La Befana: The Italian Witch

By Alberto Macchione

Christmas was over and the inevitable post yule tide remorse sets in. The feast is over, the family disperses, the presents are packed away and the decorations seem to take a different meaning, like a tombstone marking that the spirit of Christmas had passed through these walls in days past.

I come from a family of Italian immigrants and no country has contributed more to the traditions of the secular and Christian Christmas than Italy.  In my parent’s day, in the small villages of southern Italy, Christmas wasn’t such a big deal and there wasn’t much said of the Santa Claus we all know and love. My mother told me that they didn’t really give out much in the way of presents on Christmas day. Instead, they were still waiting for the real Santa Claus, only the real Santa Claus wasn’t a big fat man in a bright red suit but rather a woman, a tattered scrawny old woman, a witch in fact. Then it struck me, there are ’12 days of Christmas’. My mother was right. Christmas isn’t truly over until January 6th known as ‘The Epiphany’ in some Christian faiths.

So Christmas in the Christian Calendar is a little longer than many realize and that the birth of Jesus is somewhere near the beginning of that story. So what does the birth of Jesus have to do with an old witch? [Read more…]

How to Can Fresh Mozzarella

Verdi: The Force of Destiny (La Forza del Destino)

composer_02_1By Alberto Macchione

Almost everybody knows the famous composer Italian composer ‘Verdi’ who was born this month in 1813, and those who don’t will find his music familiar. Verdi’s compositions have adorned television commercials, thread through pop music and classically, well, ‘La Traviata’ is simply the most popular Opera in the world. 

‘Rigoletto’, ‘Il trovatore’, ‘Requiem’ and his masterpiece ‘Aidia’ are some of the greatest librettos ever written with scintillating scores that are unparalleled. If all that isn’t enough, Verdi’s music is a mainstay in the movies, you can hear it in ‘Twilight’, ‘Django Unchained’, ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ and has been credited in over 300 television shows and films including ‘Ren and Stimpy’ and ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine.’

While Verdi is possibly the world’s most famous composer to you and I, what might not be known outside of Italy is the significance of his role in Italian political history. Verdi was not only a genial musical creator but he was instrumental in the creation of the Italian state. If General Giuseppe Garibaldi was General George Washington who united the territories as a leader in the new America, then Giuseppe Verdi was Benjamin Franklin who leveraged his notoriety and genius to not only foster unity throughout a disjointed population but was foundational in defining Italy much in the way Franklin defined the American ethos during the Enlightenment. [Read more…]

Aroma Italian Crackers

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Thanks to Bob Tick for this recipe! 

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 25 wonton wrappers (1/2 of a standard package)
  • 1 cup shredded Romano cheese
  • Aroma Seasoning, salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Cut the square wrappers in half to form rectangles.
  2. Lay wonton pieces out in a single layer on a baking sheet. Brush with olive oil and lightly sprinkle with Romano, Aroma, salt and pepper.
  3. Bake at 375 for 8-9 minutes or until wontons are brown and crispy.  Serve immediately or store in an airtight container for a few days.
  4. Give it a try I bet you and your family will love them.  Let me know and thanks if you choose to print this recipe.

See You on Italian Heritage Day!

Come and see us at the Heinz History Center for Italian Heritage Day this Sunday from 10am-3pm! Sample our delicious homemade bread and Aroma seasoning. And back by popular demand—we will also be selling our ‘Don’t be a Chooch’ shirts as well as other great merchandise. Stop by and say hello!

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