Wonderful Legacies Learned At Grandma’s Knee

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Family Memories and Legacies Picture Photo of My Great Grandparents and Their Family When They Came Here From Naples

Most of the important things I’ve learned in life- about caring, giving, strength and reliance, I’ve learned from my family. They have taught me valuable life lessons.

In recent years family structure has changed. For example, the all important nightly dinner table, which was ritual to my generation, has begun to fade from the family scene. Fewer and fewer family members continue to uphold the nightly dinner table gatherings.

They say the two best things you can give your child are roots and wings. To this I add old-world grandparents, mentors who teach, encourage and insure us as we grow; people who touch our lives like no other and whose ways and wisdoms stay with us a lifetime.

Loving Italian Grandparents

great grandparents naples
Cookie Curci’s Family Memories and Legacies incude this photo of her grandparents, who came from Naples.

I was lucky to have been blessed with two sets of loving Italian grandparents. They bestowed upon me life’s little lessons, blessings, inspirations, traditions, beliefs and above all else- some magical moments. I offer you my following family stories as a source on which to build new and lasting family traditions.

Today’s young men and women are tuning in to Cable TV “home and garden gurus” to learn what my generation learned at our grandparent’s knee: Flower and vegetable gardening, sewing, herb planting, carpentry, home repairs,crocheting, household hints and advice.

Many of today’s Grandparents are busy working outside the home, Too often to their grandchildren, they are merely the person who shows up on holidays and birthdays with a generous gift.

Post-war Grandparents were keenly adept in the old world ways of running a household. At age 10, my Grandma knew how to create tender pasta and ravioli from a little water, flour and egg, bake bread, plow a field and pluck a chicken for dinner. She had to, her survival in the Old-Country depended upon it.

Under Grandma and grandpa’s watchful eye, we learned how to stretch the household budget by growing and preserving garden fruit and vegetables; how to plant and sow seedlings at exactly the right day to get the best crop and how to use garden herbs for medicinal cures and a miscellany of household needs.

I fondly remember watching my Grandma preparing her nightly meals, quietly working in her tiny kitchen, anticipating the rush of happy faces to her dinner table. A little flour, water and tomato sauce, and a glorious pasta meal was set upon our table. It was then, while enjoying those simple but extraordinary meals, I realized that the most important and finest things in life are rarely the most expensive.

Grandma taught me early on that fish was the best fertilizer for fruit trees, and cucumbers and beans caught the best sunlight when planted near a northern fence and the best time to plant parsley was on Good Friday. On the feast of St. Joseph we planted flowering herbs, such as garlic.

Grandma’s favorite garden vegetable was the tomato. Her homemade tomato sauce bubbled on the stove like an eternal volcano. This pleasant aroma wafted from her kitchen window like a fine perfume. When our nostrils caught sent of the mouthwatering aroma we knew that supper was on the stove. I didn’t know, back then, that there was a medical benefit to eating tomatoes, I just knew that I loved the flavor and Grandma told me they were good for me.

Family-Style Meals Good For Our Health

It wasn’t until recently that I discovered the health benefits of tomatoes in our diet. The tomato has antioxidant properties of lycopene, a carotenoid found in tomato-based foods. It is believed that this may reduce the risk of lung cancer by 25 percent, as reported in the American Journal of clinical nutrition. Cooked tomato products contained the most lycopene. Eating at least five 1/2 cup servings of pasta sauce every week may reduce the risk of of lung cancer. Lycopene may protect against intestinal and prostate cancers too. Grandma’s love of her tomatoes was well founded.

Whenever the cold and flu season came around, grandma set a big pot of soup on to boil. A hand full of parsley, garlic, carrots, celery and a whole chicken were tossed in the pot. Grandma’s served her soup in big hearty bouls. Grandma’s instincts were right on the mark again. For we have come to know that parsley and garlic contains chlorophyll and antitoxins, carrots and celery vitamin A, poultry meat- riboflavin , niacin and biotin, so necessary to utilize oxygen and protein in the body. Some of grandma’s cooking skills were an inherited talent. But mostly she learned by watching and observing her mother and grandmother in the garden and kitchen. A luxury few of today’s young women can enjoy.

Before turning on that TV set and searching for your next recipe or household hint, why not get in touch with a family member, you’ll be surprised at the information and recipes that can be unearthed in a dig through your family history.

Grandma use to say its just as important to begin new traditions as it is to upload the old ones. So why not create some new family traditions and recipes along with those wonderful old family menus and legacies learned at grandma’s knee.

Cookie Curci is an experienced freelance writer, born and raised in San Jose, California. Cookie writes syndicated columns across the country, and wrote a “Remember When” column for The Willow Glen Resident for 15 years. Her work has been published in 15 Chicken Soup for The Soul books, and in the series of “Mother’s Miracle” books ( Morrow books).

She has a short story in the new book “ELVIS”, Live at the Sahara Tahoe; has been published in San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury news, Woman’s World, Primo magazine, Mature Living, and many websites.

Cookie is currently writing for several Italian American newspapers and magazines, they include LaVoce Las Vegas, Amici Journal, L’italo Americano, Life in Italy and Italiansrus.