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


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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


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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


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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


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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


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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


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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




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Italiese wordsThis week, we celebrate Settimana della lingua italiana nel mondo – Week of the Italian Language in the World.  The theme this year is Dante, the Italian, because 2021 is the 700th anniversary of his death.  I already wrote a Dante themed post earlier this year 700 years of Dante, so instead I am featuring a post on a topic that has a special significance for me-and probably any of you that grew up in an Italian immigrant household.  The rest of you will hopefully find it interesting too. 

Italiese is a language created by Italian immigrants in English speaking countries to express things they did not already have words for.  It is a combination of Italian, anglicized Italian words, italianized English words, and dialetto.  I grew up with Italiese, and I still sometimes use it with my parents, family and paesani.  When joking around with my siblings and cousins, it is like our own private language.  Some of my favourite Italiese words are disciuascia (dishwasher), i muscirums (mushrooms), boolsheet and sonamabeitch.  I will let you figure out the last 2 words!  Click the blue button to watch a short video :

Renowned Italiese scholar and fellow AICW member Dr Diana Iuele Colilli graciously agreed to answer some questions for me.

What made you want to study Italiese?

I wanted to research Italiese for my PhD dissertation, but my thesis director strongly discouraged me as he said I would be researching Italiese for my entire career.  He was right.  I have always been intrigued by language.  When I embarked on the path of a PhD in Italian linguistics I naturally gravitated toward the “language” that was used extensively in my home, alongside Calabrese.  My parents had a grocery store on St. Clair, so I heard Italiese all the time.  The variations fascinated me.

Why is Italiese important to Italocanadesi and the Italian diaspora in general?

Italiese is extremely important because it documents the language that Italian immigrants had to create when they arrived in Canada.  It demonstrates their resilience and their desire to fit in their adopted land. However, Italiese is a language of passage that is destined to die.  It has never been standardized, it is not used in literature or any other formal setting.  Once the immigrants die there will be no need to use it anymore.  As the child of immigrants, I use it every day with my parents and immigrant relatives.  I use it with my siblings (who grew up with it) for fun.  My children recognize it but don’t really use it beyond a few terms (garbiggio, ghellifrendi, etc) because they use standard English, French and Italian. Italiese is also important as a marker.  In Canada Italians have left their mark in so many industries (construction, food, fashion, etc).  It is important that we document how they spoke, how they assimilated linguistically.  If we don’t document it or keep it alive, as Italians assimilate into the Canadian fabric, we will have generations of Canadians of Italian extraction only.  Language is at the core of culture.  WIthout it, culture gets watered down to memories only.  If we don’t do everything possible to document Italiese, it will get to the point that we won’t know that Italians even immigrated to Canada.  That’s why Christine Sansalone, my late husband Paul Colilli and I have been frantically documenting Italiese through our theatre productions.  We now have 13 published plays that document Italiese in its purest form of the post-WWII period to today with its code-switching.

Does Canada differ from other countries in their Italian/English hybrid language?

It doesn’t.  That’s the beauty and the universality of Italiese.  Italiese is a hybrid language that has at its base (phonology, morphology and syntax) an Italian dialect but the terminology (lexicon) is that of the adopted English speaking country.  So, we have American Italiese, British Italiese, Canadian Italiese, Australian Italiese, South African Italiese …. the dialect mixed with the local English.  The differences will be found in the lexicon.  In Canada we say garbage, so the Italiese word is /garbíggio/.  However, in the US the term is trash, so the Italiese term is “tréscio” and the Australian term is “rábbiscia” because rubbish is used for our garbage.

How can we keep Italiese alive?

By using it.  By continuing to do research on it. However, it needs to be used not only in homes, but in businesses, offices and most importantly in literature. If Italian-Canadian writers would incorporate Italiese in their writings, it would give it much more prestige.

I have my own strong opinion on this, but what do you make of people who are embarrassed by Italiese or dialetto?

I think people are much more embarrassed of their dialects.  Many people who utilize Italiese don’t even realise that they’re using it. The stigma of using the dialect stems from social stigma of using it Italy.  At the time of immigration, the dialect was a marker for low social status.  There is a generation of Italians who were raised without.  Only in the last few years has there been a resurgence of the dialects.  Those stigmas were also felt by the immigrants who left their homeland.  We need to encourage the children and the grandchildren of Italian immigrants to use the “language” (dialect/italiese/mix of the two) that was passed on to them.  In a world in which English is the lingua franca, it’s easy to relegate the dialect/Italiese to the home, or to not use it all. 

Grazie Diana! Who would have thought the word garbage could be so interesting! For more information check out the website for Italiese TV and the You Tube video below.

Diana Iuele-Colilli holds a PhD in Italian Linguistics from the University of Toronto.  She was born and grew up in the Little Italy of St. Clair and Dufferin in Toronto.  Diana is an Emeritus Professor of Italian at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, where she still continues her research toward a dictionary of Italiese.  She is the author of many books dedicated to the Italian experience in Canada.  She is the co-author of 13 plays written in Italiese in its various forms.  She is also the president of the Paul Colilli Foundation, a non-profit organization that promotes and disseminates the positive image of Italy and Italian Canadians in Ontario.

Now I am motivated to write some poetry in Italiese! If you have been exposed to Italiese in your country, let us know in the comments.  Ciao, Cristina

Marostica~Partita a Scacchi


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On one of my trips to Italia many years ago… before digital photography…I visited a friend in Castelfranco Veneto, near Treviso.  As soon as I got off the train, I found out that she was able to get us tickets to Marostica’s Partita a Scacchi in Costume a Personaggi Viventi -a live chess game in costume.   

While going through old photos last week, I came across these ones from the event. I decided to scan them so we could viaggiare in pultrona-armchair travel and reenact the spectacle!

In 1454, two young noblemen Rinaldo d’Angarano and Vieri da Vallonara, both wanted to marry Lionora, daughter of Taddeo Parisio, the Castellano (Lord) of Marostica.  They wanted to duel for her hand, which was the thing to do at that time, but her father objected.  He did not want to make an enemy of one of the families.  Instead, he proposed a chess game played with live pieces in the main piazza on a giant chess board.  This way everyone in Marostica could see the game.  The winner would marry Lionora and the runner up her younger sister Oldrada.   The original game was on September 12, 1454 and the event is recreated every other year on the second weekend of September on a 16 metre squared marble scacchiera (chess board)which forms Piazza degli Scacchi in lower Marostica.

Merchants, peasants, gypsies and street entertainers start off the festivities with music and dancing.  

There is even a colourful jousting match as armed foot soldiers, knights and drummers parade from Castello Basso.

Sbandieratori-flag throwers entertain the crowd. Both long-staff and short-staff sbandieratori perform.  These in the photo are from Firenze and at the time, they were the world champions in short staff.  

The main performers then enter the piazza from Castello Basso.  In  the photo below, you can see the raised podium in red velvet, where the actual chess game will be played by the two suitors.

The suitors and their families are the first to enter. The man in the red tights at the front is one of the suitors.

Next in line are the noble families.  Noble families representing Verona, Venezia and Firenze are usually played by family of the sindaco (mayor) of each city.

Some of the elaborate late Medieval costumes are on loan from La Scala in Milano.

Next comes Il Castellano, Lionora in the green and gold dress, her sister Oldrada in the pink and gold dress, and their nursemaid.

Finally, the chess pieces enter.  The black and white king and queen are the most striking pieces.

The game begins with the pawns taking their places on the board.

The game is played on a regular sized chess board on a podium outside the Castello.  When one of the suitors makes a move it is called out by a crier in Dialetto Veneto, then the live piece moves.

The original chess moves have long been forgotten.  Local chess enthusiasts use plays from a more recent match for the performance.

When the game is over, the entire cast parades across the board and they return to Castello Basso.

La Partita a Scacchi in Costume a Personaggi Viventi is held in Marostica every other year (even years) on the second weekend in September.  The next dates are September 9-11, 2022.  There are 4 performances, each with 3600 spectators.  Three performances are at 9pm and one is at 5pm.  Ticket prices vary from €23 to €92.  More information is available on this website.

Have any of you been to the Partita a Scacchi or to Marostica?  Let me know in the comments.

The photos were taken by me and by Nadia Bruschetta, although we aren’t certain who took which photos because they predate digital photography and we shared prints.  I hope you enjoyed this viaggio in pultrona!  Ciao, Cristina


In my Kitchen-Summer 2021


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For the second year in a row, I am missing my kitchen in Puglia due to the plague and pestilence of this global pandemic. Hopefully we will see each other again next year. You can see why I miss it by checking out the IMK post I wrote the last time I was there In my Kitchen in Puglia.

Since I had to stay home again this summer, I invited friends over in my backyard a few times. I would usually make pizza for this type of gathering, but my 23 year old oven had been unpredictable and slowly dying. One time my crust would be nice and crispy, another time barely cooked. For a change, I was very Pugliese and made panzerotti. They were delicious, but messy to fry.  Next time I will do it outside on my portable induction burner, but this wasn’t possible by myself. Making panzerotti is really a 2 person thing. They need to be fried soon after being formed, or else they continue to rise, and the tomato sauce starts to seep through the dough. Both of these things can cause them to open and then the oil splatters and gets very messy. I did finally get a new stove last month. Isn’t it beautiful? Now my appliances are the same colour and my pizza crust is evenly cooked.  Yeah!

The pomodori in my garden have been happy. I grew all the plants from seeds, harvested from last year’s crop. Mamma and I have already dried seeds for next year.

My pomodori come in all shapes and sizes.  They have been eaten every day, in every possible way. The cherry ones taste like candy. I walk outside and eat them straight off the vine.

Speaking of pomodori, a few weeks ago, my parents’ cantina had only 3 litres of pasta left on the shelf! That has never happened before. Luckily, my family got together for our 2 day ‘salsapalooza’ and made 273 litres of passata di pomodoro. The cantina is restocked, as you can see!  The whole process can be found in the post Passata di Pomodoro. Most of the tomatoes were purchased, since the ones in our gardens are not all ripe at the same time. We are usually making our passata while jet lagged, right after getting back from Italia, so we supposedly had extra energy this year-although it didn’t feel like it!

Once the pomodori were canned, the rest of the basilico was used for making Pesto Genovese. Now I need to make some Corzetti to serve the pesto with.  I can pour myself a glass of white wine and pretend I am in the Cinque Terre.

My good friends from Sooke came to visit and I made a cake for Susanne’s birthday. Using my most popular recipe, I made Torta Caprese all’ Arancia. The margherite (daisies) design were made with almonds.  I sprinkled the entire cake with icing sugar, then removed the almonds. Ta-da!

The fig crop this year was unbelievable. My family ate all the figs we could, but there were way too many to eat #italianproblems. We made fig jam and even extra fig crostata to freeze. Next year I will have to try drying some too.

That is about all from my cucina (and my parents’ garage) for now.  What is happening in your cucina?  Let me know in the comments.  This post is part of the monthly ‘In my Kitchen’ linkup hosted by Sherry.  To read the other posts in this linkup, click this link to her blog Sherry’s Pickings.

Ciao, Cristina