Saturday, December 13

You Know You're Italian When...

Are you unsure of your Italian-ness? Have you been living among medagons so long that you think you may have lost your identity? Well here is a "simple" check list to prove that you are Italian.

You know you are Italian if, during your childhood, at least 30 of these things ocurred:

1.You called pasta "macaroni."

2.You spent your entire childhood thinking what you ate for lunch was pronounced "sangwich."

3.Your family dog understood Italian.

4.Every Sunday afternoon of your childhood was spent visiting your grandparents and extended family.

5.You've experienced the phenomena of 150 people fitting into 50 square feet of yard during a family cookout.

6.You were surprised to discover the FDA recommends you eat three meals a day, not seven.

7.You thought the pig each year and having salami, capacollo, pancetta and prosciutto hanging out to dry from your shed ceiling was absolutely normal.

8.You ate pasta for dinner at least three times a week, and every Sunday.

9.You grew up thinking no fruit or vegetable had a fixed price and that the price of everything was negotiable through haggling.

10.You were as tall as your grandmother by the age of seven.

11.You thought everyone's last name ended in a vowel.

12.You thought nylons were supposed to be worn rolled to the ankles.

13.Your Mom's main hobby is cleaning.

14.You were surprised to find out that wine was actually sold in stores.

15.You thought that everyone made their own bottled tomato sauce.

16.You never knew what to expect when you opened the margarine, after all you thought washing out and reusing margarine containers was normal.

17.You never ate meat on Christmas Eve or any Friday for that matter.

18.You ate your salad after the main course.

19.You thought Catholic was the only religion in the world.

20.Your were beaten at least once with a wooden spoon or broom.

21.You thought every meal had to be eaten with a hunk of bread in your left hand.

22.Your grandmother never threw anything away, you thought seeing washed plastic bags hanging on the clothes line was normal.

23. You dreaded taking out your lunch at school, you would pray that you didn't have melanzane again.

24.You can understand Italian but you can't speak it.

25.You have at least one relative who came over on the boat.

26.All of your uncles fought in a World War.

27.You have at least six male relatives named Tony, Frank, Joe or Louie.

28.You have relatives who aren't really your relatives.

29.You have relatives you don't speak to.

30.You drank wine before you were a teenager.

31.You relate on some level, admit it, to the Godfather and the Sopranos.

32.You grew up in a house with a yard that didn't have one patch of dirt that didn't have a flower or a vegetable growing out of it.

33.Your grandparent's furniture was as comfortable as sitting on plastic. Wait!!!! You were sitting on plastic!

34.You thought that talking loud was normal.

35.You thought sugared almonds and the Tarantella were common at all weddings.

36.You thought everyone got pinched on the cheeks and money stuffed in their pockets by their relatives.

37.Your mother is overly protective of the males in the family no matter what their age.

38.There was a crucifix in every room of the house, including the cellar.

39.Boys didn't do house work because it was women's work.

40.You couldn't date a boy without getting approval from your father. (Oh, and he had to be Italian)

41. February 14th is VALENTIMES Day

42.Your Christmas tree was silver.

43.You have at least one irrational fear or phobia that can be attributed to your mother.

44.Every condition, ailment, misfortune, memory loss and was attributed to the fact that you didn't eat something.

Wednesday, December 3


Meatballs. I love them- well, not just any meatballs, there are only a few people's whose I will eat. Part of that is the skeeve factor- I won't eat them in restaurants, houses where cats are allowed to roam the counters, or people who have questionable hygiene- nose pickers, ear pickers, people who rinse instead of use soap after using the bathroom. I'm not exactly a germophobe but since you make meatballs with your bare hands, you don't want to worry about the cleanliness of the chef. And I really hate picking hair out of my food. You get the idea.

I don't really have a preference as to the degree of softness of the meatballs. Mine tend to be a little crisp on the outside and soft inside.

My meatballs are delicious. I say that completely immodestly because even my fussy children stand next to me while I am cooking them to eat them right out of the pan, blowing on them so they don't burn their mouths. Plus my mom said they are good and to me, that's the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.

So here is my recipe for meatballs.

One pound of ground triple meat mix (also called meatloaf mix- veal, pork and beef)
two eggs
two cups of cubed bread (bakery section) OR stale Italian bread, coarsely ground in blender (not too fine)
1/2 to 3/4 cup of Locatelli cheese (if you don't have that, get a pecorino/romano blend, I'm serious, the secret is in the cheese) Do not, I repeat, DO NOT BUY THE CHEESE IN THE GREEN CAN- THIS IS NOT ACTUAL CHEESE! I highly recommend you try some Locatelli if you have not tasted it- you will never go back. You can order it here right from Philly. All you have to do is grate it.
2 cloves of fresh chopped garlic OR if you are desperate and cannot get fresh garlic, use about 6 teaspoons of garlic powder (NOT garlic salt)
2 tablespoons of dried parsley
1 teaspoon of dried basil
1/2 half to 3/4 cups of water to moisten bread
1/4 tsp. of salt
1/4 tsp of black pepper
olive oil for frying

Add the water to the cubed bread, slowly, and mix it together until the bread sticks into a ball. If you use too much water the bread won't form a ball. (If you are using bread crumbs instead of cubed bread, skip this step until later)
Mix the meat with the eggs. You have to use your hands, not utensils, it's just easier.
Add the garlic, parsley, cheese, basil, salt and pepper
Mix the meat well to blend everything.
Mix the wet bread mixture with the meat thoroughly.
**If you are using bread crumbs, mix them into the meat mixture and add the water to the mixture slowly. The meat should stick together. If it falls apart, you used too much water- add more bread)

Roll the meat into balls.
Heat the olive oil until fragrant. **If the oil is not hot when you place the meatballs in the pan, the bottom of the meatballs will stick to the pan and come apart. I learned this the hard way!

Place meatballs in frying pan, don't crowd them, they need their space, and cook until the meatball is brown and the outside is a little crispy. You'll need to repeat this step two or three times unless you want to use multiple frying pans.

Again, give "Lucatell" a try. If you can't find it in your grocery store (depends on where you live- I spent 6 years without it when I lived in Lancaster, PA!!) You can order a big wedge from DiBruno Brothers, located in Philly's Italian Market and have it shipped to you. You will not be sorry!

Postscript: Avid reader Joe Gabagool wrote me to say that under no circumstances should garlic powder be used in place of fresh garlic and that anyone who would use garlic powder has no business making meatballs. I disagree with this- if you're stuck, as I have been with ground meat in a bowl and oil heating when I realized the garlic was shriveled, garlic powder can substitute fine. And to prove it, when Joe Gabagool comes ovah for dinner in a few weeks, I'll make him try both kinds of meatballs. I'll even serve them in a cup.