Food, Family, and Memory

green olives Growing up in an Italian family in Canada, meant doing everything food-related at home. Long before words like “casareccia” (home-made) gave it respectability, we were merely those kids with giant vegetable patches for back yards, whose hundreds of relatives were always coming over to can tomatoes, roast peppers, peel beans, boil fruit, bake biscuits, make cheese, cure salami, press grapes and yes, strangle chickens. Some of those activities have diminished over the past 30 years. Indeed, if any of my generation continue the practice of strangling chickens, they’ll only be doing so as a catharsis. That said, my family continues to produce homemade Italian specialities to this day. I hope that never stops.

One thing we never got into was curing olives. I mean, we love olives. There are stories about every member of my family almost choking on an olive repeatedly in infancy. It didn’t matter which: the waterlogged run-of-the-mill canned ones, the meaty, slightly bitter, crunchy ones a relative smuggled back from Italy in his luggage, the prune-sized black ones that were so oily I’d call the dog over to wipe my hands on....

So given that my family loved olives and was so adept at curing and preserving food, why did we never do olives? A quick poll of the family one night over dinner gave me a unanimous answer to the question: I dunno.

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frittatapanWhen I was a kid, Lent never seemed that hard to me. I had to give up something I really loved like Snickers (which I seriously needed to cut back on anyway) and avoid meat on Fridays (which meant eating my grandmother's fri--taaa-taas). Eating Nan's frittatas was not a sacrifice.

Frittata is nothing more than eggs with vegetables, cheeses, or meats cooked into it. Yet, my grandmother's frittatas were always something special -- delicious, healthy, and comforting.

Whether or not you recognize Lent or have an Italian grandmother, there are many reasons why you should know how to make a frittata:

  • They're ridiculously fast and easy to make.
  • They're the perfect meal for the end of the week when you've run out of food. You could put just about anything in a frittata, (though I'd avoid chocolate chips).
  • They're endlessly versatile. Make them with whole eggs, egg whites, or Egg Beaters; add meats, cheeses, or veggies; and eat 'em for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
  • They make great leftovers for tomorrow's lunch. Try some in a sandwich.
  • They're so much fun to say. Come on, you know you want to say it like Nan used to. So in your best Italian grandmother accent and say, "fri--taaa-taa" as if it's the greatest word in the world. I know for Nan, it was right up there with "pizzelle" or her favorite word, "bingo."
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