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FROM THE MOUNTAIN OF THE SHEPHERD…..AN ITALIAN VILLAGE IN AUSTRALIA

Well, I finally did it! It took me a while, but now it`s done! It was a personal journey and very rewarding too! My aim was to write down as much as I could remember as a child and young woman. To document this important information in some way so that the next generation can learn too! Villagers who lived on the land were instrumental for teaching us about food, the processes of preparation and methods of preserving. It is just a simple story about life, yet important enough to listen. Somewhere along the way, we lost our connection to food, and to the very nature of wholesome, fresh ingredients. This book may inspire you to re-connect………MARIA

You can purchase you book here at our online book store:http://theitaliancookingclass.com/shop

IL VECCHIO FORNO (the old oven)

This is one of the methods of food preparation that I talk about in my upcoming book. My mother made bread for us for a few years. Being a big family (nine people in total) we ate alot of bread. The thing though with making bread this way, it was a hard, hot and very demanding job. This was one of those skills that many stopped doing as it was particularly time consuming. Even though the bread was so beautiful to eat, it took alot of work and alot of time. Once they sold resonably decent bread in the stores and delis, baking the bread in the oven started to dwindle. My mother used to make it every two to three weeks. After a few years, she stopped making it too! There are those that will fire up their ovens for family get togethers etc and they are great for roasting veges and having a pizza day. Many of our neighbours were certainly seduced by the smell of the bread cooking and wafting in the air. Those were wonderful memories for me. Maria!
THE OLD OVEN
This is a typical old brick wood fired oven. We had an oven almost identical to this. This oven belonged to my aunty from Melbourne. So many paesani had an oven and produced this beautiful home made bread!

BOOK INTRODUCTION: EXCERPT!

Hello Everyone,

I just wanted to share this with you, if I may. It is an excerpt from my book introduction. Please feel free to comment as I can use any feed back.

I was born in Australia to Italian immigrants. My parents were both born and raised in Piminoro, a village that was and still is of shepherds and one of farmers. The village of Piminoro is situated high in the mountains, on a steep cliff face in the province of Calabria.

I grew up watching my father tend to his garden, that next to his family was his biggest love. The care that was given to his garden was remarkable, more so his understanding was exceptional and he always wanted to learn more so that he could make it better. My mother was always preparing something in the kitchen for us, but it never seemed like a chore to her and with such a big family (there were seven children) this was a necessity.

We were raised on a predominately Calabrese (Southern Italian) diet with most of the vegetables grown by my father. As children we had our jobs to do helping in the garden and it was something that we all had come to accept without issue. It was only as we got older, when it started to encroach on what we thought was `our own precious time`, that we were not always so obliging.

On becoming an adult and realizing that I still had much to learn it suddenly became apparent that much of what I had witnessed and what I was exposed to as a child I really just took for granted.

We made tomato sauce from our own home grown tomatoes, we made wine and we made our own bread. From my father growing beautiful produce to my mother cooking us wonderful meals, I had observed it all. Now as a forty year old mother of two with my own family, I realize most of those things in my life are gone. That is why I wanted to write this book, about the food they produced, what their diets consisted of, how they survived from day to day and to show in some small way how their experiences still influence us.

Living a simple life on the land, it is their methods of food preparation and the many wonderful flavours and tastes that they brought with them and introduced to us that I wish to write about. In their everyday life they developed methods that no school could ever teach. They were resourceful and smart: they were intelligent, capable and endearing. By capturing their methods and traditions in this book their skills can also endure.

Now that I am more aware about maintaining healthy eating habits, I always ask myself just how much have I learnt from these people? I was constantly surrounded by freshly grown produce growing up in a Southern Italian/Australian lifestyle. I learnt more when I commenced working in the food industry and I recognize that it has inspired and led me here.

This book is a dedication to these people and others like them. It is also a way of ensuring that their lives will not be forgotten. Whether directly or indirectly they have helped to shape our views on food and cuisine. Most importantly they have given me a much greater understanding of how simple, wholesome and pure foods are essential for our well being and that the enjoyment of good food amongst family and friends is not only a joy but a pleasure to be long remembered……………………………………………….Maria

STEP BACK A LITTLE AND RE-ADDRESS THE BALANCE

“STEP BACK AND RE-ADDRESS THE BALANCE”. This is a quote from Jamie Oliver`s TED speech 2010. Jamie Oliver as you know is famous all over the world with his cooking shows, books and more importantly his crusade about the importance of good nutrition, particularly for all our children.

One of the things he covered in this speech was the change that has happened to cooking over the last 30 years, the loss of having nourishing meals at home and our disconnection to our world of food. Jamie implores us to get back into the kitchen and feed our families well. Jamie`s message is clear and he has always stated the obvious regarding good food. As a chef and more importantly as a father the health of his children and family is paramount and he urges us all to put it at the forefront of our thinking.

Some of the statistics he covers in this speech is shocking and also quite sad. As parents our children are so important to us and for them to thrive they need to be nourished well in all areas of life. The first area though must be through good food, for it is good healthy, nutritional food that will give their bodies the best start on their journeys. A well nourished body can sustain, can function and be the best it can be. Once we place our primary importance on good nutrition the flow on will only multiply.

Getting into the kitchen does not have to be a chore and with what is available now to resource us with, only makes it so much easier. There is also the fact that some people believe that they can`t cook either….another myth! One does not have to be a great cook to put lovely meals on the table. Cooking can be a family thing, getting everyone involved makes it fun, it introduces children to cooking and everyone has a better understanding of food and it`s importance in their lives by re-connecting to their culinary past.

Another quote from Jamie Oliver`s speech “IF YOU CAN COOK, RECESSION, MONEY, DOESN`T MATTER, IF YOU CAN COOK, TIME DOESN`T MATTER” These words are so true. While our worlds have changed, evolved, our day to day activities seemed to be getting fuller, we still have to eat! All the more reason to eat well, nutritionally. Let us not forget about a good meal, just because we are in a hurry! This is why we need to step back and re-address.

I will finish here with Jamie`s wish. Personally, this is my wish also, as well as a message from http://www.theitaliancookingclass.com/ I hope you make it your wish too!………………..Maria

“I WISH FOR EVERYONE TO HELP CREATE A STRONG, SUSTAINABLE MOVEMENT, TO EDUCATE EVERY CHILD ABOUT FOOD, INSPIRE FAMILIES TO COOK AGAIN AND EMPOWER PEOPLE EVERYWHERE TO FIGHT OBESITY” JAMIE OLIVER TED2010.

ARE YOU CONNECTED TO YOUR CULINARY HERITAGE? Part two

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In the last post I spoke a little about my life and what it was like growing up in an Italian family. With my parents both coming from agricultural southern Italy, I was bound to have some of those customs relating to food both eating and growing set into my life. My father lived in the garden and cultivated it every day and we ate almost everything he grew. It was so beautiful, fresh, tasty and nutritional.

Let us now fast forward to the present and sadly our food has taken a drastic turn. What was once considered the norm and almost absolute, the unthinkable and almost unspeakable has happened. We are genetically modifying food! We are interfering with mother nature herself and destroying the very essence of fruits and vegetables.

No longer is a tomato allowed to be a tomato! Large corporations want to control the growth of fruits and vegetables, make them look better, last longer yet they are full of toxins, chemicals and pesticides that can have serious health consequences. So how did this all happen? Maybe the better question is WHY? Why did this and is this happening?

Speaking here from my own heart I truly believe it is about control. Everyone needs food, we all must eat to survive. There are a few (but extremely, extremely, large corporations) that control much of the worlds food supplies and want to push the boundaries so that they can control it all.

Farmers in small countries and rural communities are being forced to conform and are controlled by these big multi nationals who are all about money. They say that they want to look after people and feed them, but there is a big difference between being fed and being nourished!

These same companies/corporations own and sell pesticides and all sorts of chemicals for produce. They have scientists who work for them to make food products do what they want. Many of their products are found in processed foods as well. This is probably the scariest thing of all.

Many processed food items are so full of additives and preservatives that they last an incredibly long time, so imagine what they could do inside your body. These are not real foods! Real food will go mouldy, deteriorate, smell, and become acidic and rancid. This is a natural process that happens to something that was once alive.

We all know the importance of eating nutritional food, no-one needs to be reminded of that anymore. What we perhaps need to be reminded of is putting nutritional, healthy and good food on our tables. There are no excuses here! Our health, our families health are priceless and if we want to live active and fulfilling lives then our health should be our number one priority.

While there are those who will say everything is tainted and it is too hard buy decent food, I beg to differ here. There are those out there who work tirelessly to bring us good food. Organic produce is becoming so readily available, many, many more growers markets and fresh food stalls are popping up in towns everywhere.

So I implore you to get back into the kitchen and remember how you grew up. I reckon that most of you were feed good food by your mothers and fathers, grandparents, aunts and uncles. We can do the same for our families.

The great thing is that you don`t have to be a great cook to put healthy, lovely meals on the table. Find the time in your day or week to make good food for you and your family, because they deserve the best of you and they deserve the best of food. Make it a family activity, get the children involved each week try something new. Buy whole foods and start nourishing your bodies as apposed to just feeding them.

I have lots of hope that people power can change the status quo. We can boycott lots of processed foods, to make the companies look at what they are doing and demand good produce. We are all entitled to that, at least! The other thing that makes me feel good is that there are people out there who are making changes and demanding to take charge.                                    

We all can take charge and implement good eatings habits for ourselves and our families. This leads to better communities, healthier and happier people. The above two videos are exactly that, people who are working for the health of the community, to get people back on track.

So lets all get back on track and if we have extremely busy lives then make the time for good nourishment for all concerned. Make fast food a once in a while outing, but make home cooked meals and dinner time a celebration to remember. Let`s share our tables of wholesome food, give thanks for our wonderful meals and rejoice in our wellbeing. Let`s take charge of our health and live the way we used to live. Simple, fresh food with an abundance of goodness. Doesn`t everyone deserve that!……………………………Maria

 

ARE YOU CONNECTED TO YOUR CULINARY HERITAGE? Part one

piminoro

THE VILLAGE OF PIMINORO IS SITUATED ON A STEEP CLIFF FACE IN CALABRIA, ITALY!

I was born in Australia to Italian immigrants. My parents were both born and raised in Piminoro, a village that was and still is of shepherds and one of farmers. The village of Piminoro is situated high in the mountains, on a steep cliff face in the province of Calabria.

We ( my brothers and sisters)  were raised on a predominately Calabrese (Southern Italian) diet with most of the vegetables grown by my father. I grew up watching my father tend to his garden, that next to his family was his biggest love. The care that was given to his garden was remarkable, more so his understanding was exceptional and he always wanted to learn more so that he could make it better. My mother was always preparing something in the kitchen for us, but it never seemed like a chore to her and with such a big family (there were seven children) this was a necessity.

What we ate, we ate all the time. My mother would cook us minestrones, soups and all types of stews. All these meals were made with all the vegetables from our garden.

The one thing that I really did notice when I was younger, was that if we were ever at someone`s house having dinner (a paesano) and we usually had something typically southern, the meals were almost identical! No one ever really prepared anything `out of the ordinary`, but what they did prepare was something that was special by their standards: and special it was. They would always cook a typical, home cooked meal that was fresh, tasty, highly nutritional and straight from the garden and that`s good food. It was just like eating at home!

So many Italian families of my parents generation have these beautiful gardens in their back and sometimes front yards: and they know so much about them. Once you start talking to them about their garden, well you can`t stop them. They talk with such enthusiasm and pride, they are so passionate about their garden and so filled with love for it. It really is wonderful to see. It is obvious that they are truly connected and joyous about nurturing seeds that will one day become delicious and  wholesome foods on our dinner table.

I met up with two brothers (family friends) who are from the same town as my parents. Raffaele and Francesco who also immigrated to Australia in 1955 and 1960 . So I decided to ask them just a few questions,

Q: What was it like when you first arrived in Australia in relation to Italian food products being available?

A: RAFFAELE:  We found it hard to obtain olive oil early on, which for us was essential and bread was another item we couldn`t find. It was hard to eat the bread that was here and also small goods were not readily available.

A: FRANCESCO: I really missed the food that I grew up with, particularly my mothers cooking and vegetables preserved under oil, as we did so much preserving back home that would also sustain us throughout winter months.

Q: Did you find the food here in Australia expensive?

A: FRANCESCO:  Not really! Food was quite cheap with what was available.

Q: How long did it take to set up your gardens?

A: RAFFAELE:  Not long, within a couple of months we had a garden growing.

Q: How did you obtain the seeds to grow your produce for your garden, as so many things were not available here at the time?

A: RAFFAELE: You could buy packets of Italian vegetable seed varieties at the Italian grocer but also many Italians brought them with them on the trip over. Some are still growing from the same seeds, too!

Just from those simple questions to Raffaele and Francesco one can see the importance of food and their gardens and how it was connected and intergrated into their lives. Into the lives of all those that came here from agricultural villages. They really did teach us so much about food, sustainabiltiy and the importance about eating seasonal produce which gives us optimal nutritional value as well as great taste and flavour!  So next time you see a local gardeners market, or a local farmer selling some produce from home, buy it from them because it will probably be the best produce you will ever have!……………………………………………………Maria

 

THE GREATEST TOOL FOR DETECTION OF BACTERIA/CONTAMINATION.

Hello Everybody,

The final post for the Bacteria Series, it has taken some time and for those who have not been around or missed the previous posts on bacteria (living micro, mono celled organisms) here is a quick recap.

The first post was on what they are and how they breed and exist on a very dangerous level.

The second post was based on the right conditions for their environment and where they would grow, multiply and manifest at an exponential level to the extent of when and where they perpetrate our life.

Now this post is to shed a bit of light on the subject, in that yes……..bacteria is harmful if not treated with respect.
However treated with respect and consideration to the knowing of the power that all living creatures have on this earth……….it is very simple to understand and manage without it perpetrating our life by using the greatest tool known to man.
This will sufficiently detect it’s existence giving signals, warning us to take action to neutralise the situation then making the environment perfectly safe for us to work on or with.

This sounds like life, when our intuitive senses (being life) gives us signs and signals to act upon and change the situation or our environment…..and when we do this it gives a better platform to work with and allow us to create a better existence for ourselves.

Back to the bacteria……now this tool folks is………..the first thing that hits you when you are talking to someone. Well not directly hits you…………well actually, this depends how big the tool is and how close you are standing.

That’s right folks you guessed it……………your…………nose!!!

Come on get your mind out of the gutter, you thought it was going to be your………ah, doesn’t matter anyway :)

That’s right folks, your nose is the greatest household tool known to man for detecting bacteria and contamination so that you know to act upon it and change it’s environment so that it is cleaner and safer to work on and with.

Your nose really knows, all you have to do is smell something and if it has an odour of some kind it means that it is contaminated.

As obvious as this may seem, the thing is that even if you have washed it and there is a residual smell on the thing that you are smelling , it means that there is contamination from particles of that product still on the surface of the object that you are handling.
This is because scent or smell, is actually particles of the substance floating in the air and hitting your nostrils and activating the nerve endings to send trigger signals to your brain and register the smell.
With this present understanding, anything that is washed and still has scents/odours of things on the surface means that it is not really cleaned and contaminated having mass potential bacteria outbreak, this then potentially becoming dangerous food poisoning.

Here we are talking about things such as, chopping boards, plates, dishwashing cloths, bench tops, drinking glasses……anything that has potential to accommodate or is used with food.
What you do here is wash things down with boiling water and detergent, then your rinse them of with hot water, you do this with whatever cooking utensil or apparatus you may have. This process is continued until you nose has no recollection of any kind of scent/odour.

As for food the safest bet is to throw it out, though if it is the only thing that you have and the last and you may really want it, than what you have to do is cook it to the point where all the harmful bacteria for human consumption are killed off.
The temperature range is between 5 to 60 degrees, cook things to above 60 and keep things 5 or below and you have pretty good chance of not suffering food poisoning.

Always smell things to signal warning signs to change the situation!!!

BACTERIA

BACTERIA!!!!!
This is nothing to play around with especially when it comes to fooooooooood, as there are good and bad bacteria, depending where and when they are present.

There is a few thing to remember when it comes to bacteria just to keep it simple and save. As food poisoning can have devastating effects.

Firstly, these things are living micro, mono cell organisms. Simplified comes down to they live anywhere and on anything, they are microscopic and undetectable to the naked eye (until it is to late) and they are a single cell living thing.

Being a single cell, their DNA is very simple and can evolve and adapt very easily to any environment. Adding to this fact that they adapt very simple….with all the right conditions, they multiply exponentially.

This means that if the right conditions are met, as an example, in the first 5 minutes of contamination there are 1000 bacteria, in the following 5 minutes there won’t be double the amount of 2000 bacteria, though there may be in excess of 3,4 or even 5000 bacteria depending on strand of bacteria and conditions.

Stay tuned for further postings in identifying conditions and reducing the risk of bacteria contamination.

Thank you.

MY BACKYARD/YOUR BACKYARD

On Saturday October 20, 2012 I had the privilege to be at the launch of the DVD `My backyard your backyard`. This was a project put together byhttp://www.itsowel.com.au/.  ITSOWEL is a community organisation  in the Illawarra for Aged care primarily for the Italian Community.

The documentary/dvd was produced by http://www.whydocumentaries.com.au/. They did such justice to the lives of these individuals and their beloved gardens.

This project was about documenting and sharing these fantastic gardens and how they are lovingly cared for with some of them being over 40 years old. One of the underlying themes or sentiment if you like, was the fact that this generation of people will probably be the last to really have these types of gardens and typically live off the land. How we really need to remember them, and what a contribution they have made. This generation of Italians have taught us about sharing our fruits of the earth, caring for each other, cultivating the land and giving to one another.

I have spoken before about the Italian backyards here in Australia and what it was like to grow up in that environment. When I saw this dvd it was like watching part of my life again. Sadly both my parents have passed away but this was so much like our garden. It was so much a part of their lives, in particular my father. He lived in the garden every day. He`s day job was only second place to his real job, which wasn`t a job, it was his love, his life his everyday. Living in the garden……the place where he was at peace!

Seeing this dvd brought so many memories. How funny it was to see sisters arguing over who had the best Artichokes. Or how when bottling tomato sauce one just had to use a VB bottle, because , after all they were the best. From the moment it started I could feel the sadness welling up, my eyes were holding back the tears. My thoughts were and still are that there are not many of these wonderful individuals left and this way of living is slowly disappearing. Living off the land `in suburbia` will never be the same.

Whilst there are a new generation of people who want to learn about gardens, who have their garden beds and vegetable patches the difference here is that this older generation have a knowing that you really cannot teach and the connection with their land, the earth and mother nature truly is magical. Not only that, their skills are remarkable.

I am so thankful that I was able to see this fantastic dvd and yet the people that the stories focussed on just saw it as another day in their lives that was nothing out of the ordinary but certainly their lives were special and remarkable.

If you have the opportunity to buy this dvd or even view it via the website please do so as you will really develop an appreciation for a lifestyle that once was. All the beautiful flavours, foods, tastes and smells introduced to us by these Italian Immigrants who left their distant homes, set up camp and never left.  Not only did they bring their gardens with them, but they brought dinner and dessert. I, for one, feel so blessed to have tasted my mothers cooking, my fathers produce and to embrace the Italian way of sharing the table with family and friends. Is there anything better than that………………….really?

http://www.mybackyardyourbackyard.com/