Temas de Capa

Fall traditions from an Italian Perspective…



Growing up in a diverse multicultural community l have experienced many diverse ethnic fall traditions in my lifetime. They range from the Jewish community to the Portuguese, Italian and Chinese communities, and a few others along the way. I have some highlights from most of these communities of which l will share with you, but the Italian side of me is what makes up most of my memories and tastes.

The Italian culture is rich in traditions, and autumn is no exception. There are many memories for me, but the one that sticks out the most is the wine making in the fall. This tradition is not just an Italian one which is shared but many other communities, but this is the one that is the most memorable for me. Overseas my grandfather would talk to me about the grape harvest or “vendemmia” which would take place. My ancestors would harvest grapes to make wine, and this event is celebrated with communal grape picking and wine-making gatherings.

Every community has its diverse winemaking techniques and Italy is no exception. Some winemakers adhere to centuries-old traditions, including fermenting and aging wines in large oak casks. The laundry room in my childhood home and part of the cellar had a fermented wine smell for days after the fermentation process. One could get inebriated just from the fumes. Many Italian wines are known for their ability to age gracefully. Either way, this tradition is something that is ingrained in my memory banks and has a very special place where it has forced me to try and duplicate the experience. Have not been able to do it. ⁸ Italians traditional tomato making refers to the process of preserving tomatoes in various forms, such as tomatoes sauce, tomato paste, or sun-dried tomatoes. We have a long-standing tradition of using tomatoes in our cuisine, and preserving tomatoes allows us to enjoy their flavor throughout the year, especially during the winter months when fresh tomatoes are not readily available. This tradition in my family was also a very big occasion and both the men and women of the family would all pitch in.

This fall tradition would take place in my garage as the winemaking would only be made in the basement. The tomatoes selection was a big thing with choosing ripe ones, a good quality one and the type was also important. Varieties like San Marzano, Roma, or other meaty, low water content tomatoes are preferred for their rich flavor. The whole process of blanching and peeling the tomatoes was not an easy chore, but very enjoyable. The cutting of the tomatoes and gently removing the seeds was my job and l got to be very good at it. The final process was the cooking of these tomatoes and then storing in jars for the entire year.

These preserved tomato products can be used in various dishes like pasta sauces, soups, stews, and pizza toppings. The traditional method of tomato making allows Italians to savor the taste of fresh tomatoes even when they are out of season.

Making homemade Italian sausage is a beloved tradition in many Italian households. These secret receipts are passed down from generation to generation and my wife is the one that holds the secret to our homemade sausage recepy…. which is out of this world. Customs of hosting a homemade Italian sausage-making event is not only about the product but also about the joy of coming together, sharing stories, and creating lasting memories with loved ones.

Some other traditions that come to mind for me aside from the big 3 is that fall brings chestnuts and Italians are very big on these delicacies. Having them simply roasted with some homemade wine or in some recepies was a delicacy. Chestnut roasting, known as “castagne,” are a popular fall snack for Italians. Street vendors often sell them and getting a bag from a guy called Mike in front of Honest Ed’s store on Bloor Street was something to look forward to. Italy is known for chestnut festivals and the town of Cuneo in Piedmont is renowned for its annual chestnut festival. There are some chestnut based desserts that my grandmother would make, especially a tart loaf chestnut pizzella.

The other fall tradition that sparks memories for me and is still relevant for me is “All Saints Day.” On November 1st, Italians celebrate “Tutti I Santi” (All Saints Day). Families often visit cemeteries to honor their deceased loved ones and bring chrysanthemums, the traditional flower of the dead. This date would be a must with my mother when she was alive along with Christmas eve and Easter as the big 3 days that needed to be honored in church. This tradition is still celebrated by many and me.

Like most countries and their traditions, depending on the region, the customs and traditions vary slightly. The reason for this is because of the availability of certain things was either in season or not available. It’s amazing to me how creative our ancestors were when it came to surviving and making do with what was available. Many of my friends would invite me over for polenta and mushrooms a tradition of the north and not done by my family that was from the south. Polenta, a cornmeal porridge, is a staple in the fall, often served with mushroom sauce or stews.

Most cultural communities have traditions and habits that take place at certain times of the year, but the fall is when most get into gear and start a tradition that is handed down. The past and the present merged, creating a bridge between generations and have handed down those wonderful customs. In a changing global shift, and the fakeness that is out there, it’s such a fresh feeling to create and taste some memories from a pure past.

Traditional food serves as a timeless link to our cultural heritage, a delicious testament to generations past, and a source of comfort and connection in our modern lives. As we savor these culinary treasures, let us not only appreciate the flavors but also the stories, customs, and love that have been passed down through the ages on our plates. So, next time you enjoy a plate of your favorite traditional dish, remember that you’re not just eating a meal – you’re tasting history and tradition, one bite at a time.

Vincent Black

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