Be Italian...

Life is better with a soundtrack, don’t you think? Imagine the perfect tune matched to your commute, or your walk in the park, or your cooking adventures. “Be Italian” would be on my playlist. I invite you to take two minutes to add some music to your day (click on photo).

Screenshot from YouTube Movie Trailer - click on image to play

Screenshot from YouTube Movie Trailer - click on image to play

In this 2009 Full Segment of the song, “Be Italian” is paired with sultry sexuality, and sand, and unforgettable choreography. You may also want to view the performance by the 1982 Broadway Cast.

If you haven’t clicked on the video yet – come on… try it… you’ll like it… If I cannot convince you to take a few minutes to watch this video, click on “Play” anyhow, and make it the soundtrack to reading this blogpost.

For some years now, Boxing Day has been “Go To The Movies Day” for me and Mr. KB and Son #2. The movies are often from the Lord of the Rings, Hobbit, Star Trek or Star Wars franchises. One year (2009) it was the film version of the (1982) Broadway musical “Nine”

No one was dragged kicking or screaming to the movie theatre to see this “musical”. Son #2 especially is a Fellini fan and Nine is based on Fellini's semi-autobiographical film 8½. It is a star-studded cast with Daniel Day Lewis in the role of Guido (a role that Fellini reserved for Marcello Mastroianni). Even Sophia Loren has a cameo role.

I’m not Italian, but a while back was startled to realize “Italian” was a theme in my life.

The realization came when I stumbled across this tip for “finding your passion” - “Look at your book collection, magazines, DVDs, CDs and credit card statements. Notice any themes?” [Source]

And what to my wondering eyes should appear? So much of my novel-reading, current and past, fiction and non-fiction has been set in Italy!! The Italian theme was indisputable (and almost spooky) when I added favourite music and movies to this mental inventory. And then there’s the cookies. If you’ve visited here often enough you know of my obsession with Italian cookies. That means I also have Italian cookbooks – and other favourite foods and cooking specialties that are Italian. For good measure, there have also been a couple of trips to Italy. 









As an aside, the “find your passion” quote comes from an Oprah site. I never watched the Oprah Show – it was daytime TV and I worked full time and was not enough of a fan to PVR it. I knew she gave away gifts, her book selections could rocket you to bestseller, and her guests sometimes jumped on the sofa.

I didn’t watch Oprah, but she was in my life. I was an "academic" in a post-secondary setting where the mantra was “research-based” and “theory-driven”. Critical thinking and dialogue were welcome, but more than once, students would disagree with established research or theories with their own mantra – “that’s not what Oprah says”. The “Oprah-fication” of science and medicine was trending enough to become the focus of critical articles. [Source 1, Source 2]

Oprah seems like a nice person. I’m not dissing her – though in the classroom I found myself at times disagreeing with her. This side story serves only to illustrate my surprise that I gained an insight from, not a textbook.

So…  Italy is one of my passions. How could I not have known this? Are there any clues as to how or why this happened?

Despite growing up in a community that included Italians, I have few memories of Italy impacting my life in the first couple of decades. I was a teenager when I first had pizza and spaghetti. Undoubtedly, Chef Boyardee commercials would have been common (and that must have made real Italians groan).

My first outstanding encounter with Italian culture came via Lina Wertmüller, director of many films, though the two that I found to be most profound were Swept Away (1974) and Seven Beauties (1975). Mr. KB and I became fans both of her and her frequent lead actor – Giancarlo Giannini

Here’s a spooky link to 8 ½ . Through her diverse experiences in theatre, Wertmüller met Marcello Mastroianni, who in turn introduced her to Federico Fellini and, in 1962, Fellini offered her the assistant director position on 8½!! (1962). For Seven Beauties “Wertmüller was the first woman nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director. Jane Campion, Sofia Coppola, and Kathryn Bigelow are the only other female directors nominated (with Bigelow the first to win)” [Source]

One day I must curate a collection of my favourite Italian things – though it would be a long, long list. Permit me the indulgence of sharing a few highlights… [or skip to the end for links to Italian recipes and favourite Italian bloggers] - and I hope in Comments you share your “Be Italian” favourite things.

Films - in addition to Wertmuller, the award-winning Best of Youth mini-series (which introduced me to the Jules et Jim soundtrack); the sweetest Venice film - Bread and Tulips;  the Sophia Loren and Clark Gable movie "It Started in Naples" (1960) - "Sure, sure - everybody loves Nando..." and that great song - "Tu vuò fà l'americano" (You Want To Be Americano).

Did I say highlights? Sorry for being long-winded... I could list so many more in each section. I'll control myslef - but email me if you want more movie, book pics.

Books - anything from Tim Parks (especially An Italian Education); Marlena de Blasi. This too could be a much longer list.

Music - any "Italian" Pink Martini song (Una notte a Napoli, Aspetta mi, Amado mio); Dominic Mancuso.

Cookbooks - well the obvious ones - you know who they are - plus my best sweets book - Dolci by Francine Segan.

Food - how can one choose... arancini, gnocchi and any pasta - will soon be trying Sugar Loves Spices Bucatini alla ‘Matriciana; and prosecco

Restaurants / Eats - Terroni, Buca, Forno Cultura

Cooking Shows - Gennaro and Antonio on Two Greedy Italians.

See... now I'm running out of steam. Please send me all your Italian reading, listening, viewing tips!

My Italian Recipe posts - Orecchiette with Sausage, Potato Gnocchi, (and more to come...)

My Italian Cookie posts - Anise Cookies, Mostaccioli, Tarrone, Lemon Twists, (quite a few I haven't posted yet...)

Favourite fellow bloggers who focus on Italian Cooking:

This says it all... è così o non è così?


Click on the word "Comments", below, to share your "Be Italian" favourite things!.  If you enjoyed this read, please take a second to click on "Like"!

The World is a Book

Vienna Scene. by Mr KB - Second Prize in Minolta Contest

Vienna Scene. by Mr KB - Second Prize in Minolta Contest

"The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page." [Source]

Mr. KB and I travelled a great deal in our youth - and less so in recent years - though that’s another story… But here’s my positive take on that.

Inasmuch as travel adds pages to the book of one’s life, the bonus of travel in one's youth is that you get decades to read and re-read those pages and chapters, and the experiences that weave their way into the fabric of your life are enjoyed countless times.

#TBT – recognize that hashtag? “Throwback Thursday” - when people post on social media about memories. Here’s one of my travel throwbacks. 

I made Linzer Cookies – surprisingly for the first time. Where, I’m thinking, is Linz? West of Vienna. Ah Vienna - and then that darn song pops into my head. Why is it in my head??!!

"As the years roll on, After youth has gone, You will remember Vienna
Nights that were happy and hearts that were free, All joined in singing a sweet melody
When your race is run, Whether lost or won, You will remember Vienna
You will recall evenings in May… Whence did they come, where did they go
Vienna will never let you know."

Turns out these lyrics are from the song “You will remember Vienna” featured in the 1930 Hollywood Viennese Operetta called Viennese Nights. I was not even alive – how is that song in my head? I've no recollection of ever seeing that movie whose cast included Bela Lugosi as Count von Ratz, Hungarian Ambassador - yup. Have a listen if you’re curious.

Vienna. It’s about two hours from Budapest – a city that has figured in my life as someone with Hungarian heritage. Traveling there seemed at one time to be “exotic”, but now, what with Viking Cruises and all, I’ve lost count of how many friends and acquaintances have visited there. Almost weekly in the change room where I go swimming, someone is going on and on about Budapest. I admit to (hopefully imperceptible) twitches when they talk about the city that I always felt belonged to me, to us. It was Mr. KB’s birthplace and home until the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. Once the Iron Curtain softened, we visited often. Truth be told, the dollar was good during the Communist regime and it was a very affordable way to vacation and visit family.

So these days it seems like everyone is going to Budapest. But what about Vienna? In the time of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it was the seat of power, leaving a royal legacy - a beautiful city. In our earliest travels, Vienna was the gateway to Hungary. One would take a plane to some place in Western Europe, rent a car, and rest a bit in Vienna, before crossing the well-guarded border with passports and visas and dire warnings to check into the local police station once each week during one’s stay.

I was charmed by Vienna. I took breaks from listening to the rock music of the time to play a Strauss Waltz LP over and over. And then there was the food.

  • Sacher torte mit schlag (with whipped cream) - will share my recipe one day. Since it uses almost a pound of chocolate I only make it when there are enough guests to share the calorie count.
  • tea with lemon in glass cups - yes there was a coffee house culture, but I own several Ritzenhoff tea glasses to capture the memory of tea in Vienna.
  • bouillon mit ei - broth with a raw egg yolk that is stirred into the broth rendering a rich texture and taste. We used to serve this to guests until I began to worry that they'd freak out about being served a raw egg.
  • wiener schnitzel - the closest I could ever get to matching that experience was at Toronto's Coffee Mill - sadly, now closed.
  • wieners - elegant Vienna is dotted with street vendors selling hot dogs, with your choice of mustard and a slice of rye bread - and the veal wieners at Denningers rekindle that memory.
  • and... Viennese cakes - treats for the eye and tummy. One year, traveling with our two young boys, we returned to our hotel with a "sweets feast" – and no cutlery – so we proceeded to eat using Playmobil shovels!

I won’t turn this food blog into a tour guide, but there was one experience that will, in a moment, lead me back to food. One day in Vienna, we walked for a while next to a wall. There was a moment in that walk when - had we glanced to the left - we would have missed an amazing sight. (see photo below) A dark passageway, a small archway - that opened onto glorious light and an amazing park - the Belvedere Gardens and Museum  The museum (at that time) housed artwork by Gustav Klimt that included the wondrous portrait featured a few years ago in the movie, Woman in Gold.

Gateway to Belvedere Gardens. Look the wrong way, and you miss this sight! [Source]

Gateway to Belvedere Gardens. Look the wrong way, and you miss this sight! [Source]

Fast forward to 2016 - hot day, exhausting walk in NYC. We desperately needed a break and followed KB Son#2 to a mystery destination. On that day it felt like the walk ended at heaven on earth - Café Sabarksy which perfectly replicated an Austrian coffee house - the décor, waiters’ uniforms, the newspaper holders - and of course the sweets, AND since 2006, the new home to Klimt's portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer (Woman in Gold) - our paths crossed again, decades later.

What a wonderful food experience. It had us “re-reading” pages from our book of life and travel. It also led me to purchase Kurt Gutenbrunner’s impressive cookbook “Neue Cuisine”. I mean, his name incorporates the German word for "good"! It has been praised in a NYT review “New York never knew it needed Austrian Cooking. Now it may not be able to live without it.” This cookbook holds the promise of many baking adventures (and is the source for the Linzer Cookie recipe), but it also features starters, soups, salads, mains and sides. I’d be happy to open it randomly and make anything from that book.

IMG_5892 (2).JPG

So that’s my “Throwback Thursday”. Am I reminiscing too much? “Sometimes the path forward begins with a journey back.” [Author Unknown – appears in many NL Tourism sites]

In case you missed the link to the Linzer Cookies recipe here you go.

P.S. Still no idea why that song is in my head. As a young child, I inherited many of my Uncle Henry’s possessions after his tragic death. They included a 78 rpm record player and records. I thought maybe that’s how that song entered my life, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Those lyrics are an earworm I can’t shake. "Whence did they come, where did they go, Vienna will never let you know." Yup.

Click on the word "Comments", below, to share your thoughts. Have your travels ever affected what and how you eat? If you enjoyed this read, please take a second to click on "Like"!