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Sons of Italy Scholarship Dinner.. My inspirations..

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For those that could not attend my speech tonight for the Sons of Italy annual Scholarship dinner-here is the context (6-4-13)

copyright 2013 Art of LIving, PrimaMedia,inc/Maria Liberati

I want to especially thank President Lorraine Fitzgerald and all the  members of the  Justice Montemuro Sons of Italy lodge, parents and family of scholarship recipients and scholarship recipients and guests for inviting me to speak to this event tonight.  It  was truly an honor!

. Not only because Sons of Italy  help  preserve the preservation of Italian culture and heritage  but because we are  also so close to my beginnings. Most of you may not know it but I was born  in Philadelphia,before my parents moved us out to the suburbs. Through my grandparents sacrifices of coming to this country I have managed to achieve things I could only dream of thanks to my parents who instilled in me the hard work ethic passed on by my grandparents.

My mom instilled in me my love of books and literature at a very early age and had me reading by 3 or 4 yrs old and I began devouring books and literature of any kind..my Dad inspired the dreamer in me.. When he was growing up in South Philadelphia a treat for him was a weekend ride  to the country..he desired strongly to raise his family there, to have a house surrounded by trees and land where I could play ..so much so that one story I tell in my book is about my parents buying me a sled for Christmas-even though we were surrounded by concrete sidewalks in the city of  Philadelphia..people thought he was crazy since there were only sidewalks where we lived, but he wanted me to have a place that I could freely go sledding and in 3 yrs we had our house in the burbs and I did go sledding down the hill in the back of our house for many Christmases to come.

But I  also became  accustomed  to having large Sunday dinners at either of my grandparents home in West Philly or South Philly..these big Sunday get togethers  some times included accompanying my  grandfather on trips to the Italian market to buy the ingredients for Sunday dinners and/or his grapes to make wine… Sundays were always filled with food ,opera and storytelling about their towns in Italy..and all of a sudden it seemed like it was all gone…my grandparents and relatives from Italy had suddenly all passed away and what we did not realize is how much we took that all for granted…and I needed so much to find my identity to… find out about my past

..As the great journalist Pearl  S. Buck once said “You need to understand your past to be able to understand your present and future”…and find out I did….I began spending time at my great grandparents vineyard in the  mountains of Abruzzo ,the very vineyard where the nazi soldiers killed my great grandfather because he would not let them take his pigs for food…and I began studying the cookbooks of one of my great aunts, who I never met but she was my grandmother’s older sister. She   had to support the family because their parents’ passed away.

She made a living as a personal chef and worked for members of the royal family…her cookbook was also entertaining, telling you to time things by saying a verse of the Ave Maria and other prayers… And I had written for magazines and newspapers while in college, so I began to keep a diary while in Italy. But also fell in love with food and studied the culinary arts there. The stories I wrote were not just recipes but also about the experience that went with the recipes. Food in Italy is not just about eating, it is life, it is history, it is art, it is culture, it is many things. So my books do not just include recipes,they also include stories, since I too believe that food relates to so many things in life!

I began teaching culinary workshops in Italy for tourists and could not believe how intimidated people were about cooking Italian dishes.  But Italian food ,like life is a simplistic art. And thus the title of my books and trademark was born..The Basic Art of Italian Cooking. It took me about 2 years to write and get my first book published. I never realized how long of a process it was.. nevertheless my second book The Basic Art of Italian Cooking: Holidays and Special Occasions was released 2 yrs after that. And one day I received an email that I thought was spam..It was from  the office in Spain of the Gourmand World Awards contacting me that my second book had been selected to receive the best Italian cookbook in the USA award  for 2010 in Paris. I did not pay much attention to it, since I thought it was spam mail, until they emailed me 3 times and then sent a letter and a personal; email..so off to the Paris awards ceremony I was among the top chefs in the world it was very exciting.

So of course today when you have a book, you have to have a blog an it is a work in progress but I have been working on it for 5 years and this year 2013 I was voted the Culinary Blogger of the year by the New York travel writers society- will be getting the award at a ceremony a the Palace Hotel in December in NYC..

As St. Thomas Aquinas said” the things that we love tell us who we are”….My love of my heritage has inspired me to do so many things and be introduced to people from all over the world as food is an international language ,but more importantly Italian food..I quickly realized, too my surprise that the world is fascinated ,well not just fascinated but crazy about our food, our fashions, our style our opera,art,architecture and way of life.

When I had the idea to write memoirs about my travels and life in Italy and cookbooks I first thought “who would be interested in recipes, it is not that big of a deal, sine we cooked that way in my home all the time”…but I was proven wrong…people go bananas for Italian food and wine, my blog now has 100,000 worldwide followers and grows everyday..

And I am, now working on filming my own TV series in Italy to be broadcast in the USA….and where does this all go back to

Someone once said” Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny."

All of us here has inherited a gift… A gift that no one can take away from you or take back…your heritage.. explore it and cherish it,  learn about your family tree, the Italian language,food, art, opera..preserve your heritage.

“We do not remember days, we remember moments. The richness of life lies in memories we have forgotten”.

~ by  Cesare Pavese

For recipes and more get your copy of the Gourmand World Award Winning book  The Basic Art of Italian Cooking: Holidays & Special Occasions-2nd edition

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July 19-21..counting the days till Festa Italiana in Milwaukee Wisconsin. I will be on the culinary stage as one of the celebrity Chefs…hope to see you there!

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