Monthly Archives: February 2013

Who’s the Winemaker?

I recently went to a show at Johnny D’s in Somerville, Massachusetts. Taken from the website “On any given night you may see Cajun fiddle masters from Louisiana, British folk stars, or some of Boston’s finest rockers.” I knew enough about Johnny D’s to know that it’s a hip indie music spot…but never did I imagine seeing the group CANZONIERE GRECANICO SALENTINO there. I was pleasantly surprised!

This group is comprised of young adults from Puglia, Italy. They are a pizzica music and dance ensemble. Coined as “Italy’s fascinating dichotomy of tradition and modernity. The seven piece band and dancer are the leading exponents in a new wave of young performers re-inventing Southern Italy’s Pizzica musical and dance traditions for today’s global audience.”

I appear to be digressing but I promise you there is a point.

The music performed by this group is traditional. It’s the music I remember my grandfather playing and dancing to and my parents as well. It’s fun, upbeat and even promises to cure your ailments. (I was doing a silent meditation opening myself to the positive energy they emitted).

Since this blog focuses on Italian American traditions I found the correlation between my goal in keeping these traditions alive along with Canzoniere’s mission interesting. My parents and Aunt and Uncle joined us, younger generation and to all it was a great night. Including my friend who had no idea what she was going to. She loved it.

So to my point. We got to the venue early and I struck up a conversation with a very nice staffer at Johnny D’s. He asked me “Who’s the winemaker at your table?” I said “How do you know?”.

He said, “That guy is drinking a Seven and Seven which he calls a High Ball.”

“Yup, exactly how my father ordered it.”

“He would never drink wine other than homemade and never outside of the home. He’s the winemaker.”

His observation impressed me.

I introduced him to my father and they started talking. He is also a winemaker and that really impressed my father, as they swapped stories.

I really enjoyed the night. To see a young group keeping ancient traditions alive and a young winemaker in the crowd made me feel very proud to be Italian. So a salute to the winemaker, my father Vincenzo.

It’s off season but I thought to share a photo or two could help get us through the winter until we welcome La Vendemmia next Fall !

Enjoy and Buone Salute!

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Not Your Average Pig Roast

It’s cold, snowy, yes it’s winter. The holidays have passed and we look forward to events that occur in the winter…Valentine’s Day, Mardi gras, Groundhog Day (just kidding) and what we call in my family “Il Porco”. Every year my father takes the trip to the farm and chooses his pig. His purchased pig is prepared by cutting it up in four parts. That’s the easy part. The hard part begins at home. You might be thinking of piglet that is served over hot coals seen at pig roasts with an apple in its mouth. Thinking maybe pork chops or baby back ribs? Not the case with my family.

This baby weighed in at 680lbs! The pig is the only animal that every part of it can be eaten, well I guess you could eat every part of any animal but it’s the pig that has the parts that appears to show up everyone including high end restaurants. The members got to work slicing and cleaning and slicing and cleaning some more.

Sausages were made which are dry cured and turned into sopressata. They made capicolla. They made things that would make you turn into a vegetarian or to some make you want even more!

Since we are Calabrese the technique that spawns from our ancient old traditions include the frittole, which is the layer of fat and skin that is boiled in my grandmother’s ancient vat (cadara – forgive the spelling) My father took the vat back to the States from Italy. It has to be over 80 years old.

They make something called (gelatina – gelatin made from vinegar) which stores bits of pig’s feet, ears, and snout. They make (salamore) which is the lard from the pig which is served baked between fresh bread. Family would argue over who got the tail and others saved the pig cheeks (guanciale) for the real flavor in pasta carbornara. You see? Nothing is wasted.

This annual tradition is one that is very near and dear to my family especially my father. He invites family and friends over to celebrate and share the bounty. I videotaped and photographed the three day process. I can’t say I jumped in to help but I saw the amount of work it takes to put on this production.

So many stories went around that day and listening I heard that some families in my parent’s hometown of Calabria still do this…the younger generation. I asked if it was tradition that made them do it.
In fact tradition is one factor what amazed is the other reason that with one pig you can practically feed your family for a year.

This reminded me of stories told by my mother; when they were growing up in the poverty stricken times in Calabria, if you “made the pig” it was like you were rich.

Amazing after so many years these traditions are still alive, especially in my home. It’s not about survival anymore it’s about tradition. Knowing about your heritage is one thing, keeping it alive is another!

On a final note we had a really young member involved in the process, a seventeen year old. I’d bet if anyone is going to keep this tradition alive it will be Giuseppe 🙂

Buona Fortuna!