Our Mother at age 80, our favorite picture!
Mom at 18
Today is our mother’s 82’nd birthday!
She grew up on a farm in Sicily where she and her mother worked together from sunup to sunset on the “women’s” tasks on the farm. She tells stories of picking almonds and olives, of harvesting wheat and taking care of the animals. It was not all work, she also tells us about sitting with her mother in the shade of a pomegranate tree and breaking open fruit for lunch. She played with the animals and listened as her older brother sang opera on the balcony.
She learned her early lessons well. Our mother is energetic and hard working. She loves people, music, animals and great food. She has no hobbies but she is always busy, doing her best to make our lives better and easier.
I tried to choose a food theme and images that represent her spirit and her energy, and selected our Tomato Picking and Canning tradition.
We pick and can tomatoes every year. We used to can out of our own garden but now visit a local farm. This year we picked over 100 pounds (meaning that my mother did most of the picking while I transported) and canned over 30 quarts of tomatoes. Our home canned tomatoes are hard work but worth the effort for the pleasure they bring to our palate and to our souls. Having them in our pantry give us a sense accomplishment that we have provided for ourselves. They represent our mother’s motivation, borne out of an abundance of love, to provide the best for her family.
Buon Compleanno, Mamma.
1. Pick the Tinniruma, the tender, top 2 to 3 leaves of the Cucuzza vine.
2. Wash greens carefully
3. Boil water in skillet, add 1/2 to 1 onion cut in slices, cook until tender
4. Drain and cut Tinniruma into bite size pieces, add to boiling water, season with salt and pepper to taste.
5. Cook Tinniruma until the stems are tender. Turn down heat to simmer, add eggs and poach to desired firmness. We like ours with firm whites and thick not solid yolks.
6. Carefully remove eggs and greens with slotted spoon into soup/cereal bowl. Add broth to taste, drizzle extra virgin olive oil over.
7. I like to break toasted bread into broth and eat with spoon.
As far back as I can remember, my father had a vegetable garden. One of my early memories is helping him water his garden with a coffee can and a bucket. He loved his garden. When he came home from work he would look at the garden before he came into the house. My dad was a seed saver, he would store next year’s seeds in glass jars in an old lunch box, the kind the thermos jug fits into the lid. We still have his lunch box. He did not label anything, he knew which seeds were which. One of our heritage seeds is the Cucuzza. The Cucuzza plant is a Sicilian gourd, its seeds were not easy to find in midwestern US before the internet, either you had seeds or your neighbor shared with you. The Cucuzza also needs a structure to cling to as it grows. Over the years, my dad made a trellis with lumber and plastic plumbing pipe so he could put it up and take it down and reuse each year. That was my dad, always thinking.
My dad is gone now. For a while we could not find Cucuzza seeds. I bought some in Italy last year, but did not have a worthy seed-saving Cucuzza. My cousin Frank found some on the internet and we are now back in the Cucuzza growing world. Cucuzza is used in several recipes. I hope to share them later.
This summer we have been eating Cucuzza greens for breakfast, we call them Tinnirumi in Sicilian. The tender tips of the Cucuzza plant. Tinnirumi grow fast and we have enough for our family on a weekly basis. Saturday is Tinnirumi day, we pick fresh from the garden and enjoy with a poached egg and toast.
I chose this picture for my first real post because it represents all the things I love about my life and my family. This is my cousin’s oven, it is in his country house in Sicily. He hosted us and some of our extended family and friends on our last trip to our home town. The pizza is a simple recipe: dough, sauce, cheese, garlic and olive oil. The menu was also simple: pizza, wine, fruit and pastries (we brought the pastries.) So what makes this special? Well for us, it’s the family getting together to make something delicious to share. It’s the homemade wine from grapes grown outside the veranda. It’s the olive oil purchased from the local farmer. It’s the hospitality borne out of love and respect for who and what we are. Sicilianissimi!