Thursday, February 7, 2008

Jo Manning

When I was growing up in Astoria, Queens, in the '40s and '50s, I thought everyone ate as well as we did. My dad had a backyard garden where he grew figs, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, and basil -- his older brother, who lived in an apartment building, rented a space where he also grew veggies, fruit, and herbs. Their mother -- my paternal grandmother -- was a fabulous cook. (My mother learned to cook from her and we have her treasured tomato sauce recipe, which I handed down to my children.)

My father always said, "We may not be rich, but we eat a lot better than most rich people." He might have been right :-)

Anyway, the food we ate and loved -- fresh tuna, wheat berries, broccoli rabe, artichokes, cardoons (my father and uncle used to pick them outside of Poughkeepsie, where they went to hunt rabbits and squirrels), ricotta, mozzarella, and all manner of what Anglos called offal, these enriched our food palate. I still remember eating fresh ricotta on fresh Italian bread (my mother scoffed at what she called the soft, white, packaged stuff favored by Anglos "American bread") and breaded, fried cardoons fresh from the pan.

The French have their madeleines to remind them of times past (I bake a killer madeleine, by the way, following Julia Child's recipe), I have cardoons, fresh ricotta, and sauteed squash blossoms... It gives me a kick to see Anglos -- foodies and food critics -- "discovering" these delicious foods of my Sicilian childhood.

Jo Manning,, author of -- among other novels and non-fiction -- The Sicilian Amulet, which is a paranormal romance with a lot of food talk, too.

P.S. My cousin's cousin, Renee Restivo, has two web sites, and, that you all might want to visit -- she also conducts tours of Sicily during the olive harvest.

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