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Mia Famiglia

August 11, 2010

My great-grandparents, Vito and Marianna Candelieri. came to America from Calabria in the early 1900s. Vito worked as a manager of a mill in Milford, Massachusetts and Marianna opened her home to the mill workers, offering room and board to help make ends meet while caring for their six children. My grandmother, Mariannina fondly remembered the old farmhouse, helping her father milk the cows at four in the morning and taking rides into town on her horse Nellie. As the industrial revolution made its way through New England, my great-grandparents relocated to Somerville, Massachusetts. While the move to the city changed the way they lived, they continued to tend a garden for produce and raise chickens for fresh eggs.

My family shared a large two-family house in Somerville. My grandparents, my parents, my sister and brother, and my father’s youngest sister and brother lived upstairs and my great-grandmother and her youngest son and his family lived downstairs—it was a full house and quite lively as you can imagine! The backyard was steep and perfect for a terraced garden to grow vegetables during the summer months; and the grapevines and Mulberry tree that my great-grandfather planted continued to produce fruit long after he had passed away.

Sadly, our family has lost our physical connection to Calabria but not the culture of family and tradition. The memories of helping my great-grandparents harvest vegetables from the terraced garden, taking long walks in the forest outside the city to find wild mushrooms, and making cookies with my Nana early in the morning before everyone awoke will stay with me always. I look back with joy spending time with my grandmother in the kitchen, cooking, writing down her recipes, and listening to all the stories that go along with them. Compiling her memories in a cookbook has been a labor of love and a testament to the Italian embrace of family, friends, and food that will be passed down to the next generation.

My grandfather, Primo Di Grazia, immigrated to America leaving the rest of his family behind. Fortunately, my grandmother kept in touch with his family and they continued to reciprocate visits over the years. My fondest memory is coming to Italy with my grandmother in 1995 to stay with our extended family in their home in San Felice—as they opened their home and their hearts—I had the privilige of experiencing the Italian culture not as a tourist but as family.

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