Monthly Archives: May 2012

Italian Rum Cake Sequel

I limit my posts to weekly but I had to share this post as it relates to a past post Italian Rum Cake.

My birthday was on May 22. My husband on May 17. My little cousin Grace on May 24 and my Uncle Domenico (Zio Mico) on May 29th. We decided to have one cake for all of us. In my last post I blogged about Italian Rum Cake and the history behind it in family. So I decided to go with the Rum Cake which pleases my parents generation and my cousin Chickie!

The cake was excellent. I ordered it so I made sure it had the almond coating and the filling stuffed with strawberries and peaches. For Gracie her choice of cake is not a cake, but a watermelon as you see in the photos. It’s been her request ever since she was 2 years old!

Our youngest cousins ranging from 4-8 were not that thrilled with Italian Rum Cake. When I asked my 4 year old cousin how he liked Italian cake, he answered “I like English cake”. I guess some things never change….

Tanti Auguri a noi!

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Bridal Showers and Cookies?

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This past weekend I went to a bridal shower. It was for the fiance of my mother’s first cousin’s son. Did I confuse you yet? In my family and in most Italian families we consider cousins as simply “cousins”. We don’t say, third cousin, twice removed or whatever other term is used. Simply cousin. Which means that we go to alot of celebrations!

So, what do cookies have to do with bridal showers? At my mother’s house this week I walked into some serious baking. I knew right away that these cookies were for the bridal shower. All the ladies make homemade Italian cookies; almond biscotti, amaretti, fig bars, nut clusters, strufoli, … I could go on.

This tradition started way back as a way to celebrate the bride and as a form of respect given to the parents of the happy couple.

When I got married we held our bridal shower at a local hotel. We had to request special permission to allow “the cookies”. The Catering Director who we became friendly with didn’t understand what we meant and why it was so important for “the cookies”. We pleaded and humbly begged and he relented. The day of the bridal shower the trays were parading into the room. He came up to me and said, “Lisa we have a problem… I need to put another table in to accomodate the cookies. I counted 52 trays and they are still coming in!”

I laughed and said “Don’t worry.” The containers are here and by the end of the shower they’ll all be gone.” He was astonished.

After we made him and the staff plates of cookies to take home, he finally realized the importance of “the cookies”. You can’t buy these type of cookies at a bakery. They were all homemade!

The cookies are an important part of Italian celebrations. We joke about the cookies and look forward to the end of the shower when we are given our handy little plastic containers to fill up with the goodies.

Our mothers have kept this tradition going for many reasons; to share their favorite recipes and show the family that they respect and appreciate each other. It’s their way of truly celebrating.

As you see in the photos the cookies were a hit! I picked up my favorites to enjoy with a “bella tazza di caffe” this morning.
Homemade Italian cookies and coffee – nothing better than that!

Let’s Talk about Head Cheese

Head Cheese is a cold cut. You’d think that it was a type of cheese from the name. It’s not. It is a jellied type cold cut made with parts of cow or pig’s head. (Other parts could be included like tongue, feet and heart.)

I vaguely remember Head Cheese growing up and I recall that my brother liked it along with my parents. So, these past weeks I’ve been doing some work in Brookline, Massachusetts, a heavily Russian and Jewish populated community. I ventured into a Russion grocery store to check it out. So when I saw the deli counter with three different types of Head Cheese, I was surprised. I told my mother about the shop and the Head Cheese and she said, I want to go!

We took the ride to Brookline and she bought a pound. Sharing it with my brother, my father and my Uncle… I think I started a Head Cheese trend.

I started getting the calls for Head Cheese for the next time I am in Brookline. In fact my Uncle who is the “Sangwich Saturday” creator put his request in.

What’s funny is that at one point my mother and I got separated in Brookline and we couldn’t find each other. I panicked thinking what could have happened to her and what would I say to my family? “I lost Ma in Brookline while shopping for Head Cheese.”?

Luckily I found my mother. My Uncle has his pound of Head Cheese ready to go and we move towards another “Sangwich Saturday” and everyone is happy.

I can’t say it looks too appealing to me, but I’ll give it a try. Who knows, I could discover another Italian delicacy.

“Sangwich” Saturday

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Growing up in East Boston I remember everyone calling sandwiches “sangwiches”. Of course I never paid much attention to it. It was just the way we spoke.

Recently I thought of the origins of the word “sangwich”. It happened when my Uncle Domenic asked me if I would be coming over for “i sangwiche” phonetically pronounced “saaaahhhngwiche” An Italo-American word made up by Italians who combined Italian and English to make up such words as:

“Carro” – Car
“Begga” – Bag
“Sangwich” – Sandwich

Our generation had taken the word and pronounced “saaangwich” instead of sandwich. We took the made up term and made it even more english. You would hear it in all heavily Italian neighborhoods.

So, “sangwich Saturday” is becoming a new tradition in my family. Something I look forward to when all the cousins are together eating Italian subs made by Uncle Domenic.

I haven’t mentioned yet that my father and Uncle Domenic owned an Italian market in East Boston for over 30 years. They truly made the best Italian subs in all of Boston; using only imported cold cuts – mortadella, hot capicolla, sopresetta, provolone and prosciutto. The bread is also important if not the most important element of a really good “sangwich”.

Back in the day my father and uncle got their bread from DeStefano’s bakery on Bennington Street, East Boston. DeStefano’s is no longer there but Bart the baker is around and still baking some of the best bread in Boston at Boschetto’s in the North End.

Tomorrow is “Sangwich” Saturday. There’s nothing better than a good “sangwich” on a lazy Saturday with the cousins. We get older and time moves quicker, so we think. The excuses of not getting together is just that; excuses. All it takes is some good coldcuts, great bread, some tomatoes and you’ve got yourself a feast surrounded by great company.

What are your traditions?