Author Archives: midgeguerrera

Pronounce Those Endings!

Hmm, I wonder where the forks are?  “Dove sono le forchett….”  Le forchettE sono lì.   LE FORCHETTE!  Errrrrr how embarrassing to have my pronunciation corrected by a five year old in a fancy hotel breakfast room.  Of course we were in Tuscana the birth place of the Italian language.  Learning Italian has been challenging for me. It has also provided the entire village of Pontelandolfo with comic relief.  From school children to shopkeepers to old men playing scopa – everyone corrects me and giggles.  Some also roll their eyes and wander why they have to repeat a word 5 million times in order for me to remember it.  Yes, it does take a village to teach this old dog new tricks.  Hmm, that adage, “You Can’t Teach an Old Dogs New Tricks,” has really never resonated with me.

First of all – DEFINE OLD!  Go on – I dare you.  Secondly, learning a new language keeps the brain young and active.  Thirdly – well – I started to learn Italian when I was 50.  It has been 17 years and I’m still learning.  I hear you – why didn’t she listen to her grandmother?  Why didn’t she learn Italian as a child?  Why?  Because growing up in rural agrarian Somerset County, New Jersey I never heard Italian.

86950-PH-GFB1-034 Unlike the kids growing up in urban pockets of Italian families, I never heard Italian.  Not one of the five Italian families in Flagtown, New Jersey spoke Italian within my ear-shot.  My grandmother, aunts and uncles – all born in Italy – spoke unaccented standard American English.  I thought that was the norm.  I didn’t know that some kids grew up in duo-lingo Italian American families.  DUH!

When I was older I asked Zia Caterina why not one member of our family spoke Italian to us.  There were two reasons – one was survival.  They needed to assimilate to get jobs and not be picked on.  Aunt Cat recalled the taunts of dumb dago or wop and the smack she got on the head from her first teacher in Dundee Lake (Passaic County) because she had just arrived and didn’t understand English. Simple, they had to be American so they had to learn English. The second reason infuriates me.  I was born just after World War II – that period of time when Italian Americans were put in interment camps.  Yup, just like the Japanese.  Fear of Mussolini’s ties to Hitler and Fascism ignited the ignorant and Italian immigrants – many of whom had sons serving in the American military were whisked from their homes and locked up.  No one talks about it. Italo-Americano refer to it as  Una Storia Segreta – the Secret Story.  Italian Americans couldn’t have a wireless radio.  They had curfews. My Uncle Nick, who was too old to be naturalized with my grandparents, was threatened with deportation.

I’ve seen a few documentaries on this period and they incite me.  Today, when I hear politicians talk about opening up interment camps and building walls I wonder how many Americans know their history and understand what that means?  Not every person of a race or a religion is evil.  Hell, my family wasn’t evil.

enemy

My family took the signs to heart and “spoke American.”   Actually, they spoke English better than lots of folks I have known.  They were so good at it that Italian may be in my DNA but it isn’t embedded in my cervello. Studying Italian is a challenge that grounds me in my past and opens doors to new beginnings.  In New Jersey, I study with other Italophiles at Dorothea’s House in Princeton.  For total immersion in a fabulous ocean front city, I head to Alghero, Sardegna and Centro Mediterraneo Pintadera.

Learning the language has introduced me to parts of my heritage that I have embraced and history that has both saddened and intrigued me.  My Italian – as rough as it is –  has helped me research my family tree, become part of the fabric of the village and make new friends on both sides of the Atlantic.  I figure, I am not too old to learn and if I wasn’t learning and exploring my brain would turn to mush.

Ci Vediamo!

 

Categories: Practical Matters - Living Abroad | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

Adventures in Church Archives

Paolo Collection 2 (38)

Whew, the holidays are over and those resolutions are racing around your brain.  A good number of my Italo-Americano pals have said that this year they are committed to researching their families.  I always say the same four words – call genealogist Rich Venezia!  He is cute, works hard and is Italian!  Rich and I were talking about some of our experiences doing research and decided that it was time to suggest that you go back to church – the parish churches of your ancestors.  Through the church archives in Pontelandolfo, I was able to trace my grandmother’s family back to the 1500s!!!  I had a little help from Antimo Albini (link to story)  who told me that the priests were responsible for census and wrote down incredibly interesting details about the parishioners.  My great – grandfather was a hunchback!  Who knew!  Let Rich Venezia tell you how to use the archives to find out more about your family.

richedit2Ciao a tutti!

I’ve been traveling all over these past few months, and Ms. Midge has also been quite busy herself!  Rumor has it her new hip is working just fine. I’m glad to be able to finally sit down and write for our third round of genealogy hints.

Midge asked me to write about church archives, and what a great topic it is! The records held by churches throughout Italy can trace your family back generations upon generations. The main question is access – do they still exist? Where are they held? Will the priest let you look through them?

After the Council of Trent in the 1560s, the pope required all Catholic churches to create registers of vital events in each parishioner’s life – births (baptisms), marriages, and deaths. From 1595 forward, after the papal proclamation (do it or else!), records should exist in most churches in Italy. Of course, there is the occasional fire, flood, or other act of God (see what I did there?) that would render the registers unavailable in present day.

In a lot of cases, these registers remain with the parish church of origin. Whether they are well-preserved in a church archives, stored in the priest’s attic, or tucked away in the sacristan’s garage will differ from parish to parish. Archdiocesan archives also exist, but what will be held at each of these archives will differ greatly: for instance, the archive of the Archdiocese of Sorrento-Castellammare di Stabia in Sorrento only appears to have the church supplements (allegati) for marriages that occurred in that Archdiocese. In the archives of the Archdiocese of Vallo della Lucania, however, the only surviving records for one of my main ancestral churches – San Biagio in Matonti, Laureana Cilento – can be found. (I wish I’d known that before going to the church!) It’s important to know where the records are located before you head across the pond!

If you want to research in the parish registers of your town, do as much research as you can before you go. Genealogically, work backwards to the start of the civil registration records to find as many of your ancestors as you can. Technically, have a good software program to record further generations of ancestors efficiently and accurately.

If your ancestor was from a city – or even a big small town – there will be more than one parish church. How to find which one was your ancestor’s place of worship!? Start with the Italian vital records – stato civile. Between 1815 and 1865, there were two columns in the stato civile records – one column was for civil information, the other (right-hand) column for ecclesiastical. The ecclesiastical column will list the parish church in which the baptism or marriage occurred… and voila! You have your parish church. If your ancestor was born after 1865, look for their parents, or even grandparents, in stato civile records. Many families went to the same church for generations, unless they moved to un luogo faraway.   Here is an example –

orsola-giella-nata-1856_001Orsolo Giella – from Family History Library microfilm of Archvio di Stato di Avellino (has name of parish on the right-hand side – it’s the name of the town; there was only one parish at the time of her birth)

Practically, get in touch with the local priest in advance. While you could write to the church in the mail, I’d recommend getting in touch via email (when possible) or the local parish priest by phone (try to find his cell phone number).  If you can’t find a number or address for the church, try to get in touch with Town Hall. Someone there may be able to assist you in getting in touch with the priest. Many town websites include information about the parish.

As you can imagine, to do this, you’ll want to have advanced Italian language skills or a bi-lingual pal – both for the set-up of the meeting and the actual research process, too. (Most records are in Latin, but if you can’t communicate with the priest enough to let you in the door…) If you don’t have a relative or pal, I’d recommend hiring a local translator or guide. (Midge note – I know a few bi-lingual Pontelandolfese if you need someone.) This can also make it much easier when doing the research, as they can help you communicate with the priest and other town officials who you may come across during your local research. Perhaps you have cousins still living in your town? See if they can provide some assistance for you.

Note from Midge – We were lucky in Pontelandolfo that the church archive had been digitized by a parishioner!  It pays to nose around town – local bars are great places to uncover who is who – and ask if there is a local person who has taken on this task.  When I started my research, my Italian was basic Berlitz vacation guide at best.  Everyone was helpful and even sent around for someone to help me who spoke English.

I don’t recommend just showing up at the door of church and expecting to have good results. Especially in small southern towns, priests may work at two or more churches – which means it’s very likely your day in town will be their day in another town.

A very select number of parish records have been filmed by the Mormon Church, so it’s always worth a peek at familysearch.org to see if your town’s records have been filmed. (I see this mainly in Sicily and northern Italy.)

Note from Midge – I went to the link and discovered that they have records from Pontelandolfo!  I also found out that in East Brunswick, NJ Family Search had a Family History Center and I could have the microfiche sent there!  Thanks Rich!!!

Registri dello stato civile di Pontelandolfo (Benevento), 1809-1860

Format:  Manuscript/Manuscript on Film
Language: Italian
Publication: Salt Lake City, Utah : Filmati dalla Genealogical Society of Utah, 1989
Physical: in 11 bobine di microfilm ; 16 mm.

Getting access to these records isn’t always easy, but as you can imagine, the benefits can be very rewarding. Who doesn’t want their family tree traced back to 1595?!

For further information, you may want to look at the following article from ItalianGenealogy.com. (I am not associated with them in any way – I just think it’s a great and detailed article.)

I hope to see you in Italy!  Happy hunting!

Grazie Rich!  Ci vediamo!

Categories: Finding My Family | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

2017 – Villages Diverse But The Same

At the dawn of 2017, fireworks surrounded Pontelandolfo’s iconic tower!  Pontelandolfesi bundled up against the cold mountain air, hugged each other and cheered.  In Flagtown, New Jersey illegal fireworks boomed in back yards.  We peered out the window and cheered – nah three people cheering loudly wasn’t the same as being in a village surrounded by other cheering folks.

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Messages of good wishes whipped through cyber space.  WhatsApp and FaceBook Messenger made me feel like I was in that piazza shouting auguri!  That’s a big lie. What I was really doing was shouting *&^%$ every time the muscles in my left thigh did the “I’m gonna get you back now” flash of pain dance.  I came back to New Jersey and had my left hip replaced the week before Christmas.  By New Year’s Eve my brain and legs were functioning but my left leg was still really angry at me.  Having spent a few weeks lying around between physical therapy sessions, I really had a chance to think about my life and I had an epiphany.  The Village that is Pontelandolfo is incredibly similar to the Village that each of us creates to survive 21st century life with out nervous breakdowns.  Here are some examples –

Being a hospital scaredy cat, I was blessed to have a village of women friends who took shifts hanging out in the hospital with me. Providing Jack with an opportunity to dash out and a sense of safety for me.  Last year, when  Zia Vittoria was in the hospital in Benevento, Italia, her grandson, Nicola made sure that folks were lined up to visit and check in. We see that kind of neighbors helping neighbors not only in my precious Pontelandolfo but in all kinds of neighborhoods across the world.

During the holiday season, Pontelandolfesi rally creating cultural events that engage everyone.  Pontelandolfo’s crafters and artigianal foodies sell their wares at the two day holiday market.  Wait?! Don’t we have those in towns across America too?  We do.  It is an opportunity for the local folks to share their talents and make some money.  Musical, literary and theatrical events are scheduled in many Italian villages.  In the USA we dash to local productions of the Nutcracker, Scrooge and Handel’s Messiah.  Different and yet the same, people all over the world enjoy the culture of their holiday seasons.

I am a culture lover and sadly admit that my New Jersey hometown feels like a culture wasteland.  Possibly because we are so close to Philadelphia, Princeton and New York the community doesn’t organize many holiday cultural events beyond religious services. Sadly, I am not in the Sannio hills and am missing both Casalduni’s and Pontelandolfo’s La Befana celebrations.  I will bet that a quick google search will turn up a “Three Kings Day ” Celebration somewhere in New Jersey.

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La Befana Celebration in Alghero, Sardinia.

Religious festivals, community picnics, community theatre, local musical groups, writer’s groups, book clubs, local dance companies – these things exist everywhere.  It doesn’t matter what religion someone is, what their native dress looks like, or what side of the ocean they live on, all of us enjoy belonging to and participating in community life.

May 2017 provide each and everyone of us with the village and sense of community we need.

Happy New Year !  Buon Anno!  Bonne Année!  新年快乐   Gelukkig Nieuwjaar!  

Gutes Neues Jahr!   あけましておめでとうございます    Feliz Año!       Šťastný nový rok!    

سال نو مبارک      С Новым Годом!    Feliz Ano Novo!    Gelukkige Nuwejaar!

Baci e abbracci!  Ci Vediamo!

Categories: Any Day in Pontelandolfo | 4 Comments

Transitions

It has been a month since you have heard from me.  Yikes? What have I been doing?  Well for the first week after the USA election I stayed in bed with a bottle of scotch and Italian candies.  Baci, baci!!

It has taken a while for me to make the transition from a citizen of Southern Italy to a citizen of the USA. Every November I find myself back in New Jersey.  I am happy to be in the clutches of my family and friends.  Ecstatic to see how much the wee ones have grown into interesting young adults.  After the frenzy of “welcome backs,” the happy hugs that make the emotional bubble in my chest burst with love, I look around and think “where am I?”  I had a teacher once who said that Europe didn’t exist – you got on a plane and flew around and then landed at a place like Disney Land where the pretend Europe was built.  He was kidding and trying to get us to think about the explorers who thought the world was flat.  He wanted us to realize that you have to get out of your comfort zone and see the world in order to understand not only the breadth of the world’s society – but who you are. But where am I?

The transition from the woman who lives in a small Southern Italian village to the woman who lives in the buzzing metropolitan area has always been difficult.  The culture shock of prices – $10 for two cappuccinos and one brioche makes my blood boil.  Hey, I get great cappuccinos for €1 and a FRESH brioche that tastes GREAT for €1.  Errrggg.  But more than prices, it is my difficulty accepting the changing cultural climate of my motherland.  I don’t need to harp on it – those of you who marched for equal rights understand that now we appear to be sinking into the quicksand of — well I can’t even talk about it.  If I do, I’m sure my “file” will just get thicker.

Transitions.  How do I transition from a life that includes a daily walk down the hill to the village piazza for a cappuccino and conversation to a life that means driving for an anything?  Everyone I pass in Pontelandolfo says buongiorno.  People I pass in my car flip their middle fingers because I drive to slow, fast or freaky. The fruits and vegetables I buy from Antonio’s truck in Italy haven’t been sprayed with stuff that could kill me.  The meat at the macelleria hasn’t been shot up with hormones.  Yes, I am lucky to have found a circle of local organic farmers in NJ so I am not forced to shop at giant super-markets.  I think about those that can’t.

Transition – my credit card is leaping out of my wallet. Don’t get me started on big pharma and the fact that the USA does not have a single payer health care system and is ranked under my feet on most studies.  Bloomberg News , Bloomberg Health-Care Efficiency Index, on September 26, 2016 ranked Italy 6th and the USA 50th.  My co-pay in Italy for my high blood pressure medicine is €2 – in NJ it was $46. How could this be?

I am a child of the 60’s.  During my university and young adult years, I was part of the politically active force of women who helped insure that reproductive rights belonged to women.  Who marched and voted for equality for all.  Who forced curriculums to include literary works by more than dead white men.  Who tossed boulders at glass ceilings. Who organized communities to improve the lives of those less fortunate than ourselves.  Who worked to bring arts experiences to children from all socio-economic strata.  Who –

Who now wonder “where have all the flowers gone – long time passing.” (Lyric by Pete Seeger.)  That is who I am.

Transitions.

Don’t despair, dear readers, don’t despair.  In a day or so the transition will be done and I will be back to my funny sardonic self.

Ci Vediamo.

 

 

Categories: Any Day in Pontelandolfo | 4 Comments

Melanzane -Eggplant- Sandwiches

Sitting on the train between Naples and Milan, I was feeling sad about leaving Pontelandolfo when the elfin face of Zia Vittoria flashed across the screen of my brain. She was waving a plate of stuffed melanzane in front of my 8:00 AM – been on the road since 5:30 AM – hungry face. Now I see the train staff coming down the aisle with our early morning caffe and snacks so I know Zia Vittoria is a mirage. Since train food – even in prima class is even worse than airplane food, let’s go with my mirage. Melanzana – eggplant – is one of my “go to” comfort foods.   All of you arm chair psychologists will opine that I’m having this mirage – that includes scent – to get me out of my doldrums.

When the eggplants were in season in Pontelandolfo every home was chock full of the black-purple wonders. With a basket of them sitting on my kitchen table and my brain directing Sean Connery in a romantic comedy instead of focusing on eggplant – though it was one eggplant that made me thing of Connery – I hadn’t come up with a recipe.  Then the angel of cooking appeared with what looked like a hot panini and said  assaggiarlo – taste it. 


 I did. I let the soft flesh of the melanzana coupled with the great salty cream of a local sheep milk cheese roll around all the taste buds of my tongue. It was wonderful. Think grilled cheese without the bread! I followed my cooking muse out to the work kitchen near her gardens.

Peel only two sides of the eggplant.  Buccia pieno di vitamine.  The skin is full of vitamins.  Then make three or four really thick slices with the buccia on the outside of the slice. It is the crust of our eggplant bread. The slices need to be thick enough to partially split in half. Leave a “hinge” at the bottom. When I slice a pita bread I also leave a closed bottom so the goodies don’t leak out. 


 Vittoria uses a simple filing of fresh basil, eggs and sheep’s milk cheese.  She thick grated the cheese – which was fairly soft or new cheese.  Tons of cheese were added to 6 whipped eggs.  She tossed in a pinch of flour and chopped basil. The mixture looks like lumpy cream cheese when it is stirred and melded together.  It does not drip!  It is super thick.    You can see it in the above photo.

Finally fry both sides of the eggplant sandwhich in olive oil and keep Midge out of the kitchen or they will all be gone and you won’t have any to freeze. Did she say freeze? Many families in Pontelandolfo conserve their fresh products either by canning, drying or freezing. Zia Vittoria has a chest freezer that is always crammed full at the end of the summer.

I like to eat the stuffed eggplant literally like a sandwich. She puts then in aluminum pans and covers them with what she calls sughetto and freezes them. They will be brought out in the winter, baked and eaten like – you guessed it – a vegetarian lasagna!
Her sughetto is simply chopped tomatoes sautéed in olive oil with a smattering of salt and pepper.

Hmmmmmmmm. I can still smell them frying.

 What’s that?  You want my ticket? Oh that’s right I’m on the train to Milan.

Next summer I will be back and so will the eggplant grilled cheese sandwiches. 

Ci Vediamo!!

Categories: Food - Eating In and Out! | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Seeing Pontelandolfo for the First Time – Again

It is almost time for us to leave the one place where I can feel my grandmother in every corner – and I am depressed.  This is not an unusual state – every year as I start to close up the house in Pontelandolfo and make arrangements to be picked up at JFK in New York, I get depressed.  Pontelandolfo, village of my grandparents, aunts and uncles resonates to my very soul.

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Maria Rosaria Solla and Francesco Guerrera – Happy Owners of 221 South Branch Road

Why do we leave?  That question smacks my soul at the Mini Market, Marcelleria, Pasticceria, Farmacia – as I tell folks we are about to depart yet again, everyone asks the same question.  Why not just stay here?   Because Flagtown – the village where my Pontelandofese family settled, where my dad was il Sindaco, mayor, and where we even have a street named after my family  – resonates with me too.  The pull in both directions is so very strong that at times I feel my heart being ripped apart. Giusippina Guerrera – my dad’s first cousin – reminded me that 20 years ago I was the first one from America to return and search for those left behind.  She constantly tells me that blood attracts blood – like a magnet finding its way to those who are part of who we are.   Sitting outside of Kaleb’s bar looking out over the Piazza, thinking about Giusippina, my family and friends in the USA and my trips to Italy over the past 40 years made me really think about the first time I saw Pontelandolfo. Saw it, left it quickly, but felt the incredible pull to return.

Twenty-one, knowing everything there was to know in the world – but being far from worldly, I was blessed to have my Aunt Catherine offer to take my younger cousins Bobby, Maryellen and I to Italy for the first time.  Thank God, it was 1971 and I’m glad I was able to score happy pills. We landed in Milano and the first thing I discovered was that no one could understand Aunt Cat’s Italian. Never having heard anyone in my family speak Italian, but knowing that Aunt Cat spent her formative years in Italy, I just figured we’d be OK.  I didn’t realize that she spoke the ancient dialect she grew up with in Pontelandolfo.  Actually, Northern Italians were rude and said things like “we don’t speak Spanish here.”  The official checking passports at the airport said it first.  Aunt Cat’s face dropped and she refused to speak again – until we reached Campania.  Luckily, I had taken a year of Italian at Montclair State, carried a Berlitz phrase book and could get us to the car rental agency and put gas in the car.  Bobby and I drove the car – when we got back we told everyone it was a Ferrari – but I haven’t a clue what it was.  That trip was like a rapid fire slide show –  100 towns in 100 minutes.  Zip there went the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Zap, I think that was the Amalfi Coast – shit – the curves – how did we get here. Wham – Grosetto and a film crew shooting a spaghetti western.

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After the whirl wind but frustrating tour, we got to Pontelandolfo late one morning.  The village looked like a movie set – it was pristine.  We discovered that the powers that be -I think the Communist party was in power then – rehabbed the city to promote tourism.  (Boy, did I hear that line over and over again in the next 30 years.)

On the stone city walls were funeral announcements. A number of them said Guerrera.  That was kind of freaky – realizing that people with my last name really did live and die in this place so far away from Flagtown.  I wondered if my nonna or nonno knew them – had played with them as children – gone to their weddings.

Aunt Cat started acted skittish the moment we got to Piazza Roma and looked at Pontelandolfo’s iconic tower. I didn’t understand why.  (When I was older and wiser I figured it out – she was having flashbacks to being the crippled kid that the local priest kept insisting should be institutionalized.  Here is an earlier blog – Nonna Comes to America.)

As we wandered the tiny medieval streets, Aunt Cat told us tales about coming to the village for market day.  She tried to point out where they lived on a little hill outside the village center.  It had to be a long walk for a little girl with polio.  Coming from modern New Jersey, it was hard to imagine her walking to a communal fountain for water or helping her mom wash clothes in the communal laundry trough. Her grandfather, my bis-nonno Liberantonio Solla, played the concertina in the piazza, for weddings, parties – and often drank his fee away.  After aimlessly wandering and not really talking to anyone – we sure as hell weren’t invisible but must have had a don’t talk to me wall up – we realized we were starving.

Great roasting over an open fire smells spilled onto the piazza.  We followed our noses. There was a beaded doorway and a smiling face beckoning us closer.  No one understood the sign but we figured out it was a tiny osteria – local restaurant.  The three of us went in and ate what ever the owner was serving that day and listened to more of Aunt Cat’s stories.  I don’t remember what we ate but I do remember it triggered a visceral response and my heart got bigger and bigger in my chest.

Leaving the three of them sitting in the sun and digesting lunch, I whipped out the Berlitz, wandered the narrow alleys and tried to introduce myself to older people I met to see if anyone remembered my grandmother or grandfather. One older gent with a gleam in his eye remembered Maria Rosaria Solla!  He took me to meet a woman he said was a relative.  She promptly wanted us to come back for cena later and meet everyone.

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I raced back and told Aunt Cat.  She was horrified.  “Absolutely not! They know we’re  from America and want our money.” Bobby and Maryellen were bored and wanted to go back to civilization.  Being 21 and ornery I stomped off. Not knowing where I was going, I ended walking up a cobblestoned hill to get as far away from my chicken shit family as I could.  I found myself on  the steps of the church where my Grandmother was married, my aunts and uncles were baptized.  High on a hill, I looked out over the alley, popped a happy pill and while tears streamed down my eyes, I vowed to come back.

As long as there is a wind in my sail, I will return.

Ci vediamo.

Categories: Finding My Family | Tags: , | 4 Comments

#&*#! I Don’t Have My Passport – Travel Trials

We hugged our pals Nicola and Dolores goodbye and entered the Naples airport. The cue for the Alitalia desk was long but we bravely entered.  My jaw dropped, my colon cramped, and my heart started pounding.  Barely a whisper came out of my mouth as I turned to Jack and said, “I don’t have a passport.” He turned towards the glass doors looking for Nicola – maybe they could race back before our flight. My chest tightened, we were due to leave in 2 hours and I needed to get to Sardegna.  Suddenly my fingers felt a wee bit of plastic in my purse.  My Carta Identità – every Italian citizen has one – I turned back to Jack. “We are just going from one Italian city to another right. I mean we don’t stop in I don’t know – Switzerland?”  He looked at me like I was pazzo. Right? Right, Naples to Rome and Rome to Alghero.

We were surrounded in the line by two tour groups – Canadian and Australian.  All of the happy lemmings were holding up their blue passports.  Question – Do all former British colonies have blue passports???  The line slowly moved when speaking Italian – noting I’m guessing my Carta Identità – a representative moved Jack and I up to the ticket counter.  Nice!  When we got to the gate, I noticed well dressed men and women holding up their Carta Identitàs.  It hit me – I’m part of the in crowd!  Weeeooooo.  So glad that passport is still sitting on the counter.

When we got to Rome the disorganized crush was uncomfortable.  The running from changed gate to changed gate and then standing there for almost an hour was tortuous.  Paying airport prices for a lousy panini was insulting in a country that prides itself on its cuisine.  Grrrrrrr.  Remember when it was glamorous to fly?  If you are over 60 you do!!

Working with ones the best Italian language schools, Centro Mediterraneo Pintadera, means we get to go to Alghero, Sardegna once a year.  When we landed the ace school administrator, texted me that a member of my group’s bags never made it to Alghero from Rome.  #&*#!  The bloody bags are tagged.  How hard is this to keep straight.  I breathed a sigh of relief when our bags came down the chute.

Pintadera’s trusty taxi driver, Fredrico, greeted us like long lost pals and shepherded us to our little house. The concierge opened the door and I started gagging and grabbed my inhaler. What the heck is that obnoxious whore house smell?  Did the perfume counter at Bloomingdales explode?  The concierge raced around and opened all the windows.  Jack found the disgusting plug in make fake smell devices and tossed them.  Apparently, the house had been shut up for a while and this was the crews way of refreshing the air.  GAGG. 

Travel, just another joyous way to spend the day.

PS.  Once we got settled everything was actually joyous – well except for paying double what we spend in Pontelandolfo for our morning cappuccino.

Ci Vediamo

Categories: Any Day in Pontelandolfo | 2 Comments

Prosciutto Crudo – Cooking in Pontelandolfo

After last May’s Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo event, I was talking food with one of the cooks who opened their homes to that first group – the wood fire pizza making guru – Nicolo Ciarlo.  Note the meats hanging in the background –

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What?  Are you serious, I demanded.  Your parents make prosciutto crudo in Connecticut?  Do they buy a whole pig?  “Midge”, he looked at me like I was stupid, “they go to Costco.”  Dimmi, I replied – tell me and tell me all!  He did – here is just one of the type of things you can learn if you come to Cook in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo May 20 – 27th 2017!

Prosciutto Crudo – Made and Eaten by YOU!

First of all don’t go running out today to start the process.  The best time to make prosciutto crudo is from December to March.  AND – you really need to live in a place with an unheated garage.  Talk to the meat manager at Costco and find out when the fresh meat arrives.  Go on that day and buy fresh ham – a pigs upper leg. Make sure it is on the bone – it is the butt and part of leg bone.  While you are there buy a ton – I mean a real ton of large grain salt.

Location, location – bring home the hog and head for the garage. Get out your large wooden pasta board or just use a wooden table – now I do not know why it has to be a wooden table.  This is not exact science here – but hearsay and traditional methods. Put a table cloth on the board or table first and cover it with lots of salt – so much salt that you can’t see the tablecloth.  Put the hunk of pig on the salt and pour more sale all over the pork. Rub that salt in!  Get that salt in every crevice.  Now, wrap the meat in the table cloth and raise one side of the board or the table to a pretty good angle.  Stick a large plastic tub on the floor near the low end.  The tub will catch the salt, blood and liquids that will run off the meat.  Yum.  You do not want the meat to freeze!  A cold garage but not a freezing garage is best.  Keep the dog out of the garage!  The meat stays in this position for 40 days.

After 40 days take cloth off the meat.  You can press the meat down to insure that all the liquid is gone. To remove the salt wash the meat thoroughly in red wine.  You may drink a glass of red wine during this process.  Next tie a sturdy cord around the bone and hang it from a rafter for one day – that plastic tub comes in handy now too.  You need the wine to dry out.  When you wash the hog with red wine you see the meat become red.

After the meat is dry, absolutely cover it with red pepper, black pepper and garlic.  Rub those peppercorns in and cover the meat with a light cotton fabric so that bugs can’t get in.  Now hang the processed meat for one or two years – depending on the weight in an area that is always cool.  You may have to move it from garage to the basement etc.  Wait a second?  Did you think you were going to get immediate gratification?  Traditional fare takes time and is worth the wait.  After the meat hangs for the requisite years you clean off the conserving spices.  Next slice off hunks, put them in vacuum pack bags and enjoy.

Speaking of enjoying – why not come to my little village next May and Cook in the Kitchen’s of Pontelandolfo! 

Saturday, May 20, 2017 To Saturday, May 27, 2017   Limited to 8 People

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Categories: Food - Eating In and Out! | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

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