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April 20, 2012

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POST-GAZETTE, APRIL 20, 2012 Page13. " -- ~" ~,rrnnn = ~ ~ ~ , ...... Babb onno by John Christoforo ii Nanna and Babbononno's generation wasn't much on eating out. The old time men figured, "If she couldn't cook, why did I marry her." But this thought wasn't neces- sary. Nanna's generation was taught to cook by their mothers and grandmothers, a tradition that went back to when the Italian population yelled, "Hail Caesar." It's a bit different today. Most Ital- ian females work for a liv- ing and cooking is second- ary. As a result, either the men in their lives cook, you order takeout, or you head for a restaurant for dinner. I'm guilty of two and three. Back in the day, when Babbononno came home from work, his first stop was in the bathroom to take a shower and get the sawdust off his skin. By the time he emerged dressed for dinner, it was ready for him. Nanna would have spent the after- noon hours preparing the evening meal for her family, and usually, something dif- ferent every day. It was expected and that was her job in the family. My mother's generation {the first born in America) did pretty much the same thing. When Dad came home from teaching school, he took a nap, got cleaned, ate his din- her, dressed in a tuxedo and headed out to play with his or another band. When I came of age, I followed in the family business and Mom had dinner ready each night. What it came down to: Dad was the head of the family and Mom was the center of it. Enough to say it was a tra- ditional Italian family, only living in America. Well, those days are gone. Instead of Italian girls stand- ing next to their mothers to be taught how to cook and clean, they are educated and take their place in the busi- ness world at large. And be- cause of schedules, cooking takes a back seat, so here we are. I tried to explain this to Aunt Dorothy several times when she had negative com- ments about the relation- ship between Nanna and Babbononno. If you remem- ber, Aunt Dorothy was the wife of Uncle Nick, Mom's middle brother and my God- father. Aunt Dorothy was from an Anglo culture that went back almost to the May- flower. Her upbringing dif- fered greatly from that of the Italian American people. She considered Nanna a slave to Babbononno and re- sented the fact that my grandmother cooked and cleaned for him and the fam- ily with nothing more to look forward to. Aunt Dorothy couldn't understand or didn't want to understand the ways of the old timers and as a re- sult condemned it. She was educated and working in Boston's leather industry when she met Uncle Nick. After they were married, she continued with her profes- A Nostalgic Remembrance sion as did Uncle Nick, who played with many of Boston's society orchestras every night of the week. Well that was a long time ago and, as I've said, times are different today. As a re- suit, the restaurant indus- try is one of the largest in the United States. If I could make a comparison ... Italy has thousands of restau- rants throughout the coun- try, but most of them are Ital- ian. We in the U.S. have thousands of restaurants also, but they are as diverse as the American population. Every ethnic group living in this country has a restau- rant that offers the special- ties of their particular coun- try. If you add in restaurants that offer American food in- cluding fast food places, it might sound like there is a restaurant on every street corner. As a matter of fact, my last statement might be true. We eat out a lot. This goes back to when the kids started school. When they did, my wife returned to teaching, and after school, the kids were involved in sports. My kids were jocks going all the way back to grammar school and we, in spite of our schedules, were at every baseball or basket- :ball game they played in. As a result, we ate out most of the time. The kids have long been out on their own, but Loretta's schedule and mine cause us to have to go to a restaurant several times during the week. The ques- tion is quite common dur- ing the week, "What do you feel like tonight, Italian, Chinese, Mexican, Indian, Japanese, or just a steak and salad?" We will make a joint decision and then head to a restaurant that both of us have agreed on. And, for the most part of those five ethnic restaurants I men- tioned, we wouldn't have to drive for more than a mile or two to find them. The only other country I've ever seen that many offerings is in En- gland, and only in London. The latest types of restau- rants have become popular in the northeast recently are Latin American and Bra- zilian. Italian and Chinese food was considered exotic a couple of generations ago, but more so than most other ethnic foods, have been ac- cepted by the American pub- lie. As I said, Brazilian and Latin American food are the latest offerings to hit the res- taurant scene. Last week, as an example of what I've been talking about, Loretta and I teamed up with dear friends, Joe and Mary DeMaina, and headed to a place called La Casa De Pedro. Located at 343 Arsenal Street in the complex that had been the Watertown Ar- senal, back in the day. It proved to be close, enough to head to for a quick meal. I didn't know what to expect, l/ , H H .. was it Mexican, Cuban, Spanish or food from some other country south of the U.S.? I wasn't sure. They just advertised, "Fine Latin Cuisine," which could mean anything. There is little similarity between, let's say Cuban and Mexican food. Cuban is closer to European Spanish and Mexican is closer to Latin American Indian food. The four of us entered La Casa De Pedro, were wel- comed and seated. The menu turned out to be very eclectic when it came to the offerings. I saw Mexican, Spanish, Cuban and Venezu- elan dishes, and as a result, each of us ordered some- thing different with the intent of sharing. My wife ordered a roast leg of pork surrounded by sweet plan- tains and black beans with white rice ... a traditional meal found in Cuba and Ven- ezuela. Friend Joe ordered a fish dish that was Mexican, and when I sampled both the pork and fish, wondered if I should have ordered a combo of the two. Joe's wife, Mary and I both ordered Paella (pie-aye-yah), the na- tional dish of Spain and a special dish of several Latin American countries. Paella is a bed of saffron flavored rice surrounded by mussels, clams, pieces of fish, pieces of chicken and Spanish sausage. Our only mistake was to have two orders delivered to the table. One would have fed Mary and me with enough left over for doggy bags for the both of us. I happen to be a paella lover, having sampled the dish in Spain and almost every Latin American coun- try south of the U.S. What I tasted at La Casa De Pedro ranked as one of the best paellas I've ever sampled. It contained everything I men- tioned, with just enough saf- fron and subtle sPices to bring out the taste of the meats and seafood. For dessert, we all ordered flan, custard with burned caramel liquid dripping down the sides of the cylindrical pieces. I added in a double espresso to finish off my des- scrt and thought I was in gastronomical heaven. I'm out of space, but would like to know if this type of meal appeals to you. If it does, then you have to try La Casa De Pedro in Water- town. Ask for Mark Lyons, the manager and tell him I recommended the place, and he will take good care of you. See you next week, and may GOD BLESS AMERICA. News Briefs {Continued from Page i) conservation, solar power, wind turbines or algae, I just want to bart. For over 40 years now, we have known the problem and do little to change the status quo. We need to be energy indepen- dent and we can't do that by banning the drilling of US oil. We have it and we just need to get to it and the sooner the better. Getting back to Obama, the Republican candidates keep looking pitiful and de- spite the President's hor- rible leadership on numer- ous fronts and despite his poor rating from the Ameri- can people, he could sneak back in and make matters that much worse in a sec- ond term. If anything can beat him, it will be higher and higher gas prices at the pump. He can spin lots of things but he can't spin the high price of gasoline. He should be a one-termer but that old adage stands, "You can't beat somebody with nobody." RI Wants to Ban Smoking at Public Beaches and Parks State Rep. Richard Morrison, (D-Bristol) down in Rhode Island is hoping to reduce waste by making the Ocean State the first to ban smoking at all public beaches. The law would also apply to other public areas and also include pedestrian plazas. The Bristol Democrat says, "The state has the right to protect the health of our citizens. I'm not trying to take away anyone's rights but we no longer allow smok- ing in the workplace, in res- taurants, or on buses. I don't think it's a good idea to al- low it where families and young people are." Here in Boston, there is an agenda to ban smoking in private dwellings too. When politicians or anti-tobacco groups say they aren't out to curtail anyone's rights, ac- tions speak louder than words. If tobacco is so un- healthy you need to ban it at the beach, why is this prod- uct still legal? Prohibition- ists tried it long ago with al- cohol and it didn't come close to working. Govern- ment also speaks out of forked tongue on the issue. At the same time they try to ban the stuff, they reap in millions on taxes from smokers. You can't have it both ways or can you? Listen, I hate smoking. I never have. I watched my father die a long and agoniz- ing death from COPD caused by decades of smoking ciga- rettes. I wish he never smoked. Toward the end, that became his wish too. However, in this country people have rights to make choices. Sometimes they are not always the best choices. Do we now ban individuals making their own choices and have government tell us everything we should do? As much as I think smok- ing tobacco is bad for you, I am not about to tell some- one-what to do with their own life. Each of us lives or dies with the choices we make. Keep it that way or outlaw the product. Remember Robin Hood? One night recently, I watched a DVD called "The Adventures of Robin Hood" a motion picture from 1948. We all know the story of Prince John, a Norman rul- ing over the Saxons like a murderous despot, while his brother Richard the Lion- hearted was held prisoner during the Crusades. The following morning, "I saw the TV news story concerning the attempt by the Scottish people to become a free and independent Scotland. Scot- land and England have been united since 1707 as Brit- ain. Back in 1972 -- 40 years ago -- I was traveling in Europe and on Sunday, January 30, 1972, I was riding a tour bus in Derry, Northern Ireland past the sight of the "Bloody Sunday" massacre that saw, I believe, 13 innocent and unarmed Irish Catholic civilians gunned down by British sol- diers. As someone with ma- ternal ancestors from West Cork, I thought it was time for Northern Ireland to break-away from Britain and reunite with the Republic of Ireland. I still think this today. As an American, I can identify with Britairl through common heritage. There is no country in the world we are more like than the En- glish. Our political roots, our belief in constitutional gov- ernment and our belief in democracy will always tie us together. However, I think it is high time for the Scottish people to have its own coun- try again. I also hope that the Irish people from both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland find a way to put aside sectarian differ- ences and see all that unites them together as one people. Getting back to Sir Robin of Sherwood, the fight he fought is still being fought today. It was a fight over des- potism and the rights of free men. It was a fight over the likes of Prince John and all the Prince Johns who still rule in this world of ours to- day. The world was .bad enough when it was the Normans versus the Saxons but compared to today, that was a piece of cake. Finally, if you really want to get metaphorio-d, I saw a lot of Tea in Sherwood For- est too. -- FOR YOU WHO APPRECIATE THE FINEST -- THE MUSIC FOR ALL OCCASIONS 781-648-5678