Those familiar with Italian culture know that Italy has myriad celebrations in honor
of saints, and regional customs are as varied as the regions themselves. Festa: Recipes and Recollections of Italian Holidays,
by Helen Barolini, provides a reflective look into the holidays and foods that bring families and friends together.
Barolini, born in upstate New York, is the granddaughter
of southern Italian immigrants; and like many others who were brought up during World War II, the ties to her Italian heritage
were overpowered by her parents’ desire to be accepted as American. In college, as she studied the poets of Rome, Barolini began to feel a connection to her heritage; but it was a trip to Italy
that fully connected her recollections of her grandmother’s “foreign cooking” with the gastronomic celebration
Barolini married a northern Italian, and he taught her about the traditions of Italian cooking. They raised their family,
alternately living in Italy and New
York, and through her marriage, Barolini gained a deeper interest in Italian culture and food.
In Festa, Barolini shares her insights and recipes. Divided into months, the book glides through each chapter
with Barolini’s descriptive passages of Italian holidays, landscape, culture, and food. In Italy, almost every month has a festival for at least one saint, and even May Day
and April Fool’s Day are celebrated with passion. The vivid depictions of the landscape and Barolini’s recounts
of times spent with noted literati ― her husband was famed author, poet, and journalist Antonio Baroloni ― give
us a glimpse into her world.
From the recipes we gain all the pleasures of Italian cooking. Artichoke Pie with Pastry Crust, Baked Zucchini Frittata,
Pork Loin Vicenza Style, Turkey Filets with Balsamic Vinegar Sauce, Vermicelli with Truffles, Pasticcio Di Macaroni, Polenta
Cakes with Sausage Sauce, Black Olive Pasta, Wine Cookies, Fig Fruitcake, Chestnut Fritters, Caramelized Oranges, and Cantaloupe
Cream are a small sample of the regional delicacies provided.
Festa: Recipes and Recollections of Italian Holidays is a treasure for anyone who is Italian or anyone interested
in Italian food and culture. The paperback book retails for $24.95 and is available through the publisher, University of Wisconsin Press, or through Internet
Helen Barolini Website
University of Wisconsin Press
Helen Barolini Papers
©2009 Janice Therese Mancuso