Food for Thought….. — June 4, 2015

Food for Thought…..

Food evokes powerful memories. Regardless of our heritage, our memories are irrevocably linked to food.  Of course, this is true of holidays and family gatherings but sometimes the simplest treats will bring back distant memories, especially if they’re connectyellow cover4 copy 1000 pixelsed to the ones we love.

I was recently surprised to see one of my special childhood treats on chef Rosella Rago’s website. Many of her recipes are traditional recipes from a region in Italy called Puglia. This particular recipe, however, was a special treat I remember enjoying as a child.  Many recipes from Puglia  use  almonds and figs, which can be found in great abundance in the area. This one, stuffed figs with almonds, was my favorite. My mother used to make large quantities of them and they all disappeared in no time at all.

Of course, they would be little Francesco’s favorite as well.

The cellar was cool, dark and damp, filled with a familiar musty scent.  It was here that the family kept their provisions, which were meant to last through the winter months until the next harvest.  Large terracotta jugs, glass jars, and dust-covered bottles of wine lined the shelves on the wall. The jars were filled with tomato sauce made from the summer’s harvest, along with the dense cherry and fig marmalade his mother made and preserved every year. The bottles of wine were dated. Some older ones, labeled aceto, had been reserved for vinegar. Other jugs were filled with olive oil, cured olives and dried figs stuffed with almonds. The figs had been baked in the oven and pressed into large jugs lined with laurel leaves to flavor and preserve them throughout the winter. Sweet and chewy just like candy, they were, of course, his favorite. He knew he shouldn’t take them without asking his mother first. He knew they were supposed to last the whole winter. But he had done this many times before and he thought she would never notice a few missing figs. So he filled his pockets with as many as he could and ran upstairs to the kitchen.”

-from Francesco’s Song by C.M.Furio,

Now available on Amazon

You can get the recipe at http://www.cookingwithnonna.com/italian-cuisine/baked-figs-with-almonds.html

What’s your favorite childhood treat?

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The numbers game… — June 2, 2015

The numbers game…

Many people believe that finding the mate is a numbers game. “You have to date a lot of guys before you find the right one… ” said a friend of mine many years ago when we were both dating. She eventually found the man she believed to be right for her and they married. So did I. Today with speed dating and online dating you really can meet a lot of possible life partners but does it really improve your yellow cover4 copy 1000 pixelsability to  find the right ONE? Is it luck? Being at the right place at the right time? Is it destiny?  Do you believe in love at first sight?

For the protagonist in Francesco’s Song, it was love at first sight.

In spite of the crowd in the church, Francesco’s eyes were drawn to the girl at once. She stood out in her smart beige dress and long white veil. Even though the dress was conservative, he could see it was very stylish, in the latest Paris fashion, with broad shoulders, a dropped waist and perfect pleats.

            All through the Mass he couldn’t take his eyes off her. She looked vaguely familiar. Where had he seen her? Maybe in a dream, he thought. He noticed everything about her, her pale, delicate features, her slim waist, the way the veil draped her dark hair, the way she rose and genuflected, the way she murmured the prayers. With his mind he willed her to turn around and look at him. Look at me. Why don’t you look at me?  Finally she did. A quick glance, and then, she turned away, afraid that others might notice. Yet in that glance, their eyes met and they both knew at once.”

– From Francesco’s Song by C.M. Furio,

Now available on Amazon

Thoughts on Italy’s Republic Day….. —

Thoughts on Italy’s Republic Day…..

Today, June 2nd, Italy celebrates Republic Day, Festa della Repubblica. It commemorates a time in 1946 when the Italian people were asked to vote for their form of government. The protagonist in Francesco’s Song  had by then returned to his hometown, Mola di Bari. This is how he saw it.


“In the aftermath of the war, Italy was left a devastated country. Healing was a slow process. The social upheaval was marked by a society divided as to how to move forward. What type of government should Italy have? Should the monarchy be reinstatedyellow cover4 copy 1000 pixels, or a republic, or something else? The destroyed economy marked by a spiraling devaluation of the lira left many not much better off than they had been during the war. Prices for the necessities of life increased daily. In the search for a new type of government, three contenders came to compete, the Socialists, the Communists and the Christian Democrats. All promised industrial growth and agricultural reform.

Many Communist and Socialist groups sprang up, and Francesco’s friend Mario, idealistic as ever, started the first Communist Party in Mola. Political discussions in the piazza became animated as the new elections approached. They could easily lead to violence. Francesco went to the meetings, heard all the arguments, but sided with none. As far as he was concerned they were all corrupt and couldn’t be trusted. They all had their agendas. The Christian Democrats were backed by the Catholic Church, and with his anti-clerical feelings, Francesco didn’t believe they would work in the best interest of the people, only the best interest of the Church. He might have been sympathetic to the rhetoric of the Socialists and the Communists, but he knew they didn’t stand a chance of winning. The United States had launched a massive anti-Communist propaganda campaign, making it clear that aid would be cut off  if either the Socialist or the Communist party were elected. It was thus no surprise when the Christian Democrats won a big victory. Relief from the United States started to flow in the form of the Marshall Plan and helped revive the nation’s economy, but healing the heart of the country was a different matter. Italy was searching for a new identity and a new place in the world.”

– from Francesco’s Song by C.M. Furio

Now available on Amazon

June 2, 1946 The Italian Republic is born
June 2, 1946
The Italian Republic is born

Note:  Italian women were allowed to vote for the first time in this election. About time, don’t you think?

INSPIRATION COMES IN THE STRANGEST PLACES…. —

INSPIRATION COMES IN THE STRANGEST PLACES….

I was in New York City attending a Kaplan workshop for teachers of the New York City Specialized High entrance exam. It was a rainy, miserable autumn day. When I came out of the office on Hudson Street, it was pouring and even though I had my umbrella, I wayellow cover4 copy 1000 pixelss soaked by the time I crossed the street and made it to the corner coffee shop. Of course, it was crowded, but I managed to get a seat in the corner by the window and sat enjoying my coffee and scone. I started to think about the story I was writing and about the desperate situation my father faced as did all Italians who lived through that terrible year, 1943. I took out my pad of paper and pen and started to write furiously. This is what I wrote:

       “The city was bleak and desolate. Rain poured down on the streets, making the cobblestones slick and slippery. Francesco didn’t have an umbrella and he had crossed the street in the downpour. Dodging the rain, he had made his way to the corner trattoria to get something to eat. Now he sat at a table by the window, wiping his soaking wet hat with a napkin. His “coffee” arrived and he sipped it slowly, trying to enjoy it, but it was no use pretending. It was impossible to get real coffee and this drink just wasn’t the same. Cafés and restaurants had resorted to grinding cereal products, sometimes toasted acorns, and sometimes toasted chick peas, to create a drinkable coffee substitute. The result was tasteless. At least it’s hot, he thought.  Aromas from the kitchen spiked his appetite and he ordered the day’s special.

       While he waited for his food to arrive, he watched as people rushed with their umbrellas to get out of the rain. In spite of the destruction from the bombings, the hustle and bustle of the big city had not slowed down the Milanese. But the bombings by the British had had the desired effect on the population. They were demoralized.”

– from Francesco’s Song by C.M. Furio,

Now available on Amazon

“When I was your age…” — June 1, 2015

“When I was your age…”

When I was growing up, speaking Italian at home was taken for granted.I would later find out that most Italian immigrants discarded their mother tongue as quickly as possible in order to become Americanized  as quickly as possible. Growing up, it was also taken for granted that we discuss politics, literature, art and music at the dinner table. Dinner was served promptly at 12 noon on Sundays and at 6pm on weekdays. We were never late for dinner.When we were little, dinner time was time my father  use to quiz the three of us, my younger brother and sister and myself, about Italy’s artists, poets and musicians, promising us cash rewards if we got the answers right.

The author with her father
The author with her father

When he wanted to impress on us how easy our life was he would say, “When I was your age, I was running from the Germans.” He repeated this so many times that eventually we would finish the sentence for him. “We know, we know,” we would chime in when he started, “… you were running from the Germans.” We never questioned any of this or ask about it although we knew he had been a soldier in the Italian army during the war. I certainly never question this until many years later when I found documents and letters from the war in his library.

Francesco’s Song by C.M. Furio now available on Amazon

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How my writing journey began…..   — May 31, 2015

How my writing journey began…..  

       My first experience writing fiction began while taking a class for retired teachers at the UFT office in Queens, N.Y. I had to write something for class the next day and I had to write it fast. What would I write about? I lay in bed unable to sleep. Thoughts flooded my mind as they usually do when you can’t sleep. For some strange reason, my thoughts wandered back to the house I grew up in. In my mind’s eye I saw my Father in the garden and my boys when they were little, running around and playing as they often did there. It suddenly came to me. I would put my memories down on paper. I sat up in bed, put the light on and went downstairs to grab a pen and pad of paper.

Papa and his grandsons
Papa and his grandsons

Back in bed I started to scribble down all I remembered as a fast as I could,  afraid that if I stopped I wouldn’t be able to capture those fleeting memories. As I wrote and remembered, I cried. I continued to write through my tears. Finally, when I was done, I looked down at my scribbling. What a mess! I could barely read what I had written and yet it felt good, as if I had somehow unburdened myself of something I had been carrying around inside me for a long time. Writing it down  made it seem real, as if my Father was still with me  and my boys were little once again. And so began what would later become my first novel, Francesco’s Song.

Francesco’s Song by C.M. Furio
Now available on Amazon
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