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June 07, 2019

Italian Heritage Month -- Keeping Traditions Alive

Italian Hertiage Month in Toronto. Chef makes pizza

June is Italian Heritage Month. 

I'm sure many people realize that my family's background is Italian, but you may not know that I'm actually very Canadian -- 2nd generation in fact. My parents were both born and raised in Canada, as were my sister and I. And while I'm incredibly proud of my Canadianness, it also makes me a bit sad that as my kids grow up, they will likely lose some of their Italian heritage. 

And that's why we try and keep some traditions alive, as we create new ones. 

One obvious way to do that -- with food. Italians are known for a lot of things: fashion and design, tourism, politics, soccer, our passionate (stubborn) attitudes, but the food is one of the pillars of Italian heritage. 

Aurora Importing Spread

And while the little boot is a relatively small country in relation to Canada, the vastness of Italian cuisine is extraordinary, and when you're comparing regions and cuisine, it's so interesting. For example, Donny's family is from Central Italy, while mine is from the South. Our palettes, our preparation and even our entrees are very different. What we eat on holidays varies, the herbs we use and the general flavour of our dishes are distinct.  

It's all good. 
Very good. 

But it's nearly impossible to lump all of one country's food culture into one grouping. 

So how do we keep the traditions alive? We eat a lot. We cook a lot. We preserve a lot.

tomato sauce made by hand

One tradition I'm nowhere near abandoning is making tomato sauce in our garage. Every summer, we turn bushels of fresh tomatoes into our tomato sauce that we use throughout the year. It's a long day or hard work, but it's worth it. Same goes for homemade sausage and soppressata, which eventually becomes the feature in a Sunday-night dinner "charcuterie" board. (Note: we were eating charcuterie boards before they were trendy)

Charcuterie boards made from scratch

Italian Heritage Month and prosciutto appetizers

And polenta -- probably one of the simplest meals -- it's cornmeal and water. That's it. And it's spread across a wooden board and topped with sauce or rapini or sausage. Fun fact: I had never had polenta until Donny and I started dating; my family doesn't eat polenta. So we learn a lot about the culture along the way.

Warm polenta with sauce and sausages

And of course, we visit family, we teach the girls simple words (we were both fortunate to take Italian lessons growing up), we shop at an Italian Canadian grocery store, and we explain the culture as best we know how. If they would like to learn the language, we will encourage them, of course. 

One day, we'll take a family trip to Italy and explore our heritage even more, but, for now, we toast all the beautiful Italian qualities we hold and invite everyone to celebrate with us. Because that's what Italians do!

Cannoli italian dessert

Bacio Italian Chocolates

Faema Caffe Latte

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