Our Italian Side

Filed under Culture


by Maria

Many of us are several generations away from our Italian ancestors that emigrated from Italy all those years ago. We have lived elsewhere for all our lives, as our parents before us have. Still, we hold our Italian side close, hungry for all things Italian—and not just the food, although it plays a big part in Italian life.

Sometimes one family member feels it more than the others. Is it a kind of genetic memory or just an appreciation of the culture that has been passed down through the generations? Whatever it is, we continue identify strongly with our Italian side even if we have never been to Italy.

Our ancestors settled in lands far from Italy, learned a new language and adopted new customs. Some adapted their names to their new country–Giorgio became George or Jorge, etc. They struggled to blend and find acceptance but, lucky for us, they kept alive and passed down their Italian traditions. I find a special comfort in cooking a recipe that my grandmother taught my mother, who in turn, taught me.

What are some of your ancestors’ traditions that you keep alive?
How do you stay connected to your Italian side?


7 Comments to “Our Italian Side”
  1. Tosca Kathy Tassone McNally says:

    I still make my tomatoes in the fall and at Easter I make my Mamma’s sgutti. They are the Italian cookies with the egg in the centre. My home made chicken soup has heeled many a cold and my pizzele are loved by the seniors in the local nursing home. I also make a super minestroni with rappi,mushrooms, beans, pine nuts, and orechietti. I will post the recipe if anyone is intersted. My Mom and Dad were originally from Grotteria Reggio Calabria but moved to Bressanone Bolzano where all six children were born. My Mamma lived to be 95 and my Pappa 96. They enjoyed a glass of home made wine with every meal and danced one last dance together to Claudio Villa APRITE LE FINESTRE just a couple of years ago. GOD I MISS THEM :)

    • Diane H. says:

      Tosca, I would love your minestrone recipe! How lucky you are that your parents lived to their mid-nineties, and that is a beautiful memory of them dancing together.

    • Carol Racana Watson says:

      You bring back many wonderful memories…….I would love your recipe as I love Minestrone!

      Very lucky to have both parents for such a long time.

  2. joan says:

    My grandmother came from Calabria and whatever she cooked was always delicious and I mean whatever!
    I am the only one out of 4 sisters who still observes the traditional Xmas Eve dinner . My sisters used to help me make the homemade macaroni until about 7 years ago when it didn’t dry and I had to buy it from an Italian store in my town. My sisters didn’t really like to travel in the winter to make it so to them it was a blessing. I now purchase the homemade macaroni…it’s not the same but everyone is happy with it. We have the different fishes and because my children and extended families don’t like the fish I have added meatballs and sausages….so much for the observance of no meat/dairy products.

    One of my sisters used to have a bakery and at Xmas I would make all the Italian cookies for her cookie trays.

    Every other year in September I have an Italian party in my backyard with only Italian food, drinks, desserts,music and decor. It’s outside at long wooden tables and family style. It’s a lot of work but a lot of fun. I think everyone looks forward to it.

  3. Tessa F says:

    Not so much in terms of tradition, but I keep my Italian Side alive and well in the novels I write. I set my stories in the region where my ancestors have lived since the 1600s. I travel there every year to conduct research and to immerse myself in the culture. I also continue to converse with family using the 1000+ year old dialect that was spoken at home as I was growing up. Lastly, digging deep into my family tree has been very satisfying, both emotionally and professionally as I weave family lore into my stories.

  4. karol griffin says:

    my family still makes Italian Sausage in WV…and they make the pieta piñata, and I make pizzelas and I make biscotti….and jomboletes at Easter…I am sure the spelling is wrong.

  5. Jeff H says:

    My parents still make homemade Italian sausage with the recipe handed down by my great grandparents. We have tweaked the recipe a bit to make it spicier since I like thinks hot.

    Every year for Christmas my Mom makes Pizzelle cookies as well which is a recipe passed down too.

    And for Christmas eve we always eat homemade ravoli. That was a tradition started by my Italian grandmother. I think she did it to keep sort of that tradition alive after she was doing the Christmas meal.

    Apparently my great grandparents used to make their own cheese as well, so I want to see if I can’t get a hold of their recipe for it and try that sometime.

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