Memories are made of this......
It all started with a scendi, the sweet alcoholic drink that once upon a time Italian children were allowed to have.
I could hear the women talking in the kitchen, the clink of plates. The meal was almost ready. I was sitting at the dining table with Nonno Rocco, watching him pour some wine in a glass, he then got the “Gassosa”, the Italian equivalent of lemonade, and poured it into the wine. “Bevi,” he said. “Drink”...
But as an Italian child you can’t have a memory of a drink without having at least a thousand about food…
I’m smiling as I reminisce about one particular day in my life. It was still dark when I was called to get up. I made my way to the kitchen and sat at the table where a bowl of home made bread soaked in hot milk was ready for me. I hurried to eat and then followed Nonna Rosaria outside. The rooster was singing, and that was a sign that all farmers would be already farming.
We walked to the piece of land that belonged to my family which we called “a retu i lavari”( Behind the olive trees). I couldn’t see much, but I followed her instructions. Through the gate I could already see the big wood fired oven lit. The maida (the wooden tub) was in the middle of the patio, a plastic tub with water, a sack of flour, a block of fresh yeast and a pack of salt. On the right side of the patio there was an old cottage, I could smell from outside the olives already picked the day before all put inside the cottage floor and ready to be measured and sold for oil. Around the cottage were olive trees, thousands of years old, large and tall that to me looked like they almost touched the sky.
My nonna pulled my sleeves up, then put an apron ten sizes too big on me so I wouldn’t dirty my little dress, then I watched her pouring flour into the maida, make a well in the middle and add the water to the yeast with a bit of salt.
“Aiutami Giusy”. “Help me,”she said. I remember like it was just yesterday, dipping my chubby little hands into the dough and trying as hard as I could to copy my Nonna. She was so proud of me that she gave me my own dough and I made my bread in strange forms (at that time I thought I was a junior Picasso). I remember my excitement as I watched Nonno Rocco putting all the bread into the oven and after what felt like an eternity the oven door was opened, and our bread was ready.
Oh the delicious aroma of fresh bread… something that even nowadays takes me to a different dimension. “Mangia.” “Eat,” said Nonna, handing me a piece of still hot bread, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sugar.
This is why I write my books; for the memories. For the love, for my family and celebrating my heritage.
GRAZIE DI ESISTERE