An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

Monday, December 29, 2014

Life Lately: The Post with the Most (A Year in Review)

~1~ Finish the Sentence: A heated and emotional discussion on Facebook prompted this post. The topic? School and sports. Yikes.

~2~ The Big Reveal: Extreme makeover in just seven days. Really.

~3~ A Presentation at the Sacred Heart Garden Festival: In which I give a presentation at the Sacred Heart Garden Festival entitled: The Peasant Kitchen and Slow Food: The Italian Approach to Food, Dining and Healthy Living.

~4~ Bad, Bad Nonna: How Nonna totally and completely disrupts Summer School.

According to Nonna ...

~5~ Sometimes it's nice to be published: Oh my stars ... Guest Columnist.

~6~ The Lost Necklace: A story of all things that cannot be lost. Ever.

~7~ Glory Days: In which I ask some hard questions about why we complain about how busy we are and yet we do nothing about it.

~8~ The Perfect Time: Last September I launched a dream. This June we'll live it.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

It's All About Giving Thanks

It's All About Giving Thanks
by Maria Novajosky, Guest Columnist

*published in the Columbia County News-Times, November 23, 2015
(delivered with Sunday's Augusta Chronicle)

            It doesn’t take much more than a holiday and a meal for our Italian-American family to gather in celebration, and Thanksgiving is no exception. People often ask if our Thanksgiving meal in any way reflects our Italian background, and while the immediate answer is yes (for with an Italian mother anything involving food reflects our Italian heritage), the answer is also no because Thanksgiving is the one holiday my mother uses to celebrate all things American, an opportunity to pay homage to a land which welcomed her with open arms.

            My mother came to this country as a young bride on the arm of my father, a soldier in the U.S. military; she was only 20 years old and determined to embrace this new life. She took language classes, became fluent in English, learned to drive, and volunteered for the American Red Cross. When my parents lived in Washington D.C. during the racial unrest of the sixties, my mother studied American history to understand what was happening.

            When she was 32 years old she stood before a judge in Savannah, GA and was sworn in as an American citizen. She had her picture taken under the American flag, and her nationality would henceforth be hyphenated, a bridge between the words Italian and American, between the country she was from and the country in which she now lived.

            Those two words also meant my sister, brother, and I got the best of both worlds. We spoke Italian with our Nonna and English at home; we ate gelato in Venice and an ice cream cone in Disney World; we explored the hills of Tuscany and the streets of Manhattan; and while holidays in our family were a beautiful blend of both cultures, there were some things quintessentially American that my mother embraced – and the traditional Thanksgiving meal was one of them.

            She had a lot to learn, however, and it took years of trial and effort to get it right. In one of her earliest letters to her mother, she described this strange, white cooking stuff that came in a blue can (Crisco shortening); she had never eaten turkey, much less cooked one; she had never heard of sweet potatoes (why, in America even the potatoes are sweet!); and she definitely didn’t know what to think about cranberry sauce or Jell-O (all that jiggling red stuff didn't look like food at all).

            It took years of trial and effort, of studying Betty Crocker and cutting out recipes from Good Housekeeping, but today my mother has perfected the art of the Thanksgiving meal. The moist turkey, the perfect balance of brown sugar and marshmallows in the sweet potato casserole and, yes, the dish of jiggling cranberry sauce are all displayed with a sense of pride on how far she has come. Two ceramic pilgrims decorate the dining room table, and in the afternoon everyone heads outside for a family game of backyard football or softball.

            Of course, there are small concessions to our Italian heritage: we sip espressos with our pumpkin pie and have a small glass of limoncello as an after dinner digestivo. But it is an American meal celebrating an American holiday, and with a rousing Buon Appetito! three generations of our family gather at Thanksgiving to honor the American half of our Italian-American heritage.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Serving Detention at Dairy Queen (kinda, sorta)

Dairy Queen. In our family, that's the place we go to wait while someone is serving after school detention.

And it's become a family tradition (of sorts) because now when one brother has detention, the others (who have visions of Oreo Blizzards swirling in their heads) rejoice and give each other high fives because ...  their brother has detention!

Brotherly love. There is nothing quite like it.

The only problem is that, according to the boys, there haven't been enough detentions. While all our boys seem to get their very first detention in either the 4th or 5th grade, after that there are definitely some lean periods in which everyone is behaving.

Oh, the horrors.

But then came yesterday's all school Mass and ... well, let me put it this way. As you know, our little guy is in the fifth grade, and today Jonathan and I are going to Dairy Queen.