them started. We use this same model to make our sauce every year. Once you make your own, you’ll never eat store bought again! (you can find this model on Amazon for $49.99) Throw some mason jars in and they’ll get the picture.
4- Real Maps: I can guarantee you that the guy in your life will appreciate this stocking stuffer. A good old fashion map that doesn’t show up on a computer screen is a great gift… if he doesn’t unfold it and start studying the map by the end of the day, let me know. I’ll be shocked!
5- An espresso starter kit: Create a gift package with an espresso maker, cups and espresso. There are plenty of options and price points… and you’ll probably reap the benefits the next time you visit. Try Bialetti’s Mukka espresso maker if you want to be a little more stylish and illy has all sorts of collectible cups that are beautiful (although your wallet might will not like you.)
It’s that time of year again and you don’t know what to buy Uncle Frank or Zia Francesca?? Don’t get your mutande all in a bunch, Italyville has you covered with a few ideas to help make your Italian relatives happier than your Nonno working in the garden!
1- My Calabria: Rosetta Costantino has a winner with her new book “My Calabria” she recently sent me a copy and I was going to do a giveaway for it… but sorry amici this book is a KEEPER and staying on my book shelf! It’s loaded with Calabrian recipes that your mother, nonna, zia, zio, cugina and any other Calabrese you know used to make plus much more. If you’re Calabrese or know someone who is you can’t go wrong with this book and if you’re looking for that recipe from your childhood… it’s probably in here.
2- ABC Italiano: (by: Sonya Caruso) What a great gift for the little Italian in your life! One of the biggest problems (in my opinion) with the Italian culture is that we eventually (over generations) lose the language. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t thank their parents for teaching them another language when they were young… I for one am super thankful to my parents for teaching me to speak Italian when I was young. Get them started early!
3- Italian Language Classes: So your little bimbo has the basics down? Take the next step and enroll them in Italian language classes! Make it fun by having them enroll with their cousins or friends. If you’re in the Yonkers, NY area, check out “La Piazza di Carolina” They have classes for kids of all ages. Also check out your local Italian Cultural Center as they usually offer classes as well.
4- Meat Grinder: If someone on your list has been talking about making sopressata or maybe you wish they were… Here’s your chance to to help them move in the right direction. A meat grinder is a great gift and you’ll reap the benefits with fresh sausage and cured meats. It’s also a great excuse for getting the family together… “time to make sopressata!” Our family uses one similar to the one pictured below and it’s less than $100. You’ll find it on Amazon, Target or most hunting/fishing stores like Bass Pro Shops or Cabella’s.
5- Wine Bottle Corker: Here’s a great gift for the homemade wine maker in the family (we bought this for my father a few years ago and he loves it!) Everyone who makes their own wine thinks theirs is the best, so help them make it look a little more professional with a wine bottle corker and a bag of corks. You can find them online or at most brewing supply stores.
I’ll be back soon with Part 2 of the Italian Holiday Gift Guide.
Adopt an Olive Tree and receive the oil from your tree.
Joe Maruca welcomes you to Italyville where he writes and rants about growing up Italian in Massachusetts, his experiences living and working in Bologna, visits to the family's Olive farm in Calabria and everything along the way. In America we're considered Italian, in Italy we've become Americani... but we're always at home in Italyville.
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