parsley-in-bedParsley!  Who would think this humble herb would have such strong attachment to my Italian heritage?

It is early spring,  cold and damp enough to require extra layers. One of those sun-barely-up mornings that calls me to wander the yard and see whats up.  I’m in my jammies and bare feet, against every ounce of my common sense adultness.  All around me is tinged a warm sort of pink from the rising sun.  No cars, no planes, no music or doorbells or conversations, just an occasional twitter or tweet, the kind that birds make.  Emergence and rebirth, the scent of damp earth, a scampering bunny escaping the threat of me… this time of year a survey of my city-lot size domain of green brings peace, stillness, a calm.  Steam swirled up from my coffee cup, my only source of warmth. It’d be a short exploration.

As I wandered into my rain-soaked garden I  saw determined parsley plants pushing up through the mud.  This year, they’ve beat they’ve managed to beat the chives and the daffodils.  Determined little plants!  Back in the day, my Italian grandmother, Nonni, grew  parsley.  She was in California, so her garden had bundles of green year-round.  They grew in a long bed that followed the fence delineating property boundaries.  On the other side, the Gaspars had concrete, but my grandparents yard was green everywhere.  The parsley shared space with lilies of the valley.  Wow, I wish I’d have a high definition camera back then.  Or any camera, for that matter.  I think I was six, and of course preserving what was plain old normal at Nonni and Grandpa’s never crossed my mind.  Now, decades later, I can still see, smell, feel that little tiny piece of my past.

Back then, the only parsley everyone else knew about was that curly stuff. It usually showed up on a restaurant plate next to the baked potato.  And nobody ever ate it, ever!

But my Nonni grew flat-leaf parsley from seed she’d brought from Roccamonfina. That parsley came across the Atlantic in steerage, tucked away in a little packet just like the ones that held future tomato and zucchini and pepper plants.  Nonni nurtured and pampered and encouraged those little seeds into a small but productive garden in the tiny lot they shared with several families Methuen.  Then they made it over to Lawrence, again a small city lot, hardly enough sun, but they grew and ate every year, and saved seeds for the next season.  Finally, a big move to sunny southern California.  Oh my, the garden flourished!  Grandpa was retired by then, and he would spend half his days puttering, trimming his roses, plucking tomato beetles, shooing the chickens, trimming the lawn. Grandpa had a green thumb.

Nonni would hand me the shears and scoot me out, the screen door banging behind me.   And I would  snip parsley, just a little from each plant, not too much, so more would grow back for next time. I’d come back into the house with an armful of fragrant greenery.  Then I’d help her mince and mash that parsley with salt and lots of garlic, making a pungent paste. It would seem to take forever to come together into the absolutely smooth consistency Nonni required.  Later, my mother would be express her horror that  Nonni had let a youngster handle a sharp knife.  That perfectly smooth paste would go into Nonni’s braciole. I still dream about that rolled steak and the cooked-all-day sauce that went with it.

Our Italian heritage is more than name, language, history.  We find our culture and our past in the simplest of things sometimes, and some of our strongest connections come at random… like walking through a rain-soaked herb garden just after dawn on an early spring morning.

This Day

This Day

Each day, my calendar pops up a bunch of reminder notifications – and amongst all the appointments and actual things I need to know, there are always a few “tomorrow is national something or other day”.  I decided to explore today, October 15th.  Wow.


Today is National White Cane Safety Day

Did you know that The National Federation of the Blind supplies a white cane free of charge to anyone in the United States who is significantly visually impaired?  This day was first proclaimed in 1964 by President Lyndon B Johnson at the urging of the National Federation for the Blind.

2015 1015 white cane safety day“The white cane in our society has become one of the symbols of a blind person’s ability to come and go on his own. Its use has promoted courtesy and special consideration to the blind on our streets and highways. To make our people more fully aware of the meaning of the white cane and of the need for motorists to exercise special care for the blind persons who carry it Congress, by a joint resolution approved as of October 6, 1964, has authorized the President to proclaim October 15 of each year as White Cane Safety Day.

Now, therefore, I, Lyndon B. Johnson, President of the United States of America do hereby proclaim October 15, 1964 as White Cane Safety Day.”

There is some real history here.  Back in 1930, the first state law regarding the right of blind people to travel independently with white canes was passed.   Back then, few knew that a white cane signified independent mobility for the blind.  Back in the 1978, a young woman testified before congress that she regularly encountered folks who had no clue of the significance and purpose of her white cane.   These days, we are generally more aware of individuals with disabilities, and now every state has a White Cane Law.

According to the National Federation of the Blind, White Cane Safety Day is intended to make everyone aware of the significance of a white cane and to encourage people, especially motorists, to take extra care when they see someone with a white cane. It has also become a day on which the achievements of the blind and visually impaired are celebrated and offers the chance to educate and raise awareness of the blind and visually impaired.

Since we pretty much all know what a white cane means, these days, I’d say they’ve don a good job of it.


Today is National Chicken Cacciatore Day

2015 1015 national chicken cacciatore dayThis one makes me smile. I love Italian food.  Cacciatore means “hunter” – and this dish finds its origins way back in the 15th century or so.  Back then, the hunters would head out for days at a time tracking big game.  They’d make a tasty, fill
ing stew out of smaller prey they’d picked off on the way, cooked in a pot over a fire. These days, we like chicken in a tomato-based sauce, but in the 15th century, more likely there would be a rabbit or such in the pot, some parsley or oregano for interest, and no tomatoes.
These days we consider tomatoes an integral part of Italian cuisine, but in the 1400s, tomatoes had not yet made it across the ocean from the New World.

Here’s a pretty simple Chicken Cacciatore Recipe, enough to serve two for a lovely romantic dinner:

  • 1-1/2 pounds of chicken thighs, bone in and skin on
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, washed, seeded, and sliced thinly
  • 4 ounces cremini mushrooms, thickly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup nice dry red wine, Chianti is good
  • 1-1/2 cups peeled and chopped plum tomatoes
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry flat leaf parsley (or 1 teaspoon fresh, chopped)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry oregano (or 1 teaspoon fresh, chopped)

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan on medium heat. Place the chicken pieces in the pan and brown on both sides, remove and set aside. Pour all but 2 tablespoons of the rendered fat out of the frying pan, and then add the  onions, bell peppers, and mushrooms. Increase the heat to medium high. Cook until the onions are translucent, and the mushrooms have become limp.  Add the garlic to the pan and cook a minute or so longer. Add the wine and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, and then add the tomatoes. Add black pepper, parsley and oregano.  Simmer uncovered for another 5 minutes , and then put the chicken pieces on top of the tomatoes and onions, skin side up. Lower the heat and cover the frying pan with its lid slightly ajar so some of the steam can get out. Simmer for about half an hour, or until the chicken is cooked through.   Serve with a nice salad, good crusty bread for soaking up the juices, and the rest of that Chianti.


Today is National Grouch Day

oscar the grouch scramNational Grouch Day was first mentioned in Sesame Street Magazine years ago.  I suspect Childrens’ Television Workshop, who produced Sesame Street, had something to do with it.

My dictionary defines a grouch as a person who complains frequently or constantly; a habitual irritable or complaining person.  Know anyone like that?  Well, don’t we all.  Today is the day that the rest of us can sit back and put a little of our own Grouch on.   And, of course you knew this – National Grouch Day honors – who else – Oscar the Grouch.


Today is International Conflict Resolution Day

Yes, seriously, there is a Conflict Resolution Day.  Even better, there is also an actual Association for Conflict Resolution, who created this global event in 2005.  The purpose is to increase awareness of peaceful, non-violent methods of conflict resolution. such as mediation and arbitration.

The Association for Conflict Resolution and many independent organizations host informative events all over the world today.   I hope they invited lots of world leaders.


Today is Global Handwashing Day

I anticipate this one makes a bigger difference in daily lives than that conflict resolution one.  Global Handwashing Day was founded by the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing, andis endorsed by a wide array of governments, international institutions, private companies, and schools throughout the world.  This day is designed t2015 1015 global handwashing dayo foster and support global and local cultures of hand washing with soap, highlight the state of hand washing around the world, and raise awareness about the benefits of regular suds-and-rub.

Tons of events, seminars, lessons, presentations and educational opportunities happen worldwide.   I know, Mr. Obvious-Man, but there are places in our world that don’t have the resources and knowledge available to us.

And, you know what else I discovered?  My 40-second web search showed that many graduate students have and continue to do research on the value of washing your hands to help prevent the spread of disease. Your mother was right!


lucy meta-vita-vega-minToday is National I Love Lucy Day

Know what?  I Love Lucy debuted on October 15, 1951.  Of course, I only ever watched it in reruns.  At one point, Lucy was the most syndicated human being on the planet.  Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, that is, DesiLu Productions, were genius trendsetters.  They were the first scripted tv show to be shot live on 35mm film in front of an audience.  The won five Emmy Awards and 40 million people still watch the reruns each year.  Wow.  Though born nearly half a century later, our daughter is well aware of I Love Lucy and can readily quote the most important lines and plots.  Chocolate Factory?  Vitameatavegamin? The hair?  The facial expressions?  The wail?  Yup, she knows them all.  We brought her up right, you see.



Today is National Cheese Curd Day

cheese curds againBest and most shameless for last.  So, today is the very first annual National Cheese Curd Day, to my knowledge.  Founded by Culver’s, who insisted that Cheese Curds deserve their own day, just like hamburgers and chocolate.

You know Culver’s – a fast food restaurant, based out of Wisconsin.  They happen to have deep-fried cheese curds on their menu.How, regardless of origin, I’m good with this one.  I love cheese curds.  I have yet to find a cheese curd I didn’t relish.  Culver’s serves theirs deep-fried with marinara or ranch.  Or I can stay truer to my usual lifestyle and pick up some raw-milk curds, squeaky fresh, from the farmer’s market.  All good, either way and anything in between.

We are talking cheese here, after all.



Well, that’s it for today.  Not so sure about tomorrow, folks.  What do you think?