Brimming with cultural vigor, strength and resilience, Caltagirone is the heart of the authentic, wild southeastern Sicily. The scenic town is a...
December is here, but while “Jesus is the reason for the Season”, each year it seems the focus becomes the ringing of cash registers rather than church bells. Do your holiday shopping with an Italian connection:
Books with an Italian connection are always welcome but “Grazie” to Richard Vannucci, for recommending Waiting for Yesterday: Pages from a Street Kid’s Life by Michael Parenti.
Vannucci, who recently arranged a “Meet the Author” at Oakland’s Fratellanza Club for the author of Waiting for Yesterday, was delighted to report that they had a full house!
In his book, “Waiting for Yesterday”, Parenti writes that “Ethnic groups in America often learn to live in two worlds, the American world and their own. After a generation or so of acculturation, more and more of the marginalized ethnic world is replaced by the standardized American one. Living in both these worlds at the same time, we switch from one to the other rather automatically. He calls this “cultural ambidexterity” and “dual identity”.
This ambidexterity was manifested in, among other things, Holiday dinners. Someone might sing an Italian song around the table, then an American one. At Thanksgiving, we began the meal with richly adorned platters of antipasto, followed by steaming plates of pasta in rich tomato sauce, along with well spiced braciola, meatballs, and sausages cooked to tender perfection, accompanied by huge bowls of green salads, a sumptuous Southern Italian holiday meal.
But then, after all this, out came the traditional American Thanksgiving or Christmas meal, a roasted turkey with sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and vegetables. The cultural conflict was overcome by piling the two different cultures onto the same table- causing groans from those who, despite their complaints about too much food, gorged themselves to a hurtful level.”
Vannucci said that “so much of this literary nonfiction memoir Waiting for Yesterday brought back trenchant memories of growing up in our ‘ghettoette’ in East Oakland. It’s odd that 3,000 miles separated us, but as young Italo-Americans we were as one...”
Waiting for Yesterday has been characterized by an Amazon reviewer as “Simply a treat. I just could not put it down; it is a power and fun read.” I must add my ditto to this view and can guarantee that no matter where you grew up as a little “Italian American kid”, this book will really get your nostalgic juices flowing. The book also underscores the fact that America is a land of opportunity.
Michael Parenti, son of a Barese iceman, was born and raised in an Italian-American working class family in New York City. After high school he worked for a number of years then returned to school, eventually earning a B.A. from City College of New York, a M.A. from Brown University, and a Ph.D. in political science from Yale University. His many books include The Face of Imperialism (2011); God and His Demons (2010); The Assassination of Julius Caesar (2003); Democracy for the Few (2010) and recently published a warmly received “ethnic memoir” entitled Waiting for Yesterday: Pages from a Street Kid’s Life.
Portion of his writings have been translated into Arabic, Azeri, Bangla, Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, Swedish and Turkish.
Dr. Parenti has won awards from various academic and community organizations. He now lives in Berkeley, California. During his earlier teaching career he received grants or fellowships from the Louis Rabin Foundation, the Ford Foundation, Brown University, Yale University, State University of New York, and the University of Illinois. For several years he was a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington D.C.
Visit Amazon.com or his website: michaelparenti.org.
Abruzzesi nel mondo and their families will enjoy a package or two of the “Sweet Abruzzi” cookie selection, available from Di Camillo Baking Co. (811 Linwood Ave., Niagara Falls, N.Y. 14305). Tel. 1-800-634-4363.
Italian Children’s Market, with their large assortment of Italian culture and Language products for children, is a great source for giving gifts with an Italian connection. Telephone (310) 427-2700 for their catalog or go to their website www.ItalianChildrensMarket.com.
Giovanni, the Italian speaking bear, is a big favorite with young and old. Press his furry paw, and in Italian, join him when he counts to ten and when he sings “Giro Giro Tondo” and “La Bella Lavanderina”. Listen while Giovanni teaches you “Good Night” and “Good Bye” with the promise of seeing you again. Giovanni speaks only Italian and comes with a translation guide. Giovanni’s sweater bears the Italian colors, and on the bottom of his left foot, a miniature Italian flag. 15” from head to foot.
Several old favorite books in English are now available in Italian from the Italian Children’s Market, “Il gatto e il cappello matto” by Dr. Seuss-The Cat in the Hat and “Prosciutto e uova verdi” by Dr. Seuss- Green Eggs and Ham.
Cuccidati (Sicilian Fig Cookies), those chubby little bar pastries decorated with colored sprinkles and filled with dry figs, golden raisins, nuts and other good things are enjoyed by families with Sicilian “roots” throughout the Christmas season. Clues to centuries of foreign domination on Sicilian shores are evident in the spicy complexity of their filling. Cuccidati taste good, but are a lot of work. Since my mother and her Sicilian friend passed away decades ago, all my cuccidati have been store bought and through the years, the really good commercial cuccidati makers have dwindled down to a precious few and do not mail order. I can’t promise these cuccidati are as good as your “nonna” used to make but the cuccidati baked in New York and delivered to your doorstep from DiCamillo Baking Company, tel. 1-800-634-4363, will make you quite happy. You can also order them from The Vermont Country Store at 1-800-564-4623, item number 61360 Sicilian Fig Cookies, made in the U.S. by a third generation Italian family, the DiCamillos. For more treats visit Vermontcountrystore.com.
DiCamillo Baking Company may be 3,000 miles away from California, but they are as close as your mailbox, since they have a flat $8.50 shipping charge for all orders sent to one address. Long before I began ordering from DiCamillo by mail, I had admired the award-winning graphics on their packaging at such stores as Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdales and Carlo Middone’s now defunct Vivande in San Francisco.
Today you can see their entire line of colorful keepsake tins, canisters and handmade and handpainted Tuscan storage jars, filled with an assortment of baked confections online at Dicamillobakery. com or call 1-800-634-4363 and ask them to send you the 2014 DiCamillo Collection Brochure so you can order by phone, not only during the holidays, but throughout the year for yourself, because in addition to the “Sweet Abruzzi” cookie selection, a nod to their parental Abruzzi “roots”, they now import soft torrone, orecchiette, farfalle, penne rigate and all-durham wheat spaghetti from Abruzzi. Also available are DiCamillo Peaches grown in Niagara Falls, New York, clover honey and New York Honey Comb, outstanding Baba Rum- baby brioche cakes soaked in rum syrup; strawberry, raspberry and orange preserves and lots of other good things.
The DiCamillo Bakery opened in 1920, but it was in 1903 that Tomaso and Addolorata DiCamillo arrived in America from the Abruzzi region of Italy. It was in 1920, with the help of their eleven children, that they opened their bakery in Niagara Falls, New York. From this store with its basement ovens, they began baking bread and delivering it to the neighbors.
Today a third and fourth generation are continuing this uninterrupted baking tradition.