It has been (and is going to remain) a busy time for me. I had two different sets of visitors recently (my parents followed by my in-laws), I’m in the final stretch of my WIP, the print version of my first novel is about to be finished (the eBooks are already available), my daughter qualified for the district tournament in tennis (extra practices), my son’s birthday is right around the corner, and I’m leaving for a conference this week.
But life is boring without such events, whether you consider them treats (family visiting) or obstacles (carving out time to get work done). I wouldn’t change things for the world.
So when I sat down to compose this blog, I wondered what about my current life would interest you.
- Our families wouldn’t interest you. You don’t know them.
- My WIP is pretty cool, but I’m not sure what I can share about that yet.
- I’ve already droned on and on about my published novel.
- My kids and their events are likely more interesting to me than anyone else.
- And I’ll be telling you about the conference in another week, so…
Yeah. My life is hectic, but there’s really not much going on that’s worth sharing.
So I figured I’d give you a glimpse into what makes me… well, me.
My father’s heritage is varied, but my mother is 100% Italian. That, coupled with the facts that I was closer with my mother’s family than my dad’s growing up and that I married into an Italian family, makes that part of my heritage resonate with me. Yes, I’m 1/8 Irish, German, Scottish, and Swedish, but when people ask me my heritage, I say I’m Italian. And proud of it.
Many of you probably don’t know this, but October is National Italian American Heritage Month. It’s not advertised like some other nationalities’ months, but it’s important to me and my family. It’s the time of year set aside to celebrate the accomplishments of my ancestors.
I’ve noticed several people on the Internet comment that we should drop the hyphens and no longer be Nationality-Americans, but instead just be Americans. I couldn’t disagree more.
Our heritage shapes us, defines who we are. (tweet this)
The United States is called “The Great Melting Pot” because many nationalities came together to form one great nation. But just like in any recipe, the end result may be magnificent, but it wouldn’t have turned out that way without each separate ingredient.
The US is wonderful because of all the nationalities that formed it; not in spite of them. (tweet this)
We should celebrate the hyphens.
Some facts regarding Italian-Americans:
- Over 5.4 million Italians immigrated to the United States between 1820 and 1992.
- Today there are over 26 million Americans of Italian descent in the United States.
- Italians comprise the fifth largest ethnic group in our country.
- The greatest concentration of Italians is in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania (where I’m from).
- After the bombing at Pearl Harbor, 600,000 Italian-Americans were branded “enemy aliens.”
- Over 250 were interred for over two years.
- More than 1500 were arrested.
- It became dangerous—and in some places illegal—to speak Italian, or the “enemy’s language,” resulting in a rapid decline of the use of Italian by immigrant families.
- The worst lynching in US history was of Italian-Americans in New Orleans in 1891.
- Everyone knows of Italian’s contributions in the arts and sciences, but here are some lesser known facts:
- 2 signers of the Declaration of Independence were Italian.
- 4 Italians fought in and survived the Battle of Little Bighorn.
- The Planter’s Peanut Company and its logo, Mr. Peanut, were designed by an Italian.
- Popular songs, like “Chattanooga Choo-choo,” “Lullaby of Broadway,” and “An Affair to Remember,” were composed by an Italian.
- The ice cream cone, the Big Mac, and the first shopping mall were created by Italians.
- The only enlisted Marine in U.S. history to win the nation’s two highest military honors—the Navy Cross and the U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor—was Italian.
- Countless singers, actors, and athletes are Italian-American.
Yes, I believe that Italians are responsible for much of American history. They’ve been productive members of the military, the sciences, the arts, and sports. They’ve been persecuted for their heritage and have enriched the culture in this country. It’s no wonder I believe in hyphens.
I am an Italian-American. And I’m damn proud of it. (tweet this)
In honor of National Italian American Heritage Month, and because I mentioned melting pots and food earlier, I’m going to include a traditional Italian recipe here. I have so many, it was hard for me to pick. So I’m posting something rich, sweet, and smooth—kind of like an Italian trifecta. Try it this month, you’ll love it. After all, if you believe we’re all brothers and sisters, then you must believe there’s a little bit of Italian in all of us. And if not, allow me to share a little of my Italian heritage with you.
- 7 eggs, separated
- 7 Tbsp sugar
- 1/4 c Kahlua
- 2 1/2 c mascarpone cheese
- 3/4 c cold espresso or strong black coffee
- 24 lady fingers
- 3 Tbsp cocoa powder or 4 oz grated unsweetened chocolate (I use the cocoa powder)
- In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar with a standing mixer until pale and thick, about 5 or 6 minutes. Add liquor and mascarpone and beat until mixture is thick and smooth.
- Clean the beaters and thoroughly dry them. In another bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff and form peaks. Fold egg whites into the mascarpone mixture.
- Pour the espresso into a shallow dish. Dip a lady finger in, turning QUICKLY so that it gets wet but doesn’t disintegrate, and place it on the bottom of an 8x8x2 inch dish. Repeat until the entire bottom of pan is covered.
- Spoon half of mixture over ladyfingers.
- Repeat with another of soaked ladyfingers and cover with remaining mixture.
- Level surface with spatula then top with cocoa or chocolate shavings.
- Cover and chill for several hours before serving.
If you’re interested in more Italian-American information, visit The Committee to Observe October as Italian-American Heritage Month site. There you will find a lot of information, including the 31 Days of Italian-Americans list (one name for each day of the month).
So, are you part Italian? Do you have a story or recipe to share? You know the drill…
“Sweet” post, Staci. Thanks for writing. It’s amazing how much IA’s have contributed to our culture. Very inspiring!
Thanks, Joe. If you try the recipe, let me know how you like it. (You probably have the same one or a similar one at home, anyway!) Happy NIAHM to you and yours!
When we lived on Staten Island we made many friends who were Italian. They took us into their large families and shared their lives with us. What a wonderful experience that we will never forget. Happy National Italian-American Heritage Month to one and all.
Not that I want to stereotype, but that’s been my experience with Italian families. We embrace everyone. (I can’t even begin to tell you how many people call my grandmother ‘Nana’ even though they aren’t related. You meet her, and you’re her family!) I’m glad you got a little taste of that in NY. Happy NIAHM!
Interesting blog, with excellent information that I didn’t know, Staci. And, I agree with you. It is the ability for many cultures to live and learn in this country that makes it great. Why in the world would we try to deny our heritage. It does not in any way minimize our pride at being American. To me, it’s like having children. Though your heart can be full with love for your first child, it can expand infinitely to love your second (and 3rd, 4th and on and on) every bit as much. Thanks for sharing!
Jan, your children comment is a beautiful analogy. I am so proud of being an American. But hearts have no bounds. I have equal pride for my heritage. (I may “borrow” that from you at a later date.) Thanks for sharing that thought!
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Viva la Italian-Americans! This country is rich in heritage from other soils–it’s what makes us tick. My heritage lies in that small island off the western coast of Europe’s mainland. This small island once ruled most of the world, which isn’t something I’m proud of, but I am proud of those early Brits and many other nationalities who came here and fought for the right to live independently on the plot of land on the North American continent. Happy October (or should I say Buctober?).
Definitely Buc-tober for us this year. The Pirates are up 2-1 in the series. Let’s hope it keeps going from here! Happy Buc-tober to you, too!
Watching at 3 p.m. It would be nice if they could win the series at home. It seems many folks are rooting for them right now so the energy is there.
Sometimes the crowd makes all the difference. And it’s all through the city and the other teams. Did you watch the Pens game? A bunch of Pirates were there cheering them on. Our athletes are great at cross-team support. Lovin’ Pittsburgh!
As a fellow paisan, I love your post. I consider myself 100% Italian, but I am a mix. I have always loved the Italian culture and my fondest memories occured around our Italian family, food, and culture. I have several family recipies each with a different story. Some of my fondest memories and recipes are from cooking with my grandmother.
My most recent cooking lesson was with my 95 year old grandmother. She taught me to make one of my favorite cookies traditionally made on Palm Sunday, Cumburelle. Here is my newest recipe and I am glad I can share it with you.
3 – 4 oranges (rind and juice)
2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
1 cup milk
8 tsp. baking powder
5-8 cups flour (enough to make a soft dough)
Beat eggs well; add milk, oil, sugar, orange rind and juice; mix well. Add flour and mix by hand until it forms soft dough. Knead on floured surface to finish. Cut off in pieces about 2 inches. Roll into log shape about 1/2 inch thick. Form a knot or “S” shape. Put on floured baking sheet, bake 375 for 15-20 minutes.
Cool and glaze
2 cups powdered sugar
1-2 tsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
Mix powdered sugar and milk until glaze coats back of spoon but isn’t too runny. Add vanilla, mix well. Dip cookies in glaze and place on cookie sheet. Let glaze harden.
Thanks for sharing this recipe with us. It’s one of my favorite cookies, too. I make an orange cookie that tastes similar, but is so much less work. I think of the Italian version everytime I eat my substitutes. Ah… memories.
Wow, I had no clue it was Italian-American Heritage month – – and I’m Italian! My father was German with a bit of English mixed in, but both of my mother’s parents were Italian immigrants to the U.S. In those days it was unheard of for a Catholic Italian woman to marry a German Lutheran…and he was blond yet, LOL! Good post, Staci. By coincidence, I married an Italian too!
Sounds like we have a lot in common. My blond, Lutheran, German (plus others) father and my brunette, Catholic, Italian mother weren’t exactly the ideal match from many people’s perspective, either. So glad they didn’t let that stop them! Happy National Italian-American Heritage Month!