Italian-American Holiday Food Traditions

Whenever I think of my Greenwich Village holiday dinners now, I think of how different the childhood celebrations of my Italian-American traditions were from most Americans. We always started with an antipasto of Genoa salami, olives, anchovies, and roasted red peppers, bathed in olive oil with thin slivers of garlic to perk up the dish. We followed that with ravioli, then the roast—turkey for Thanksgiving and beef for Christmas. For Thanksgiving, the roast would be accompanied by mashed potatoes, stuffing, artichokes, a couple of other vegetables, finocchio and a salad. For dessert, we always had Italian pastries like cannoli and sfogliatelle from Ferrara’s on Grand Street, a huge fruit bowl topped with red grapes, dried figs stuffed with walnuts, a tray of mixed nuts, roasted chestnuts and espresso with a splash or two of anisette. Of course, wine flowed throughout the meal. Torrone, the almond nougat covered in a wafer that looked like Holy Communion, was given to the children. Of course, all the Italian Americans of Greenwich Village must have been serving pretty much the same menu with ravioli prepared in the morning and stored on beds with covered towels to keep them moist until the mid-afternoon repast.

That’s why when Professor Donna Gabaccia wrote her introduction to a sub-section on food in our book, American Woman, Italian Style, I could relate to so much of what she wrote. She notes that cultural choices are made in a people’s cuisine and that “food and cooking are powerful expressions of our ties to the past and to our current identity.”

How true that is and how true the many essays about Italian-American women in this book are. Essays written by authors of diverse backgrounds, such as Mary Ann Mannino, Richard Gambino, William Egelman, Carol Helstosky, Edvige Giunta and Jacqueline Reich, are in their. The book has four main sections: childhood, work and family—including the food section; literature by Italian-American women; music, art and film by Italian-American women; and finally a comprehensive overview of findings from a variety of studies about Italian-American women. One interesting finding, to give a taste for what the book contains, is that, compared to the general population, Italian-American women have the largest percentage of professional degrees and the highest percentage of women earning over $250,000 a year. And this from a culture that started from very humble beginnings in America!

By Carol Bonomo Albright

Whenever I think of my Greenwich Village holiday dinners now, I think of how different the childhood celebrations of my Italian-American traditions were from most Americans. We always started with an antipasto of Genoa salami, olives, anchovies, and roasted red … Full Story

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James Johnston at Claymont Court Mansion

Author James H. Johnston spoke at Claymont Court Mansion this past weekend. Claymont is one of a number of Washington family homes around Charles Town, WV. Johnston joined Walter Washington and Betsy Wells (Washington’s descendants) as part of an effort to educate and inform people of the rich history in Jefferson Country, West Virginia.

While Walter and Betsy highlighted the family history of the Washingtons in the area, Jim Johnston took a slightly different approach.

Betsy Washington Wells

Jim spoke about the Bealls, a prominent family in the area. The Beall family owned Yarrow Mamout, a slave that is the subject of Jim’s forthcoming book From Slave Ship to Harvard: Yarrow Mamout and the History of an African American Family.

Through this historical account, Jim has reconstructed a unique narrative of black struggle and achievement from paintings, photographs, books, diaries, court records, legal documents, and oral histories. From Slave Ship to Harvard traces the family from the colonial period and the American Revolution through the Civil War to Harvard and finally today.

Walter Washington

Yarrow Mamout, the first of the family in America, was an educated Muslim from Guinea. He was brought to Maryland on the slave ship Elijah and gained his freedom forty-four years later. By then, Yarrow had become so well known in the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C., that he attracted the attention of the eminent American portrait painter Charles Willson Peale, who captured Yarrow’s visage in one of his paintings.

Recently, the portrait of Yarrow Mamout has been sold by the Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, showing the continual impact that the past is continually brought into the present. The era of the Washingtons, Bealls, and Mamouts continues to stay with us.

For more information on the seminar, please click here.

Author James H. Johnston spoke at Claymont Court Mansion this past weekend. Claymont is one of a number of Washington family homes around Charles Town, WV. Johnston joined Walter Washington and Betsy Wells (Washington’s descendants) as part of an effort to … Full Story

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Remembering Pearl Harbor 70 Years Later . . .

Dec. 7, 2011 — Today marks the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor when Japan bombed the U.S. Pacific Fleet anchored in Hawaii.

This “Day of Infamy” was unprovoked and ultimately drew this nation into World War II.

At exactly 7:55 a.m. on Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese torpedoes started ripping open battleships anchored alongside Ford Island. Within two hours, some 20 ships were sunk or damaged and 164 planes destroyed.

Of the 2,400 who died, nearly half were killed in a matter of seconds aboard the giant USS Arizona battleship, when a bomb detonated the ship’s munitions depot, igniting a conflagration that burned for three days.

It was the most devastating foreign attack on U.S. soil until September 11, 2001.

Here are some titles from our World War II: The Global, Human, and Ethical Dimensions series:

 

 

 

Dec. 7, 2011 — Today marks the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor when Japan bombed the U.S. Pacific Fleet anchored in Hawaii. This “Day of Infamy” was unprovoked and ultimately drew this nation into World War II. … Full Story

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NYT on New York's Golden Age of Bridges

New York's Golden Age of Bridges

NYT BOOKSHELF
Spanning New York, Old Hotels and a Reborn District
By SAM ROBERTS
December 2, 2011

“NEW YORK’s Golden Age of Bridges” (Fordham University Press) uses paintings by Antonio Masi and essays by Joan Marans Dim to span the gaps in the skyline by focusing on the physical connections that helped create Greater New York.

“Bridges are perhaps the most overlooked of the human-made, landscape-altering masterpieces of the New York cityscape,” the historian Harold Holzer writes in the foreword. He adds: “They are not the stuff dreams are made of; rather, at their best, they conduct us from one dream to the next.”

Mr. Masi, whose grandfather helped build the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge, and Ms. Dim, an author who grew up on the Upper West Side and now lives in Brooklyn, guarantee through ghostly images and graphic reporting that, as Mr. Holzer writes, “it will be hard to cross a treasured New York City bridge with indifference again.”

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NYT BOOKSHELF Spanning New York, Old Hotels and a Reborn District By SAM ROBERTS December 2, 2011 “NEW YORK’s Golden Age of Bridges” (Fordham University Press) uses paintings by Antonio Masi and essays by Joan Marans Dim to span the … Full Story

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