After coming to America, Cesarina and Giuseppe were married. The two of them started out living in an apartment in Oakland, California. Cesarina had loftier ambitions than living in an apartment. They were fortunate enough to live in an apartment building that had many other Italian born people as occupants.
One day, an opportunity that they couldn’t pass up presented itself. Some friends of theirs that cleaned banks were going to Italy, and asked if they would like to take their places. Cesarina and Giuseppe filled in, but the bank managers liked them so much better. Cesarina and Giuseppe started a business of their own, cleaning many of the banks in Oakland at night.
They saved their money, and they found a home in the Rockridge district of Oakland, California. Soon after they signed the note to buy a house, Cesarina was pregnant. Cesarina, had much to do, the house was ugly, and it had fleas. She could not believe this was the America that dreamed about before moving from Italy. She couldn’t believe that Americans lived in such filthy conditions. There were many nights that she cried herself asleep with the words running through her head…”California is the end of the world.” How could she change this “America” that seemed more like a nightmare?
Giuseppe spoke English, but Cesarina did not yet speak English. She continued to work along with Giuseppe, until she was in labor. She was pulling a floor waxer when her water broke. So many well wishes from America and Italy.
She was beginning to feel a sense of pride again, her house, was becoming her home. She made her own curtains, and scrubbed her own floors. The words of Maria never left her. She was determined to make her own way in America. She was determined to live an American dream. Maria told her “Once you become wealthy, do some cleaning yourself. It not only allows you to appreciate what you have, and how far you have come, but allows your brain to solve problems.”
Even though she had only given birth a few months earlier, she was ready to take Roberto with her everywhere and anywhere she had to go. Roberto was packed up with all the tools of the trade. He was put in his hi chair with wheels, and wheeled around the bank as they cleaned. As they saved, they looked at property. They would often walk around the neighborhoods where they wanted to buy homes. They did what they had to do to keep their dream alive.
As soon as Roberto was old enough to walk, he too was helping them clean. What ever he could do, he was polishing, emptying trash cans, and making sure he stayed out of trouble. When he would get tired, he would often crawl into a chair at a desk then fall to sleep. After everything was all done, they would carry him out of the banks then on to the next one.
The presidents would often want to meet the family, and Cesarina would invite them to dinner at her home. She was so proud to cook a nice hearty Italian meal for Americans. They would be astonished at how well she cooked, and how she kept her house. Here is a typical antipasti course she would prepare…
Her house would be bustling with activity and energy before a dinner party. I have a huge booklet of recipes we have made, and sometimes…I just watched. She would dawn her apron, and you better not get in her way. If she was taken photographs of guest, it better be before she “threw down” the pasta. Pasta doesn’t enter the water until all the guests have arrived. She was a dynamo, and wielded a wooden spoon, she would use it on anyone that got in her way.
Antipasti plates were put out with at least three different cheeses, salami, prosciutto, and coppa.
What are you going to need…
8 cloves of garlic. Salt and oregano
15 pieces of rustic thick crusted bread. Corse ground pepper
EVOO. 10 fresh plum tomatoes 10 fresh basil leaves
Heat a skillet or grill, while the grill is heating, peel your garlic and crush it. You want the juices of the garlic! Wash to tomatoes, and dice them. Was the basil, dry it, and rip it into small pieces. I like to add a little more garlic to the tomatoes and basil, add some salt and pepper to taste, with a pinch of oregano.
Add your bread to the heated skillet, and flip it after it is lightly browned. Take the crushed garlic, and smear it on the bread. Add your tomato mixture, and drizzle some EVOO over the top after all the pieces are added to the dish. There should be enough to be very generous with the toppings.
Sometimes to mix it up, you can also add some mozzarella cheese on the side that has the garlic, then add the tomato topping.
Fried Zucchini Flowers
Mmm, just writing this recipe makes my mouth water.
Sometimes Cesarina made these stuffed with mozzarella cheese, and sometimes plain. Either way, they are scrumptious!
If you don’t grow your own zucchini, you will have to buy them from the farmers market. The male blossoms are longer, so they are better to use. What do you need?
15 male zucchini blossoms. Salt and pepper (mozzarella cheese if you are going to stuff them)
11/4 cup of milk,
1 egg 1 cup of flour, olive oil
Add the wet ingredients together, and gently add the flour a little bit at a time. Add the salt and pepper last, and just a pinch of each. Open the flower to remove the pistils, wash the inside and out. Dry with a towel. If your adding the cheese, do it now,
Heat your frying oil, before it smokes add the blossoms, once they are golden brown flip them over, and add them to a plate that has paper towels to absorb the extra oil.
By this time, all your guests will be talking about how lovely each item of food is, and they will be asking for the recipes of each one.
If you happen to make all three of these dishes, only add Mozzarella to one. It would be almost vulgar to have cheese on two of your antipasti dishes.
Soup were for winters, and salad in the summer… ( I will have to post some great meals from my book)
If there was one quote that I would have to choose as the most important that Cesarina taught me, make due with what you have. I used to say “We didn’t use that last time in the recipe.” She would tell me, there is no recipe that is on stone, just use what you have! I never had a bad meal at her house, well except cow brains…that is another story. UGH!
They finally had enough money to move up the hill in Rockridge, and she moved into her dream house. She started renting her little house that she was her first home. The family started buying more property because of the philosophy of her father…Just as the tree roots in the soil, so should we. Invest in real estate. Roberto invested with his parents. They owned several properties together. She was living the American dream! She took her son to Italy every summer, and he attended private schools. He was becoming an investor too.
Next time…Cesarina and I meet each other.