Many Sicilians emigrated to New Orleans, Louisiana around the turn of the century. My paternal Grandmother’s family was from a town called “Piani dei Greci,” now called “Piani dei Albanese.” My maternal grandmother was from a town called “Partinico.” Both towns are located near Palermo, Sicily. These immigrants brought with them their cultures, their traditions, and their food. In the tradition of my ancestors, every “nice Italian girl” learns to cook!
I never really knew my paternal Grandmother, as she passed away when I was very young. But as I have been told by her ten brothers and sisters, and her countless nieces and nephews; she was everyone’s favorite sister, aunt and cook. She also “picked out” my Mother as the wife for her son, and encouraged her two sisters, Rosie and Nina, to conspire to “make a match.” My Mother grew to call her “My Best Friend.” I wish she could have lived so that we, her six grandchildren, could have known her.
I was fortunate enough to not only know my maternal Grandmother, but to live with her. She lived with our family for thirty years until she passed away in 1987. One of her favorite pastimes was to sit down with me, or one of my two sisters, and write down her recipes. She lived for her family, her six brothers and their families, and loved to cook for them -- “The Italian Way.” Our family eats lots of pasta dishes, soups with pasta and vegetables. Like Grandma used to say, “Nothing fancy, just healthy food.” In the time before my Grandfather passed away, and Grandma still lived in her own home, she prepared dinner on Sundays for at least twenty-five people. That was her life, that was what she enjoyed, and we miss her very much.
My Father, Bernard George D’Arcangelo, told a story of my Mother ruining their first meal together as husband and wife. It is hard to believe now, as is evident throughout this book. My Mother basically learned to cook from my Grandmothers, who were both excellent cooks. Then, using her wizardry, and the knowledge given to her by my Grandmothers, she became the ultimate cook for the family. After all, she had her husband, six children, mother, and father-in-law to cook for every day. She spoiled us so much with these delicious dishes; I could not bring myself to eat school cafeteria food! She delighted the palates of many a relative or friend who happened to stop by around dinnertime, or any other time for that matter. There was always something cooking in “Mama’s Kitchen.”
Donna M. D’Arcangelo