When you think of family what comes to mind? For me its Christmas in my great Aunt Tina’s basement. We would take every table in her house and arrange it so the 20 of us could sit. Wine would be poured and the cousins would be catching up. But the real action was always upstairs in the kitchen. For as long as I can remember my great Aunt ran the show. 10 dishes at least with almost all of the 7 fishes represented. The only Italian words I know are from this meal. This was how my family kept tradition alive with my Aunt at the head. She always used to say “God Bless me, I cannot believe I can still cook”. We would all laugh, at 97 I will absolutely not be cooking Christmas dinner for 20 people.
Today this incredible woman passed away, at 97. She was born in Italy and came over to America at 9. She told me they took a boat for 2 long miserable weeks. Her father had already been here for years and she barely remembered him. When they arrived she told me they inspected them for diseases and bugs. They required her to cut her long beautiful hair because they were worried about lice. She was adamant 80 years later that they were clean. I am still constantly shocked at this bravery. Coming with your family to a new land, new language, away from everything you know on the hopes that it will be better. That kind of faith and courage amazes me.
She spent the rest of her years in Greensburg, PA an oddly packed town of immigrants from Abruzzo Italy. This town has so many immigrants that every year there is a dinner in their honor. Your family can only come if you have a direct descendent and the room is always packed. At the age of 18 she married my Uncle Tony who I never got to meet. From everything I know this man was as Italian as they come. They owned an Italian grocery store and lived next door.
I like to think now she is in heaven with her Tony, asking for the biggest sauce pan they have.
April 1919- August 27th 2016