Living History: Eating like an Italian Immigrant Family in 1919, Day 4

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Breakfast came from a local coffee shop; they didn’t have any Italian cookies or pastries, so I went with the pumpkin loaf. Forgive me for this deviation.

I ate at a morning meeting at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. The meeting was essentially group therapy; I cried. Again. I’ve been working at this museum for over seven years, and institution that believes immigration is a good things, and uses the stories of people of the past to remind us that history doesn’t have to repeat itself. If we know about the xenophobia of the past, perhaps we can stop it today.

Working at this museum has meant I’ve never felt like I’m in a “New York bubble” of liberalism. Daily, I interact with people who come from all parts of this country, let alone the world. I speak to people from vastly different backgrounds and beliefs. There is a part of me that believes I have at my job–maybe if I had tried harder, worked harder, people would have been more sympathetic to the disenfranchised, and this election would have turned out differently.

On the other hand, tickets to tours at the museum are beyond sold out all weekend. I don’t know why folks are coming, but maybe it’s for solace.

I’ve become grateful for the chance to document this historic week on my blog. And I am grateful to all of you who have commented–please, continue to do so, and share what you would like to share, and what you need to share.

 

Luncheon

Egg omelet. Chocolate.
Bread. Stewed fruit.

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Southern Italians ate a lot of eggs, but not for breakfast–as we’ve seen this week. And especially on Friday, a fast day, they were the main course at meal times instead of meat. If you know more about the history and significance of the Friday fast, or have your own personal experiences with it, I’d love to hear more in the comments.

To determine if there was a particular Italian style of making omelets, I searched Gentile’s Italian cookbook for omelet. I came up from look at multiple recipes that often included meat, but it’s FRIDAY, so we’re not eating meat today. I looked at a few of Gentile’s omelette and came up with a simple recipe. I added salt, pepper and dried parsley to slighty scrambled eggs, sautéed some slivers of onion in olive oil, and poured to eggs on top. I used a larger pan that I normally use for omelettes, because Gentile describes the omelets as thin. Last I added, at her recommendation, some shavings of parmesan cheese (which, by the way, is from DiPalo’s Fine Foods, founded in NYC by Italian immigrants in 1925).

I know I haven’t been sharing recipes for most of this dishes, but for example I looked up “stewed fruit” in cookbooks from the time and came up with nada. There’s aren’t really recipes as ways to cook food, using what you have. I actually really like cooking this way. Stewed fruit feels very settlement house cooking class–mushy and vaguely healthy. I cut up an apple and a pear, and added then to a saucepan with a little water, a spoonful of brown sugar, and a little cinnamon. Americans werent cooking with/supportive of a lot of spice in food, but they were down with a little cinnamon (pretty much that and black pepper were ok).

Every meal I’ve made has taken about 20 minutes of active cooking time, and maybe another 20 minutes inactive. I find these meals really efficient, easy, not a lot of cleanup. But man there is a lot of sugar. It’s more sugar and carbs than I usually eat in a day.

Dinner

Fried fish.
Fresh tomatoes. Cucumbers.
Bread. Fruit.

image1I took this photo in the front seat of my car. I’m on the road!

This menu is pulled from the summer menus that Sohpinisba gives; I liked its simplicity, and I thought it would be easy for my traveling day. I was on the road Friday night, on my way to Rochester to a public speaking gig. When it was dinner time, I was in very, very rural upstate NY, so I stopped at the only restaurant that I knew had a fish sandwich: Burger King. I ate a “Big Fish” sandwich in my car, and it was actually pretty gross. I had big fish burps all night.

 

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