Food good enough to write about

I was raised in an Italian household where food was the focal point of family gatherings. Anyone who came to my house was offered something to eat, and you got looked at strangely if you didn’t want anything. “What? How can you not be hungry?” or “Just try a little piece of this.” Not that we forced anyone to eat, but usually the tantalizing smells got to you and you found yourself eating without even realizing it.

So it wasn’t a surprise when writing UNTANGLE MY HEART that my heroine was also of Italian descent. Rather than a catering business like my family had, the DiFrancesco’s owned a pizzeria and later, a trattoria. All the DiFrancesco men and women can cook. Mama Carmen’s specialty is lasagna and canolis. Kate’s is shrimp & pasta marinara and biscotti. Her baby brother, Vinnie, makes a mouth-watering veal parm. Mr. D is all about the pizza. Sister Vicky is the baker of the family and makes a to-die-for Italian cream cake (my personal fav). Oldest bro, Nick, makes veal marsala that could make you swoon!

There were certain foods you ate on certain days and for certain holidays. At Easter, there are breads, pies, cookies you only get at that time of year. Eating them is extra special because you know you’ll go an entire year before indulging in them again. The same goes for Christmas Eve and the Vigilia di Natale (Vigil of the Nativity or Feast of the Seven Fishes).

Today is St. Patrick’s Day, which we did not celebrate in my house growing up. I didn’t have corned beef until I was an adult. Now, my husband makes it and I like it (although I’ll skip the cabbage). And I certainly won’t refuse Irish soda bread or a hot toddy!

After the DiFrancesco family raises a pint to St. Pat, they’ll turn their attention to St. Joseph, who celebrates his feast day on March 19th. This day honors St. Joseph, who is reported to have saved the Sicilians from famine resulting from a serious drought during the Middle Ages. The DiFrancesco’s celebrate this day with food such as pasta, stuffed artichokes, breads, pastries and fava beans. Following their meal, they’d end with special St. Joseph’s cakes like the one below.

By Salvatore Capalbi (originally posted to Flickr as DSC_0237.JPG) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Salvatore Capalbi (originally posted to Flickr as DSC_0237.JPG) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

This year, in addition to celebrating St. Joseph’s Day on March 19th, I’m also celebrating the world-wide release of UNTANGLE MY HEART. This contemporary romance, which has been available for Kindle and in print, will finally be available in all digital formats on 3/19. Spend time with Kate and her family and learn more about their Italian traditions and mouth-watering foods.

What special foods do you eat to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, St. Joseph’s Day, or another special day/holiday? What kind of non-human characters do you have in your stories?

Hugs and happy celebrating!

Maria

perf5.000x8.000.indd UNTANGLE MY HEART is Available at:

Amazon | TWRP | Kobo* | iBookstore* | B&N | All Romance*

* as of 3/19/14

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22 Comments

  1. Jenna Blue

     /  March 17, 2014

    Hi Maria! Being largely a melting-pot family, we celebrate many different holidays. St. Patty’s is bittersweet for me now that we’ve lost my mother-in-law. She was the Irish in our family’s lineage, and I’d never tried corned beef until I had it at her house. My husband said he didn’t care if I made it or not this year (it’s not exactly on our diet!) but guess what? I found that I care. Yes, the holidays and a food you eat only once a year are yummy, the something unusal always enjoyable, but what it comes down to is tradition. I want my kids to have that, memories and a little extra effort on a special day–no matter that there’s no way my little guy is going to touch any of the food tonight. Kid doesn’t even like potatoes! : ) He did get Lucky Charms this morning though! Happy one, everybody, and Maria, so exciting about your worldwide release! Best to the DiFrancesco’s!

    Reply
    • Hi Jenna. I always looked forward to the foods I only ate once a year. I’ve tried to create my own special traditions with my kids as well. A little of the old and new. Hope your little guy enjoyed his Lucky Charms!

      Reply
  2. I am reading your book now and thoroughly enjoying it!

    Reply
  3. Great post, Maria! I also grew up in an ethnic household and I think food, family, and traditions are very important. I didn’t have corned beef and cabbage growing up either, but my husband always did. Funny thing is I like it more than he does now and I made it this year. Congrats on your release!

    Reply
  4. RoseAnn DeFranco

     /  March 17, 2014

    Excellent post, Maria! So appropriate since reading Untangle My Heart made me HUNGRY! St. Joseph’s Day was always a big event in our house. We even have St. Joseph Statues mom would put out on the tables. Our menu always included (but was not limited to) stuffed artichokes, vegetarian lentil soup, Pasta Con Sardi (this is a MUST TRY! If you’ve never had it, I’ll provide a recipe. It will require a trip to an Italian Specialty store), bread made in the shape of a cross, and for dessert, usually canoli or if mom was feeling it, cassatta cake which is pretty much a canoli cake. I love how the strength in your own traditions made its way onto the pages of Untangle My Heart. Like Jenna mentioned, even though our world is changing, there is a lot of comfort to be found in traditions.

    Reply
    • Okay, you had me at canoli cake! You need to give me a recipe for that. Same goes for pasta con sardi. Traditions are fun and remind me of my grandmothers, both whom have passed. I feel close to them when I make their special treats.

      Reply
      • RoseAnn DeFranco

         /  March 19, 2014

        I hear you on that. I feel them in the kitchen with me during those times! 🙂

  5. Great post Maria..and near and dear to my heart…and stomach! And so true about Untangle My Heart, RoseAnn..once Lent is done…I’m getting myself a big, fat, cannoli! I never made corned beef, nor ate it while growing up. But since marrying my Irish guy, I’ve made it for 11 years now. That with soda bread and my hubby is happy. I remember those “must haves” at Easter in my Italian household..sweet Easter bread, meat pie, always the “macaroni” before the main courses. I try to give my boys both sides of their heritage on holidays. Traditions, whether surrounding food or otherwise, to me are to be treasured as well as the memories they evoke.

    Reply
    • Hi Nicole. Yes, Easter sweet break and meat pies are awesome. We also make a sweet ricotta cheese pie that’s great. And jumbalone, which is similar to biscotti except it’s made with lemon. Love seeing that someone else is on the “macaroni” camp with me rather than “pasta”. Thanks for sharing.

      Reply
  6. Congrats on the worldwide release! I read this post earlier at The Day Job and it made me HUNGRY!

    I love hearing of traditions in other families. Nice post!

    Reply
    • Hi Joanna. Food is such a fun thing to write about. It even challenges me to attempt things I never have made myself – like canolis. Next to tiramisu, it’s my fav. I really shouldn’t write/respond to these posts before eating breakfast. Now I’m hungry, too!

      Reply
  7. Jaye Marie Rome

     /  March 19, 2014

    Mmm, you’re making me think about our house growing up. My mom was German and French, but she was the best Italian cook I’ve ever known. Actually, mom could cook anything. Hungarian goulash. Ratatouille. Boeuf a la Bourgignonne. Sauerbraten. Chicken cordon bleu. Anything Italian. Chinese food (her sweet and sour pork was to die for). I have no Irish in my lineage, but my mother always made corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day. It was the only time of year she made it. Oh, and I have her awesome recipe for Irish Soda Bread.

    I always loved Lent because, even though I don’t like a lot of fish, it was the one time of the year she went to the great trouble to make codfish cakes. They are sooooo good, and I try to make them at least once during Lent myself. Served with a side of pasta with a thin tomato sauce…yum!

    Thankfully, I have a lot of my mom’s recipes, including her one for sauce (i.e. gravy).

    BTW, I second Joanna…I’ll also be a guinea pig taster for you if you make cannoli. Judging by your lasagne and your Christmas cookies, I doubt it would be a hardship.

    Hugs,
    Jaye

    Reply
  8. Maria, I have Untangle My Heart on my Kindle. Its on my TBR list. Great blog post. I love food traditions and have instilled them in my kids. I’m English, Irish, and German and Hubby is Italian so we have a huge variety of food. One of my favorite traditions is on Halloween I always make chicken and dumplings. We celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve so the kids can go to in-laws for Christmas Day. We did this when the kids were small to we could go to our in-laws. I have a special food for each holiday: corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick’s Day, Italian for Columbus Day, Mexican for Cinco De Mayo, etc. Hubby bakes and is now testing cannoli filling. Yes, Joanna, I am tasting for him. He’s trying to duplicate the flavor from when he was kid. He’s almost there. I guess next he’ll try the shells. He makes a wicked ricotta cheese cake.

    Reply
    • Hi Pat. Chicken and dumplings for Halloween sounds yummy. I always make chicken soup. My mom makes an awesome ricotta cheese cake for Easter. It used to be I was the only one in my house who would eat it. Now my daughter does and, sadly, I have to share 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  9. I know what you mean…here in Sicily the main activity is eating:)

    Reply
  10. Diana Quincy

     /  March 24, 2014

    I have to admit we don’t do anything special on St. Patrick’s Day…except pinch each other if we aren’t wearing green. However, I am all for food traditions…since I love to eat! Each Christmas and Thanksgiving we have very specific foods that MUST be on the table or the host faces having a serious rebellion on her hands.

    Reply
  11. Okay, Maria. Just catching up on posts. Sorry. And now I’m terribly HUNGRY!!! Food, family and work are my priorities although food tends to be the reward. Best, Michele

    Reply

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