Photo Journal: An Italian family tradition – tomato sauce making day

There’s actually not all that much I want to write this morning; I’d rather the photos do the talking. Last weekend heralded our family’s annual tomato sauce making day at my grandparents’ house, something I’ve been meaning to capture on film for a few years now. As you may have notices from my blogging habit, recording memories is important to me, and I wanted to share some of the pictures I took to give others a bit of an insight into a centuries old Italian tradition that continues in the backyards of countless emigrants in Australia today…

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Photo Journal: Our Italian family’s Christmas Eve tradition

Merry Christmas!! I hope everyone enjoyed the day with their loved ones and made it onto the “good” list and had a visit from the jolly man 😉

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Seeing as how Christmas is (to me, anyway) more about spending time with the people you love, and also as how this blog is in large part my digital time capsule, I wanted to share something a bit special this morning as we all rush off to open gifts and deliver trays of pavlova to the family lunch table. I wanted to share a few pictures of our most important and enduring family tradition; dinner with dad’s side of the family and his parents’ house. More commonly and affectionately known as “The Feast.”

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Traditionally, Italians don’t eat meat on Christmas Eve; instead, they indulge in seafood. And so every year, Nonno hits the Preston Market, sparing no expense for the freshest prawns, calamari and lobster he can get his hands on (and being a decades old customer, he gets some pretty good stuff).

The Feast happens Christmas Eve, every year, without fail. I’ve only missed one; last year, because we were in Chicago (eating Italian food at Eataly, because anything else on Christmas Eve would be sacreligious). International travel not-withstanding, it’s a given that we’re all there every year. Mum and dad, my auntie and uncle, us three girls plus our other halves, and my cousins. Nonna and Nonno host every year in their big, beautiful house, and whatever else has been going on is forgotten for the night. This year is the first year we’ve done it without mum and dad; it’s their turn to be overseas this year. So I thought I’d capture a bit of the fun for them so that they wouldn’t have to completely miss it 🙂

 

Tradition dictates the following:

– But first, wine. This year’s conversation between Nonno and I:
“Jessica. Wine?”
“Yeah, why not Nonno?! Just a little bit though, I’m driving.”
“No! Let’s get drunk!”

– Food. Calamari come first. If you arrive early enough, you make your way to the pizza room to “help” fry them (read: eat a few pieces before anyone else). Once served at the dinner table, fights to the death over the golden grilled pieces of deliciousness are not uncommon. My cousin has been known to eat more than the rest of us combined (that kind of behaviour has now been outlawed).

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– Then comes pasta. Because that’s what Nonno wants to eat. Every. Single. Day. There are also those two idiots who have as much freshly grated parmesan in the bowl as pasta – I’m one of them.

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– Next up: giant mutant prawns and lobster. They’re fresh and clean and absolutely enormous, served with lemon wedges, tartare sauce, and a simple salad dressed with olive oil, salt and vinegar. My uncle waits (sometimes) for everyone to take their share of the salad, then proceeds to eat his share straight from the big metal bowl, while laughing maniacally at whatever’s going on around him.

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– Also a few bowls of bocconcini. Nipple jokes are inevitable. They don’t make us giggle any less now that we’re all adults.

– And don’t forget the fruit platters, Lindt balls, coffees and Nonna and Zia’s zeppole – Italian sugar-coated donuts made from the lightest, fluffiest dough. Zia even made a few balls and filled them with Nutella; further proof that Italians are the original hipsters. We’ve been making this stuff for years!

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The only thing missing this year was mum and dad, who are currently enjoying a beautiful, cold Christmas in a little Italian town with mum’s extended family 🙂

So, from my family to yours, Merry Christmas and Buon Natale! I hope everyone had/has a great weekend 🙂

An Easter parade in the streets of Florence…

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Easter 2013. I was in Italy. It was our last night in Florence, and we were to leave for Venice in the morning by train. We had been up since around 7am and hadn’t stopped all day. We were absolutely exhausted and would be needing our energy for Easter lunch the following day with mum’s family. So, we took the excuse to be completely pathetic and get an early night, turning it at around 9pm.

Around an hour or so later, we woke with a start to yelling, cheering, drumming, trumpeting. Our hotel, located so close to Il Duomo you could almost count the individual tiles that made up it’s intricate facade, was unwittingly also smack bang in the middle of all the action! We threw open our room windows, wrapped blankets around our shoulders to ward off the unseasonably cold spring wind, and watched the most fantastic parade wind it’s way around the dark streets below. After 20 minutes, our exhaustion got the better of us and we finally fell asleep to the beat of the marching drummers. It was a little too dark for a photo that night, but below is the scene from our hotel window the following morning, before we checked out…

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The following morning, we rose early to take advantage of the few hours we had left in Florence before our midday train. Down the stairs we went, emerging onto a busy street. It was Easter Sunday and our hotel was only a few metres from one of the greatest churches in Europe. The craziness was to be expected. We started walking, aimlessly, through the streets when we heard it again; the drumming. We scurried along, trying to follow the sounds of the drummers, bursting from a small side street onto a larger street upon this…

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We found the parade! A cursory check of the watch indicated a solid two hours before we needed to be back at our hotel to check out, so we followed the parade, in all it’s noisy glory, all the way to it’s final destination, la Piazza della Signoria. We watched the flag throwing, the elaborately costumed paraders and the other people gathered around. We noticed a well dressed gentleman being followed by an attentive security detail, wishing everyone a buona pasqua (happy Easter), shaking hands, smiling for photos, kissing babies, that kinda thing. We shook his hand, too, when he got to us, also wishing him a buona pasqua (I did, anyway; husband had absolutely no idea what he was saying, he just smiled and nodded politely). When we finally did get back to the hotel, I asked the lady who checked us out who he was. She swooned a little and told us he was the Mayor of Florence, and the pick of the people to be Italy’s next Prime Minister. He was Matteo Renzi, and is now, indeed, Italy’s Prime Minister. Absolutely lovely man, by the way!

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That was one hell of an Easter day, one I’ll never forget, and one of those days that makes me eternally grateful for the fact that I chose to follow the crowd and allow myself to get caught up in the moment that day. While I’m not a religious person, it was beautiful to see all of these people celebrating old traditions so happily and with so much gusto. I hope everyone, no matter where you are in the world, no matter what your traditions are, has a wonderful Easter  : )

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