Monthly Archives: October 2013

Good and Bad Grapes

This past weekend my father and his apprentices as I like to call them went through the second phase of wine making. Two weeks ago they had already de stemmed the grapes and now the grapes were ready to be pressed. This particular day, we welcomed Chris Maggiolo a student writing his thesis on homemade wine making. He asked my father many questions about the process. Winemaking is one of my father’s greatest passions in life. He built a cantina for this sole purpose. Most would save their money for long vacations or luxury cars. For many Italian’s like my father they prefer this.

When he was growing up in Calabria, he couldn’t afford the luxury of making his own wine. He would join others and help. He said that when he goes to America and makes enough money he would make wine and share it with his friends. That he does. For the past several years a few guys including my brother have joined him; to watch, learn and indulge in one of life’s greatest pleasures. These guys are dedicated and work hard, probably not as hard as my father would like but hard nonetheless…:)

When Chris asked my father if he puts preservatives in his wine, my father scoffed at him. “Good grapes, a place like my cantina to store it and made just right is all you need.” It got me thinking of the process and how artificial additives are very common in wine and in life in general. Got me thinking about friends and wine and how it brings people together. With the right people, my Dad is able to make really good wine without any artificial substances because not only does he have the right tools, he has the right friends. How often can we say that when we encounter life’s up and downs?

Theoretically life is made of good and bad. A few bad grapes could ruin a batch but the good grapes inevitably overpower the bad ones.
My family has always been front and center in bringing people together. We open up our home and share our food and create memories that are far more important than anything I would ever imagine. How hard can that be when you have all the right ingredients in front of you? I hope Chris got what he was looking for this weekend, I know I did.


Fig the Fruit of Enlightenment

Family Traditions 032

Family Traditions 031

I love Fall. I love change of season. Recently it has been unseasonably warm and I love that too. My father has been cleaning up the garden and picking the remaining vegetables and fruit. The fig tree gave us this.


Everyone who knows anything about figs, know that they thrive in very warm climates. In Calabria, my family enjoyed the abundance of figs and according to anyone who has tasted a fig in Italy; it’s like nothing you ever tasted! These are a close second.

October is special month for me and my parents. They just celebrated 50 years in marriage. I’ll celebrate 6. Our wedding cake was decorated with figs, a special gift from our baker.

In Buddhist philosophy the fig tree has a sacred meaning for Buddhists. “According to Buddhist legend, the founder of the religion, Siddhartha Gautama or the Buddha, achieved enlightenment one day  while sitting under a bo tree, a kind of fig tree.”

I’d imagine many Italians have experienced “Enlightenment” sitting under a fig tree. It may not be how Buddha did but nonetheless a profound sense of life and peace just sitting under a fig tree.

Food that Heals in More Ways Than One




We have all heard that eating good food is great for your body and have various healing qualities. But I wondered today if that theory goes even further. Italian families typically bond over food and good old fashion Italian traditions. In my last blog I wrote about my father and uncle preparing the green olives. The next step was to soak the olives and rinse every day. Today my father was rinsing. My mother has always been in the forefront of the activities. However, as she has experienced some back issues her physical activities have been limited. She has gone through a lot these last few months and is slowly making her way back to herself. What I noticed is that today when she walked in the back yard, she came alive. Slightly. She ordered my father around on what he had to do and for at least ten minutes life felt like it was almost back to normal. You would wonder if a bitter olive can do all this. I believe that it can.

Which brings me to my original question. Is food healing in more ways than one? The answer. Yes. These traditions are about eating well but more for family and friends to spend time together and enjoy life. My mother has always been active and its important for her to get back to doing the things she loves. You won’t find her shopping at Barneys, drinking a cosmo, or flying to Vegas. Instead you will find her pressing olives, planting tomato seedlings from her last crop, jarring tomatoes and making sopressata.

This time next year she will back in the think of it with her good friend who incidentally has encountered health issues that has temporarily slowed them both down at the same time. Next year they will both be back! As any fellow Calabrese knows, we are made strong and tough!