Un Matrimonio in Puglia


, , ,

Viva gli sposi!  After a 3 year ‘pandemic hiatus’ I finally made it back to Puglia. My trip was earlier than usual to attend un matrimonio in famiglia -a family wedding in June.  Gli sposi were Federica and Antonio. The wedding was held at the 900 year old Santa Maria di Siponto. The church is in the architectural style Romanica Pugliese, Pugliese Romanesque. Byzantine and Islamic influences are evident in the pure, simple lines and geometric patterns. The building is square, which is unusual for a church.

Our day started out with heavy rain.  My parents, sister, nieces and I ran to the car with our umbrellas for the 1½ hour drive from Orsara di Puglia. Luckily it was sunny by the time we arrived. The ceremony was held at 11 am and the stark white interior of the church was bathed in light!The look on Antonio’s face when he sees Federica at the altar is priceless. 

The 4 witnesses, called compari, and the parents of the bride and groom also take part in the ceremony.Federica looked stunning.  The wedding dress was handmade by her 91 year old nonna!  Nonna Celestina made it with fabric she had kept from the time when she owned a fabric store in Foggia many years ago. The dress is ‘a portafoglio‘ which means that it had a short skirt underneath, visible only when the slit opened. Nonna even made a spare dress, just in case!

Since we were in Puglia, we were surrounded by olive trees. I fit right into the floral arrangements with my olive coloured dress with pink and silver flowers.The reception was held at Tenimento San Giuseppe, 4 km from Foggia. We started out with aperitivo in the main building, then moved to another section for the main meal.

There was un mastro casaro-a master cheesemaker-making nodini, knots of fresh mozzarella.

Later we moved into the cantina for degustazione di vino, where I found a tasty Susumaniello that was too good! Dessert was back in the main building.  All of this moving around really helps with digestion!

The dish in the photo above is ‘mezzi paccheri rigate con salsa di gamberl e astice’, pasta with shrimp and lobster sauce.  The black smudge on the plate is squid ink. I was too busy socializing and eating to take many food photos, so read the menu and imagine it yourself!Dancing was everywhere.  Instead of having to sit through the entire meal and a bunch of speeches and wait for the end of the night to dance, dancing happens throughout the reception. Also good for digestion!One course is served…then dancing, more food, then more dancing, etc.  Since the wedding was in Puglia, there was also dancing outside under the olive trees.

Federica likes swing dancing, so there was a swing band and later in the evening, my cousin (father of the bride) and his band played their funky music.

Cake cutting was held outside, at the bottom of the dramatic staircase.  In the photo, you can see a bit of Federica’s ‘spare’ dress, while Antonio gestures for us to move out of the way.  He probably said ‘livt da nanz’.

Guests take home a little bag of confetti for good luck.  These are not what you throw at the bride and groom.  They are sugared roasted almonds, sometimes with a chocolate filling.  Traditionally there are 5 almonds that represent health, wealth, happiness, fertility and long life. Bomboniere are also handed out at the end of the night.  These are a small gift from the bride and groom to thank the guests for celebrating their special day with them.

I hope you enjoyed this peak at a wedding in Puglia!  Auguri Federica e Antonio! Ciao, Cristina

In my Kitchen in Puglia, 2022


, , , , , , , , ,

I recently returned from a long trip to Italia, after an unplanned 3 year ‘pandemic break’. We missed our little casa in Orsara di Puglia.  Once we cleaned up a bit, there was a lot of activity in the kitchen. Cucina povera, literally ‘food of the poor’, is what you mostly find in Puglia.  Simple foods made with fresh local ingredients. Here are just a few of the things my family and I were up to in our tiny but functional summer kitchen in Orsara di Puglia.

Starting with the space itself, the whole casa is 40m² (about 450 square feet) including a bedroom and bathroom.  That is about the size of a double garage.  The room with the cucina is also the living room, guest room (aka my room) and art studio. The highlight of the room is the amazing barrel vaulted stone ceiling, which is hard to fit in a photo.

We had a lot of visitors who came bearing gifts.  My favourite gift was the anguria -the huge watermelon on the counter.  It was grown by a friend and was delicious!  He also grew the cipolle.

Melanzane (eggplant, or aubergine for the Brits) and zucchine are plentiful in summer.  We made Parmigiana di melanzane e zucchine.  It was soooo yummy, but we only made it once as cooking it was painful.  It was too hot to have the oven on! Now this is my idea of a bouquet of flowers! Fiori di zucca are one of my favourite summer foods. I stuffed them with caciocavallo and basilico, then battered and fried them.  It was too hot to bake them in the oven.  They were eaten before I could take a photo.  Luckily they are easy to find here. I grow fiori di zucca in my garden in Vancouver, because they are impossible to find. Recipes and harvesting tips can be found in the post Fiori di zucca

Fichi-figs-were everywhere.  Green, purple, small, big…even ginormous like this one in my hand.More fichi!basket of figsLast time I was here, I bought a spianatoia, although I only knew what is was called in dialetto.  It is a pasta rolling board with a lip on one end so it stays put on the table.  This one also has a handy carrying handle. I was only able to use it once in 2019, so I wanted to get some use out of it. I made ravioli di ricotta e spinaci a few times and filled the freezer.  I make them often in Vancouver, and they are good-but the goat milk ricotta here is so incredibly good that they taste better.

I did not get a chance to make my own orecchiette as I was too busy socializing, but we did eat them often.  I need to practice my technique!

Orecchiette con sugo

The cheese products in Puglia and Campania are drool-worthy!  Orsara has its own DOP cheese called cacioricotta, made with goat milk, but it never stays around long enough to be photographed!  Wednesday is mozzarella di bufala day. These melt in your mouth ones are from Masseria Li Gatti near Torremaggiore, SanSevero (FG).  

June is amarena season.  Amarene are sour wild cherries.  The word amaro means sour or bitter.  Everyone is busy picking them, making jam, canning them and making crostate.  I went amarena picking in my cousin’s olive grove.  Aren’t they gorgeous?Amarena cherries on the tree

Friends and relatives gave us amarene in syrup.  The absolute best place to use it is on top of gelato! I ate a lot of polpo or polipo on this trip.  They both mean Octopus and it is one of my favourite foods.  I will have to publish a post with all of my polpo photos.  This one of Mamma washing polpo in the kitchen sink was popular on instagram.washing octopusThis is the insalata di polpo that she made.  No leftovers.  Sorry, not sorry!Octopus salad

Cooking fish needs to be coordinated with umido day which is 3 times a week, otherwise the entire house will be puzzolente -stinky. Orsara now does la raccolta differenziata for garbage and recycling and it is extremely efficient!  Roma, are you listening?  The town has never looked so clean.  I will have to write a post about this.  Here is a sunny photo of l’umido pickup day.  This is not the kitchen, but these stairs do lead to it!

We went to a post-wedding meal in Alberona and stopped off at the caciocavallo store on the way home.  It was actually a farm and it was super-puzzolente!

Fresh caciocavallo needs to hang to dry.  The kitchen stone ceiling has a catnill’.  This is a metal ring like the ones outside that were used to tie up your donkey.  We couldn’t reach it to hang the caciocavallo, plus they tend to ‘sweat’ and leak a small amount of fluid until they dry.  Yuck.  who wants caciocavallo sweat to fall on their head?  It was hung from the fridge, next to the piattaia full of Pugliese plates.

I will leave you with one last photo of the cute little Ichnusa Sardinian beer bottle I brought home from camping in Mattinata.  I hope this post has made you either hungry and drooling or wishing you could visit Puglia yourself.  Maybe it has done both? Perché no?  I am already planning my next visit!  Buon appetito e buon viaggio, Cristina
Thanks Sherry from Australia for hosting the monthly food blogging event, In My Kitchen (IMK). Click the link to Sherry’s Pickings to read about other world kitchens. Buon appetito, Cristina

Beat the heat: Surviving Summer in Roma


, , , , , , ,

Visiting Roma this summer? Summer in Roma can be hot, humid, sticky and crowded.  The temperature is usually >30° C (85°F) and the humidity can make it feel even hotter. I often hear people say ‘the worst time to go to Roma/Italy is in the summer-it’s too hot!’  Well…anytime is a good time to go.  Whatever time works for you.  You will just have a different experience depending on the season.  Teachers, students, school employees and families with bambini in school can only travel in summer, so advising them to visit at another time is not helpful.

For those of us that go to visit family, especially in smaller villages, August is often the best time to be there.  In my small mountain village in Puglia there are feste and concerts, my friends and relatives have time off work, and those who have moved away for work come back to visit. This is why I go in summer.

Roma will have a decreased amount of Romans for the 2 weeks around Ferragosto Aug 15th. Many Romans head to ‘la spiaggia’ so it will be less crowded with fewer cars on the road.  Office and public workers are off or have decreased working hours. A lot of smaller businesses are closed as well. Do not worry, there will be more than enough restaurants open that nobody will starve. August 15th is a national holiday, so definitely avoid travel on that particular day. Public transportation will be reduced and nearly everything will be closed. Museums and cultural sites will be open. July is actually more crowded than August. For more info on this, read the post Chiuso per Ferie.

I visit Roma for a few days every summer at the beginning or end of my trip to Puglia and consider myself quite the expert on managing the intense heat and crowds. Here are my tips for surviving summer in Roma:

1-Schedule the day like an Italian!  Quando a Roma, fai come i Romani/ When in Roma…..

A- Mattina/Morning Wake up early and do your stuff in the morning. Visit ‘non shady’ sites in the morning, as they will be too hot to do in the afternoon. These include the Colosseo, Foro Romano, Piazza Navona and Passeggiata all’Aventino.

B Pomeriggio/afternoon During the hottest part of the day-1-5 pm, participate in the riposo or ‘pausa pranzo’.  (**Note that this is not known as siesta in Italian) This is a ‘rest period’ and many places are closed. This is not always the case in the larger cities or touristy areas, but it makes sense to follow when it is hot.  Have pranzo-the main meal, at 1pm, enjoying the interior of a cool restaurant, then if your lodgings are close by, have a rest, take a nap or check email. Keep it dark with closed shutters/curtains while staying indoors, and also while you are out, so it stays cool.

If it is not feasible or you do not want to participate in the ‘pausa pranzo’  visit cool places during this time. For example:

1-Visit churches! Roma has >900 churches- they are dark, cool, free and may even have seats.  Some, like San Luigi dei Francesi and Sant’Agostino even have their own Caravaggio works for you to drool over. For the full walking tour, go to  Caffè con Caravaggio a RomaSanta Maria Sopra Minerva, the Pantheon and Santa Prassede are 3 other favourites of mine.  Smaller churches may be closed during pausa pranzo, but many are open. Sometimes you even find things by happy accident. I once stepped into Santa Brigida, a very traditional Scandinavian church in Piazza Farnese for a 3 pm Mass which included otherworldly sounding chanting and singing by cloistered nuns.

***Important Note about churches – Churches are primarily places of worship, so please be respectful.  Dress appropriately, speak quietly-if the artwork does not render you speechless. Avoid Mass times, especially on Sundays.  It may not be possible to visit unless you are attending Mass. There is no charge to visit most churches, but I always like to light a candle when I visit (€.50-€1).

2 –Visit museums Most are air conditioned and open until 1900 (7pm). My favourites are Centrale Montemartini and Palazzo Massimo alle Terme which is downright cold-especially the top  floor where the fresco villas are.

Both of these museums are never crowded, even in high season. Galleria Borghese requires a reservation and you can only stay 2 hours.  If you time the visit right, go to Villa Borghese afterwards and find shade under a tree.

Smaller museums might not have air conditioning.  **A note on AC.  Electricity is expensive in Europe.  The AC is cool, but not cold like it usually is in North America. Read my amusing post Aria Pericolosa for more on this topic!

3- Go underground and visit the Catacombs of Domitilla, 12 km of cool underground tunnels from the 2nd to the 5th Century or the Basilica San Clemente which has 3 layers of churches, ending in a Mithrean temple.

C Sera/evening Get back out in the early evening, then stay out late enjoying the fresh air and longer days. Go for aperitivo! Pop up restaurants, wine bars and stands line the Tevere in summer near Ponte Sisto and Isola Tiberina.

Villa Celimontana holds an outdoor evening jazz festival from June-August. This is also a great time for a passeggiata in Piazza Navona or Trastevere.  There is a  Colosseo night tour as well as tour of the underground and the Forum. These can be booked online.  Roma also has several roof bars including the Terrazza Borromeo, Hotel Pantheon and Hotel Minerva.

More hot weather advice:

2 Keep hydrated Bring a water bottle and drink from from the >2000 cast iron nasoni or ‘big noses’.  These are running water fountains all over the city with SPQR stamped on the front.  This one is in front of the Pantheon.

Nasoni were installed in 1874 to make cold drinking water from acqueducts free and accessible to all. Place your hand under the main flow and drink from the gush out the top. My favourite place to drink is La Barcaccia in Piazza di Spagna. The water is absolutely freddissima!

3 Granita e gelato! Gelato will keep you cool. As if an excuse for more gelato is ever needed! I find the fruit flavors most refreshing, especially limone and pompelmo rosa (pink grapefruit).  You must try a granita di caffè at Tazza d’oro near the Pantheon. Also refreshing are caffé Shakerato, affogato and Grattachecca. It is hard to find bad gelato. There is Gelato del Teatro, Grom and Fatamorgana has 9 locations. My favourite is Danielgelo, a small family run gelateria near where I stay in the San Paolo area.

Granita di caffe

4 Dress appropriately Wear a hat! Use sunscreen and dress lightly in layered breathable fabrics such as linen or cotton. Bring a light shawl or coverup if planning to visit churches, especially the Vatican. Walk on the shady side of the street, if possible. Buy a souvenir folding Roma fan.  They are available at all the souvenir stands for 2-3 Euro.

Should you avoid going to Italia in August? Absolutely not! If that is when you are able to go-then do it! Hopefully my tips will help. Be sure to click on the post links. Also remember the positive things about summer in Italia-the long days and wonderfully cool evenings, sky so blue it does not look real, the cast shadows of the mid afternoon sun and the seasonal summer food 😋.

Buon viaggio, Cristina

Ottavo Bloghiversario



cupcake and candleAuguri a me! Today is another bloghiversario– blog anniversary.  It is hard to believe it has already been 8 years since starting Un po’ di pepe.  Where did the time go?  It feels like just yesterday I had trouble coming up with a blog name. This has been an amazing, rewarding experience and I have ‘met’ so many virtual friends and even reconnected with old ones.

in numerology, the number 8 is associated with compassion, freedom and self-reliance.  A 8 on its side is an infinity sign, symbolizing the constant flow of energy and power. We can all use more of these things in our lives!

Last year I only wrote 13 blog posts.  Halfway through the pandemic, I kind of lost my energy.  Luckily I have plans coming up, so potential inspiration is in the works.  Last week, I went to Ottawa for a meeting-my first time on a plane since Aug 2019! Air Canada was strict with mask wearing on the plane, which was a relief!   In 6 weeks, I am finally heading back to Italia and am excited to be attending a family wedding at Santa Maria di Siponto. Viva gli sposi!

In late September, I will finally be going to Torino for the AICW (Association of Italian Canadian Writers) Conference. It has been rescheduled 3 times due to the pandemic.  I have been waiting a long time to try Bicerin!  Venezia for the Biennale is also on my schedule. My last visit to Venezia was in 1994!  Plenty of inspiration and material for future blog posts!While in Puglia, I plan to drink lots of vino.  Have you read my 3 part series on Vini di Puglia?  Here are the links;  Vini di Puglia, Part 2 Aglianico to Zibibbo, and part 3 Il Tuccanese.  Here is a link to my first post Perché questo blog?/Why write a blog?

April 25 is also La Festa della Liberazione d’Italia, the anniversary of the liberation of Italia from Fascist occupation in 1945.  Viva la libertà. Since it is relevant to what is happening in the world today, I would like to share this 1955ish quote by Piero Calamandrei, an author and protagonist of the Resistenza:

‘La liberta è come l’aria.  Ci si accorge di quanto vale quando inizia a mancare. /Freedom is like air.  We only realize how much it is worth when it is lacking’

to all of you for taking the time to read, comment, send messages and especially for giving me an excuse to research and write about things that interest me!  If you have any suggestions for future posts or just want to say ‘ciao‘, leave me a comment.

Grazie mille a tutti i lettori di ‘Un po’ di pepe’ per leggere e darmi una scusa per scrivere di cose che mi piacciono.  Lasciami un messaggio se hai un idea per un post o semplicemente per dire ‘ciao’.  Un abbraccio, Cristina

2 years of Covid-19


, , ,

As we slowly emerge from our cocoons and restrictions, it is hard to believe 2 years has passed since COVID-19 started a planetary health crisis that took over our lives.  2 years ago today, I wrote my first covid related post.  While at my local coffee shop, I overheard too many conversations discussing the cancellation of sports games being ‘drastic and fear-mongering, since more people die of the seasonal flu’ and ‘only sick people over 80 are dying’. As a health care professional, I felt I needed to publish the facts.

Personal Protective Equipment

At that time, no one could have imagined we would still be here 2 years later-even though the Spanish flu lasted at least as long.  At times, it seemed things were improving, then another crisis would strike and we took a step backwards.  There was little time for recovery.

Covid-19 has affected life for everyone.  The loss of life, paralysis of the world economy, and mental health effects of this pandemic have been devastating. The stress, isolation and anxiety of quarantine, the fear, confusion, uncertainty and frustration with constantly changing recommendations and regulations have taken their toll and it will take time to recover.

Along this covid journey, differing opinions have also caused stress.  It is good to see Facebook is no longer full of self-professed medical experts.  Now they have become combat strategy experts.  In North America, there have been protests for ‘freedom’ and infringement of rights.  My colleagues and I risked our own health to administer covid vaccines, so I have absolutely no tolerance for covidiots.  If I was in charge, they would all be given a one-way ticket to the Ukraine to witness firsthand what REALLY losing your rights and freedoms looks like.  It is reported that 6 million people lost their lives to Covid-19, although the real number is probably higher. To put it in a grim perspective, this is the same number lost during the Holocaust.  Yet there are still conspiracy theorists who believe this is fake news.

Where I live, masks are no longer required, although in some places they are recommended.  Next month, we will no longer require proof of vaccination to enter restaurants and public events.  90% of the population is vaccinated, and enough people have had mild cases to build up immunity.  Are we mentally ready to return to normal, or to get used to a ‘new normal’ though?

Everyone will come out of restrictions on their own time.  We are all facing challenges that may not be visible.  Do not assume to know what others are going through. For some, wearing masks, avoiding crowds and other precautions will be a safety net to cling to for a while longer.  Extra helpings of patience and kindness will be required.

There are not many positive things to come out of a global pandemic.  Even so, I have felt humbled by the outpouring of kindness, humanity, cooperation and creativity that has come out of this terrible situation to emphasize the resilience of the human spirit.  This has also been a time for many of us to reflect on what is important. This will be my final Covid-19 related post.  Continue to be patient and kind, hug your loved ones, have that extra sfogliatella, and stay safe.  Ciao, Cristina

5 masks hanging on a clothesline

Giornata della Donna~Mariya Prymachenko


, ,

Auguri per la Festa della Donna! Today is la Giornata Internazionale della Donna or International Women’s Day-originally known as International Working Women’s Day. There is no one specific organization or event behind International Women’s Day, but it is celebrated in many countries around the world. It is a day to recognize the achievements of women and a call to action towards gender equality.  More about la festa della donna is in this post.

On International Women’s Day, I like to write about the accomplishments of outstanding women. This year, I have appropriately chosen to share Mariya Prymachenko (1909-1997) with you.  Mariya was a Ukrainian folk art painter and embroidery artist from a peasant family in the village of Bolotnya, about 30km away from Chernobyl.  A self-taught artist, Mariya only went to school for 4 years, then developed polio.  She had several surgeries in Kyiv so that she could stand on her own.  There she also met her partner Vasyl in who was killed in WW2 before they had a chance to marry.  Their son Fedir and his 2 sons Petro and Ivan Prymachenko were/are also artists.

650 of Mariya’s works are in the collection of the National Folk and Decorative Arts Museum in Kyiv.  Mariya’s primitive or ‘naive’ style paintings are bold, colourful and expressive, inspired by Ukrainian folk traditions, the natural environment, and fairy-tales. Pablo Picasso said of her ‘I bow down before the artistic miracle of this brilliant Ukrainian‘-and I do not think he was generous with his compliments!

My first exposure to the 2 paintings pictured here ‘A dove has spread her wings and asks for peace'(1982) and ‘Our army, our protectors'(1972) was on Zöe’s post. In light of the unprovoked aggression on the Ukraine from Russia, I found the imagery and the titles of these paintings extremely moving.

Last week the Ivankiv Historical and Local Museum housing 25 of Mariya’s works was burned in the Russian aggression.  It was thought that the works were lost, but according to her grand-daughter Anastasia Prymachenko, local residents ran in and were able to save 10 of Mariya’s paintings. Hopefully the injustice and aggression taking place in the Ukraine will soon come to an end.

Ciao, Cristina

Festival di Sanremo


, ,

February is almost here, and so is the Festival di Sanremo, an annual 5 day song competition held in the Ligurian seaside town of Sanremo.  The full name is Festa della Canzone Italiana di Sanremo, and it is the longest running national televised music competition in the world.

In 1950. Piero Bussetti of the Sanremo Casino and Giulio Razzi, conductor of the RAI orchestra decided to launch a competition for previously unreleased songs to boost the local economy.  The first edition was broadcast live on RAI radio in January 1951 with 3 participants performing 20 songs.  Since 1955 it has been broadcast live on television.

From 1951-1977 it was held at the Sanremo Casino.  Since 1977 it has been at the iconic Teatro Ariston. The Festival di Sanremo is a huge media event in Italia and has launched many careers, including Domenico Modugno, Mina, Zucchero, Andrea Bocelli, Il Volo, Giorgia, Laura Pausini, Eros Ramazzotti, Mahmood and most recently Måneskin. I love to watch Sanremo every year with mamma!  The winner has the first option to represent Italia at the annual Eurovision Song Contest.  Eurovision is huge in Europe with 39 countries participating, but hardly known at all in North America.  Last year’s Sanremo winners, Måneskin also won Eurovision with their brilliant song ‘Zitti e Buoni’.  As the reigning country, Italia hosts Eurovision in 2022- May 10-14 in Torino.

The 72nd edition of the Festival di Sanremo is February 1-5, 2022, broadcast live on RAI (RAI International for the rest of us).  It will be hosted for the third time by Amedeus, with different cohosts. There will be performances by former winners, Italian, international guest artists and the hilarious comic Fiorello.  Superospite (superguests) include Mäneskin February 1 and Golden Globe winner/Oscar nominee Laura Pausini February 2! The rest are a surprise! It is not confirmed yet, but there will likely be a decreased capacity audience.

The award goes to the winning song, although in most cases the performers are also the songwriters and/ or composers.  This year, there are 25 contestants, including  the top 3 winners from the junior contest, ‘Sanremo Giovani’.  Judging is complex and contestants perform with the backing of the full RAI orchestra-complete with maestro.

Here is a summary of what happens each night:

Night #1 and #2 February 1 and 2 -12-13 of the contestants perform each night and there are no eliminations.  Voting is 33% TV and print media jury, 33% web media jury and 33% radio jury.

Night #3 February 3 – All 25 contestants perform, no eliminations.  Voting is 50% demoscopic jury* and 50% televoting.

Night #4 February 4 ‘Covers night’.  Each artist/group performs a song from the 60’s, 70’s or 80’s.  They can perform solo or invite an acclaimed Italian or international artist as a guest.  Voting is 33% televoting, 33% press jury and 33% demoscopic jury.

Final night #5 February 5.  There are 2 rounds the final night.  In round 1 all 25 acts perform.  Voting is 100% from televoting.  The top 3 proceed to round 2, the Superfinale.  Voting is reset and all 3 superfinalists perform again.  The winner is decided by 33% televoting, 33% press jury and 33% demoscopic jury.

*Demoscopic jury=made up of a sample of the population.  Jurors are selected by statistical criteria to represent the country at large.

The lineup of contestants includes 3 icons, 7 former winners and many former contestants, 6 who have represented Italia at Eurovision and a few debut acts.  Here is a list of the 25 performers, the song titles and a few other details to help you watch and enjoy the festival:

  • Achille Lauro – ‘Domenica’. Achille gave 4 stunning ‘shock glam’ performances as a guest last year.  This is his 3rd time as a participant. He will be teaming up with Loredana Bertè for covers night.
  • Aka7even – ‘Perfetta cosi’ Luca Marzano won Best Italian act at the MTV Europe Music Awards in 2021. He released his first album in May.
  • Ana Mena – ‘Duecentomila ore’. Ana is a Spanish singer and actress and was a guest for cover night in 2020.
  • Dargen D’Amico – ‘Dove si balla’
  • Elisa – ‘O forse sei tu’. 2001 Sanremo winner for ‘Luce’ and 4 guest appearances. She performed at the closing ceremonies of the Torino Olympics.
  • Emma – ‘Ogni volta è cosi’. Emma Marrone is the 2012 Sanremo winner for ‘Non è l’inferno’. She has made guest appearances, co-hosted, and is now back performing 10 years later. Emma represented Italia at Eurovision 2014. For covers night, she is performing Britney Spears’ ‘Baby hit me one more time’ with Francesca Michielin.
  • Fabrizio Moro – ‘Sei tu’. 2018 Sanremo winner with Ermal Meta for ‘Non mi avete fatto niente’ and represented Italia at Eurovision.  This is Fabrizio’s 6th time performing. He also won the Giovani category in 2007.
  • Gianni Morandi – ‘Apri tutte le porte’. An Italian legend, 77 year old Gianni is a former host, 5 time participant and 1987 winner with Enrico Ruggeri and Umberto Tozzi for ‘Si puo dare di più’.  He represented Italia at Eurovision in 1970.
  • Giovanni Truppi – ‘Tuo padre, mia madre, Lucia’
  • Giusy Ferreri – ‘Miele’. Giusy placed 2nd in the 1st edition of X Factor Italia in 2008.  She is the most successful Italian artist to emerge from a talent show. This is her 4th time at Sanremo.
  • Highsnob & Hu – ‘Abbi cura di te’
  • Irama – ‘Ovunque sarai’ Irama was not able to perform live last year due one of his staff testing COVID positive. He placed 5th based on his pre-recorded rehearsal performance!
  • Iva Zanicchi – ‘Voglio amarti’. The 82 year old singer and politician won Sanremo 3 times (1967, 1969, 1974) during her 60 year career and has been a guest and juror. She represented Italia at Eurovision in 1969.
  • La Rappresentante di Lista (LRDL) – ‘Ciao Ciao’. This is duo Veronica Lucchesi and Dario Mangiaracina’s second time at Sanremo, including a cover night guest performance.
  • Le Vibrazioni – ‘Tantissimo’ This is the group’s 4th time at Sanremo.
  • Mahmood e Blanco – ‘Brividi’. Mahmood (Alessandro Mahmoud) is the 2019 Sanremo winner and 2ndplace Eurovision winner with the catchy ‘Soldi’. He was a guest performer the past 2 years and wrote or cowrote several of the competing songs in 2021. He is performing with 18 year old Blanco Fabbriconi who recently released his first album.
  • Massimo Ranieri – ‘Lettera al di là del mare’. 1988 Sanremo winner for ‘Perdere l’amore’. This is his 6th time participating as well as guest appearances and judging Sanremo Giovani in 2016. Massimo represented Italia at Eurovision in 1971 and 1973. For Covers night, he will be performing a Pino Daniele song with Nek!
  • Matteo Romano – ‘Virale’ (Sanremo Giovani 3rd place)
  • Michele Bravi – ‘Inverno dei Fiori’. Michele is the winner of the 7th edition of X Factor Italia in 2013. This is his 2nd time at Sanremo.
  • Noemi – ‘Ti amo non lo so dire’. 4th time in competition. Noemi was on X Factor in 2009 and a judge for The Voice of Italy 2013-15.
  • Rettore e Ditonellapiaga – ‘Chimica’ Donatella Rettore is an 80’s icon best known for ‘Kobra’. This is her 5th time at Sanremo and she was a guest last year on Covers night. She is performing with first timer Ditonellapiaga.
  • Rkomi – ‘Insuperabile’ The successful Italian rapper makes his Sanremo debut.
  • Sangiovanni – ‘Farfalle’. Making his Sanremo debut, the 18 year old released his first album in May.  His song ‘Malibu’ had the most listens on Spotify Italy in 2021.
  • Tananai – ‘Sesso occasionale’ (Sanremo Giovani 2nd place)
  • Yuman – ‘Ora e qui’ (Sanremo Giovani winner)

Read the contestants’ full bios on the Festival di Sanremo website.  RAI International usually airs the shows twice-once live at 1900 Italian time, and a replay later.  Check the local listings for your country.  The RaiPlay app is another way to watch -and it will not be Geoblocked this year!

If you have not seen the winning performance of ‘Zitti e Buoni‘ and the awards presentation from Sanremo 2021 here is the video.  Zitti e buoni literally means ‘quiet and good’, but in this context means ‘shut up and behave’.  The lyrics are brilliant.  They are about being yourself and not conforming or worrying about gossip.  Read more about the lyrics here.

Will you be watching the Festival di Sanremo?  Let me know which performances you are looking forward to or which ones were your favourites!

Ciao, Cristina

2021~ Un po’ di pepe year in review


, ,

As we prepare to say Addio 2021, we continue to face uncertainty and frustration with constantly changing recommendations and regulations. In my last end of year post Reflecting on 2020, I wrote about examples of kindness and human resilience despite the global pandemic. A lot of the things I wrote about in that post have not changed…but there is one huge difference since 1 year ago.  Now we have vaccines!  There are still COVID cases, but they are fewer and those who are vaccinated are not getting as sick.  Things are slowly improving, even if it sometimes does not feel like it.  I no longer feel like an extra in a bad science fiction movie, where everything in the world is upside down…well, not often anyways.

One of my friends gives me a figurine for my Christmas village every year.  Last year was the masked toasting couple, shown in the photo between Tiny Tim and Eliza Doolittle. She added the little latex masks.  They are cute, but I did not plan to have them in my village again. If all goes well, they will be unmasked next year! This year’s figurine is a snowboarder, so that is already progress.

Starting in May, I took on extra work as a COVID immunizer. It has definitely been a positive, rewarding experience.  You can read about my experiences in post #4 below.  As a result, the # of blog posts I wrote this year decreased.  I average 2 posts per month, occasionally 3. May 2021 is the only month since starting this blog in April 2014 that I published 0 posts.  Several other months I only published once, so I need to get writing next year! The good news is that 5 posts from 2021 are on my top list, so at least someone was reading the ones I did write!

WordPress keeps end of year stats which I love to share because they are so interesting*.  In 2021, Un po’ di pepe had over 13,000 views from almost 100 different countries!  I would love to visit all of of them!  The top posts of 2021 based on the number of views are listed here, in case you missed any of them.  Lots of links are included!

#10 Tiramisù  The history of Tiramisù and my recipe, published for Giornata Mondiale del Tiramisù-World Tiramisù Day. Tiramisu'

#9  La Trinità di Masaccio is on this list again! When I first published this art history lesson in 2018, it did not get much love.  Last year, I discovered that it comes up as the 1st listing after Wikipedia in a Google search! This explains the steady trickle of views over the last few years. I also suspect it is on some reading lists for art history classes in the US, because a lot of views were referred from the course websites of Santa Monica College and a high school in Pittsburgh! How cool is that?  Didn’t I say the stats were fascinating?

My quick sketches of the vanishing point, perspective lines and triangular composition. The colour image is my entry ticket from 2004!

#8 In My Kitchen, Summer 2021 ‘In My Kitchen’ is a monthly blogging group hosted by Sherry in Australia. Check the post for the link.  I join in a few times a year.  For the second year in a row, I missed my kitchen in Puglia due to the plague and pestilence of the global pandemic. This post documents my summer kitchen adventures at home.

#7 100 years of Insulin During my career as a Diabetes Educator, I have taught thousands of families how to give insulin. This life-saving therapy was discovered in Canada 100 years ago, and I happily share the story of its discovery with all of you. Canada Post stamp from April 2021.Canada Post Stamp commemorating the discovery of insulin

#6a 6th place is a tie. Grano Arso a Pugliese gastronomic tradition that honours the resilience of our contadini ancestors. Grano arso is also the subject of my first non- diabetes related publication! There is not a lot written in English on grano arso, which explains why this 2015 post comes up 5th on Google search.

#6b Internment of Italian Canadians I am always amazed at how little is known about this time in history when it was a crime to be Italian.

#5 Napoli Street Art I absolutely love Napoli a perfect place for self-expression since the last few thousand years.  Join me on a graffiti/street art tour in the Centro Storico. This 2020 post comes up 4th in Google search.volto di Sophia Loren Napoli street art

#4 Reflections from a COVID Immunizer This post is based on notes I kept about what people said to me while working as a COVID immunizer.

#3 Limoncello Ricotta Cookies This 2018 post is on this list for the first time, and a lot of the views were referred from Pinterest!

#2 L’Arte sa Nuotare  made my top list again! During my 2019 trip to Firenze with Isabella we were on constant lookout for street art by Blub, the talented artist who plunges famous works of art underwater. This post also comes up 2nd on a google search, after the artist’s own Instagram page.  Spread the Blub love- read more about Blub in Blub a Napoli. Putto Raffaello Firenze street art Blub

#1 Italiano per Ristoranti-How to Pronounce your Restaurant Menu, this handy Italian menu pronunciation guide has been #1 every year except last year.  In a google search for ‘Italian pronunciation guide restaurant’ and ‘Italian menu pronunciation’ it comes out as the top suggestion! Molto cool! This post is available as a 6 page downloadable PDF via a link at the end of the post and was downloaded 44 times this year.  Someday, I will expand and turn it into an ebook. Speriamo! If any of you have experience publishing ebooks and can give me some advice, please contact me!

Bruschetta (broo.SKET.tah)

I also published my first ‘interview’ post this year.  I interviewed Diana Iuele about her study of Italiese, our italocanadese hybrid language.

Grazie mille to all of you for continuing to read and follow Un po’ di pepe.  I would love to hear which post/s you liked best, and what you would like to read more about in 2022 on Un po’ di pepe.  Let me know in the comments.  Looking forward to writing more cose interresanti /interesting stuff in 2022.

Tanti auguri a tutti i lettori di Un po’ di pepe per un 2022 piena di, pace, gioia, buona salute e sicurezza Wishing all readers of Un po’ di pepe a 2022 full of peace, joy, good health and safety!

 Virtual baci e abbracci, Cristina

Refer to Italian Christmas Vocabulary to make sense of my seasonal greetings!

*Note…WordPress’ method of collecting stats is odd.  The newest post counts as a ‘Home page’ view until the next one is published and I am not sure how much this changes the results.

Italian Christmas Vocabulary


, , , ,

Need to brush up on the Italian Christmas vocabulary? Any excuse to improve vocabulary and language skills is a good one. Try using these Italian Christmas season related words, greetings and phrases to impress friends and relatives at events and in Whatsapp/text messages or Christmas cards.  It may be too late this year for cards, but get a head start for next year! For a review of how to pronounce Italian words, and my own funky way of showing pronunciation, check out the post Italiano per Ristoranti-How to pronounce your restaurant menu.

In Italia, le Feste Natalizie-the Christmas Festivities/Holidays officially start on December 8th, which is la festa dell’Immacolata Concezione, the feast day of the Immaculate Conception.  This is a national holiday and the day most families put up their presepio and tree.  Le Feste Natalizie end on January 6th, l’Epifania or the Epiphany, which is also a national holiday.  January 6th the tree and decorations come down.  As the expression goes ‘L’Epifania tutte le feste porta via’-the Epiphany carries away all of the festivities.

Buon Natale (BWON na·TA·leh) is how Merry Christmas is expressed in Italiano.  Natale comes from the Latin ‘dies Natalis’ which means ‘day of birth’, so Buon Natale literally means ‘good day of birth’.  Buone Feste(BWON·eh FES·teh) which is ‘good festivities’ is also common.  This refers to the whole season, from December 8th to January 6th.

Auguri means best wishes

Tanti auguri di Buon Natale (TAN·tee ow·GOO·ree dee BWON na·TA·leh) = Lots of good wishes for a Merry Christmas

Ti/vi auguro un Buon Natale (tee ow·GOO·roh oon BWON na·TA·leh) = I wish you a Merry Christmas

Buone Feste can be used interchangeably in both of these phrases.

Auguri per le Feste Natalizie (ow·GOO·ree per leh FES ·teh na·tah·LEEZ·yeh) = Best wishes for the Christmas festivities/season

Auguri per un Natale sereno (ow·GOO·ree per oon na·TA·leh seh·REY·noh) = Best wishes for a serene/peaceful Christmas

I miei migliori auguri per un Buon Natale (ee MEE·ay mee·LYOH·ree ow·GOO·ree per oon BWON na·TA·leh) = My best wishes/greetings for a Merry Christmas.  ‘Per un Buon Natale’ can also be replaced with ‘per le Feste’.Panforte di Siena

Felice Anno Nuovo (feh·LEE·cheh anno NWOH·voh) = Happy New Year!

Cosa farai a Capodanno? (CO·sah FA·rahee a capoh·DAN·noh) = What are you doing New Year’s?

If someone wishes you well, reply with:

Grazie, altrettanto (GRA·zyeh al·tret·TANtoh) = Thank you!  Same to you! or with

Grazie, anche a te/voi (GRA·zyeh AN·kay a teh/voey) = Thank you, also to you.

What do I write in my cartoline di Natale? I tend to be extremely thorough in my positive greetings so I usually write something like this mini-essay:

Auguro a te e alla tua famiglia un Buonissimo Natale e un nuovo anno pieno di salute, pace, amore e gioia (ow·GOO·roh a teh eh AL·lah tooah fah·MEE·lyah oon bwon·ees·SEE·moh na·TA·leh eh oon noo·OH·voh AN·noh PYEH·noh dee sal·OO·teh, PAH·chay, am·OH·reh eh gee·OH·yah) = Wishing you and your family an extremely good Christmas and a new year filled with health, peace, love and joy.

Luci Natalizie di Mamma e Papa/ My parents’ Christmas lights

Vocabolario di Natale:

Addobbo/addobbi di Natale (ad·DOHB·boh/ ad·DOHB·bee) = Decorations and ornaments

Agrifoglio (ag·ree·FOH·lyoh) = Holly

Albero di Natale (al·BEHR·oh) =Christmas tree

Babbo Natale (BAB·boh na·TA·leh) = Father Christmas/Santa Claus

La Befana (beh·FAH·nah) = January 6th female gift-bringer

Calze (CAL·zeh) =socks/stockings

Capodanno (capoh·DAN·noh) = New Year’s -literally ‘top of the year’

Cartolina di Natale/d’auguri (car·toh·LEE·nah di na·TA·leh) = Greeting card

Ceppo (CHEP·poh) = yule log

Dolci di Natale (DOL·chee dee na·TA·leh) = Christmas sweets

Elfi (EL·fee) =elves

Gesù Bambino (JEH·suh bam·BEE·noh) = Baby Jesus

Luci (LOO·chee) = lights

Presepio or Presepe (pre·sep·PEE·oh) = Nativity scene, creche

Pupazzo di neve (poo·PATZ·zoh dee NEH·veh) = Snow person

Regalo/regali (reh·GAL·oh/ reh·GAL·lee) = present/presents

Renne (REN•neh) = reindeer

Santo Stefano = December 26th Boxing Day

San Silvestro = New Year’s Eve

Slitta (SLEET·tah) = sleigh

La vigilia di Natale (vee·gee·lyah dee na·TA·leh) = Christmas Eve

Zampognaro (zam·poh·NYAR·oh) Abbruzzese bagpiping shepherd

Click on the links to read more about some of these vocabolario items!  Let me know in the comments if you get to use any new words this Natale!

Cari Lettori di Un po’ di pepe…..Auguro a voi e alle vostre famiglie un Buonissimo Natale e un nuovo anno pieno di salute, pace, amore e gioia!  Baci e abbracci, Cristina

100 years of Insulin


, , ,

Imagine a hospital ward full of quasi-comatose, emaciated children wasting away of ketoacidosis….and watching them slowly come back to life one by one.  That is what happened 100 years ago, after the discovery of insulin.  Today is World Diabetes Day, and this year we celebrate 100 years since the discovery of insulin.  Before injected insulin was available, Type 1 diabetes was a death sentence.  Death could be delayed for at the very most 2 years, with a very strict starvation diet.  The discovery of insulin is one of the most significant events in the field of medicine.

Sir Frederick Banting graduated as a surgeon from the University of Toronto in 1916 and immediately left for England with the Canadian Army Medical Corp.  Returning from the war with a shrapnel injury to the right arm and a case of PTSD, he did a 1 year surgical internship at the Hospital for Sick Children (aka Sick Kids) in Toronto, and then set up a private practice in London Ontario.  He was seeing few patients, and took a side job as an instructor at Western University Medical School to make ends meet.  

On October 20, 1920, he was preparing for a lecture on the pancreas by reading an article which concluded that a hormone secreted into the blood by the islets of Langerhans controlled glucose metabolism.  Banting saw the potential for isolating an extract related to diabetes from the pancreas and wrote it in his notebook October 30, 1920.  He was put in touch with Professor John Macleod, an expert on carbohydrate metabolism.  Despite the fact that 400 previous attempts to treat diabetes in animals with pancreatic extract had failed when tried on humans, Dr Macleod agreed to supervise him.  In May 1921, Banting went to Toronto to begin his research, joined by an undergraduate summer student assistant, Charles Best.  Best had the necessary lab skills for the project, since most of Banting’s experience was as a battlefield surgeon.  

In August 1921, their extract ‘isletin’ (later called insulin) decreased glucose and improved the overall condition of Marjorie, a dog with diabetes.  Macleod provided additional labs resources so the results could be reproduced.  In December, James Collip, a biochemist with an interest in hormones, was recruited to help purify the pancreatic extract.  He came up with an extraction process that made it pure enough to try on humans. Banting Best and Marjorie

On January 11, 2022 13 year old Leonard Thompson was the first human injected with the insulin extracted from pig pancreas.  It caused an abscess and an allergic reaction.  11 days later he was injected again, with the extract further purified by Collip and it worked!  Leonard Thompson lived 14 more years with insulin, and died of pneumonia at age 27.  Watch this amazing ‘Canadian Heritage Minute’ video:

March 1922, there was a 3 month shortage of insulin, as supply was not able to keep up with demand.  June 1922, in an effort to mass produce insulin in a cost effective way, the University of Toronto partnered with Eli Lilly.  Lilly was able to ship their pork insulin, called Iletin to Toronto by July, allowing Dr Banting and team to take on more patients.  In November 1922 Danish company Novo Nordisk also began to produce insulin known as Toronto.  

Most ‘newsworthy’ of Banting’s early insulin patients was Elizabeth Hughes, daughter of the US Secretary of State.  She followed the ‘starvation diet’ strictly for 3 years and was taken to Toronto at age 14.  In 1996, a collection of letters she wrote to her mother from August to November 1922 was donated to the University of Toronto. Elizabeth wrote to her mother about injecting 5cc of insulin ‘We only have a 2cc syringe.  After the first 2cc, the nurse unscrews the syringe from the needle, which is left sticking into  me, fills it again and injects 2cc more, then the same again with the final cc.  The process takes about 20 minutes, my hip feels as if it would burst, my leg is numb, then in an hour I would hardly know anything had been given.’*  She went on to graduate from University, got married, had 3 children and lived a very full life!**

I had the opportunity to attend a wonderful lecture by the late Michael Bliss during a Diabetes Canada conference in Toronto October 2011 for the 90th anniversary of insulin. He was a historian and author of the book ‘The Discovery of Insulin’.  In 1979, while writing the book, Dr Bliss contacted Elizabeth’s husband to find out when his wife had died and find out about her later life.  She wrote back to him herself saying she was alive and in good health 58 years after first receiving insulin!  

In August 1923, Banting was featured on the cover of TIME magazine. August 1923 cover of Time Magazine.  Dr Frederick Banting

October 25, 1925, the Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology was awarded to Banting and Macleod for the discovery of insulin. Banting shared his prize with Best and Macleod with Collip. Frederick Banting remains the youngest recipient and the only Canadian to receive a Nobel Prize in this category.***  Since insulin is a life-sustaining treatment and they wanted it to be accessible to anyone who needed it, Banting, Best and Collip sold the patent for $1 each. Banting claimed that insulin belonged to the world, not to him.  I do not think they would be too impressed to know that in 2021, there are parts of the world that do not have access to insulin, and for many it is not affordable!  

This post may seem rather ‘off topic’ for my blog.  Those of you who only know me virtually may not know that in my ‘day job’ I am a pediatric diabetes  educator, so posting this today was important for me.  Huge advances in insulin manufacturing and delivery have been made in the last 100 years, and although insulin is a life-sustaining treatment, and still the only treatment for Type 1 diabetes, it is not a cure.  Hopefully in the not so distant future, this century’s Frederick Banting will finally discover a cure!  

Happy World Diabetes Day, Cristina

Canada Post Stamp commemorating the discovery of insulin

*Bliss, Michael The Discovery of Insulin.  Toronto:  McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1982.

**FYI – glass syringes had to be sterilized.  Needles were reused multiple times and required sharpening.  This was the standard for over 30 years.  In 1954 a disposable glass syringe was designed for the Polio vaccine and it was used for insulin delivery as well.  Disposable 1cc syringes finally became available in 1969

***Frederick Banting received a lifetime endowment to continue medical research, and also was a well respected landscape painter.  His paintings are on display at Banting House in London, Ontario.  He died in Feb 1941 at age 50 in a plane crash while serving in WW2.

Glory enough for all’ Canadian TV Docudrama

Photos from Library Archives Canada and Banting House National Historic Site

Stamp-Canada Post April 2021