September 15 2007 Newsletter

September 15, 2007  NEWSLETTER
Come sta?
I just finished reading Italian Neighbors by Tim Parks. Tim moved to
Italy from London and writes about the neighborhood he lives in. If you’re interested in learning more about life in a small town in Italy this is the book. It’s not fiction but reads like a novel. Here’s a little section to wet your appetite:

And while Italians usually seem to like foreigners, the foreigners they like most are the ones who know the score, the ones who have caved in and agreed that the Italian way of doing things is the best. For this is a proud and profoundly conservative people, as careful observation of ordering at the bar will confirm. And a tightly knit one too. How is it that they all instinctively sense, without even glancing at stylish watches, that such and such a time is the moment to switch to their aperitivi? How they chuckle and grin when a German orders a cappuccino rather than an espresso after lunch, pouring that milk on to an already full stomach. And here's a curious detail: espresso is always OK, twenty-four hours a day, even corretto (i.e., with grappa), but cappuccino has a very definite time slot: 8-10.30 a.m. Trivia? No, good training.

What to read more about the book? Go to

Have a story about your Italian family? Send it to me and I will post it.  Click here to send your story

The contest has ended – the winner will be announced next month

Click here to see the new Italian Wedding Traditions and Wedding Cookie page or go to home page and click on the pages listed on the left.

My grandma made a lot of cookies – she called them “cooks”. As kids we didn’t always like the hard crisp biscotti and usually preferred softer cookies. Grandma knew this, so sometimes she would not twice bake the biscotti. She just cut them up for us after the first baking when they were still soft. Of course she went on to the second baking for the adults and older kids. One of our favorites was the chocolate cranberry biscotti. Here’s the recipe. Remember, if you like a softer cookie you can skip the second baking.
½  cup butter - softened
1  cup sugar
4  eggs
1  teaspoon vanilla extract
3  cups all-purpose flour
1  Tablespoon baking powder
¾  cup dried cranberries
¾  cup chocolate chips

+ In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.+ Combine flour and baking powder – gradually add to creamed mixture. Stir in cranberries and chocolate chips. Divide dough into three portions.

+ On ungreased baking sheets (I always use parchment paper), shape each portion into a 10 inch x 2 inch rectangle. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 – 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool for 5 minutes.

+ Transfer the loaves to a cutting board and cut each loaf on the diagonal with a serrated (bread) knife into 1 inch slices.

+ Place the slices on their sides on the ungreased baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees until golden brown. Move the biscotti to wire racks to cool then store in an airtight container. Makes a little over two dozen.

+ For us kids Grandma put a little chocolate frosting on each cookie. Yummm.

In Italy young adults feel free to date and marry as they wish. Il ragazzo (boyfriend) or la ragazza (girlfriend) may be introduced to the family. When things become serious the couple si fidanza (becomes engaged) and, in some regions, the families get together to celebrate the event with un bel pranzo (a fine dinner). The anelli di fidanzamento (engagement rings) may be exchanged and plans for the wedding are made. The old traditions surface, and respect for the family must be shown. When the young couples have jobs, the wedding expenses are paid by them. If help is needed, la dote (the dowry) is still the responsibility of the bride’s family, while the groom’s parents may provide the house or apartment.

The wedding date is announced through elaborate partecipazioni (wedding invitations). The bride dresses in white and the groom in formal attire. They are accompanied by le damigelle (bridesmaids) and I cavalieri (ushers). The papa gives away the bride at the foot of the altar. Certain churches and shrines are traditional sites for weddings and are still chosen by young couples. The church ceremony is both a civil and religious event and is followed by a reception or a dinner.

The nuptial reception is usually elaborate. Many delicious dishes are served and there is lively music. Even though weddings vary from town to town according to local traditions, every couple begins married life with la luna di miele (the honeymoon). The couple thus becomes part of the extended family and gains its place among friends and relatives.

Till next time - have happy days.
Thanks much for your interest in Italian cookies and Italian traditions.
Come visit us soon or send a note.

Arrivederci  -  Dio ti benedica
Rev. Fr. Mike