Thursday, December 31, 2015

Notarnicola New Year's Eve Tradition

(all food & photos by and from BarefootWilley's kitchen)

 "Food should be nutritious and sustain you.
Bring joy and flavors into your life.
Dazzle your palate..." (TSW)

During middle-school my family moved down the road from the Notarnicola's, a family of eight with six kids. Becoming fast friends with their daughter, well, once she and I warmed up to each other, we did whatever 12-year-olds did in those days; gin rummy, bocce ball, rode bikes, played monopoly and talk talked. But NOT until I helped her with Saturday morning chores. Oivey!

The biggest chore was the never ending laundry for this large family. Thank goodness only six people were still living at home, because that meant twelve feet rather than sixteen. I never saw so many mounds of socks in my life. It was a known fact that washing machines ate socks so I asked what their secret was to keeping pairs matched. My friend stated, “Large safety pins.” This was the coolest thing I’d ever heard. Apparently, by the age of twelve I hadn't gotten out much.

During middle school and high school days the Notarnicola's were my surrogate family. Half Italian, half Russian. Mom and Dad N. I called them.

One of the many benefits of having this wonderful family in my life was the heart of their home; a kitchen filled with Italian and Russian heritage. I was introduced to different food's such as pierogi's, blintze's, crepe's, ravioli, prosciutto, homemade sausage, pasta and pizza, spaghetti and acorn squash and eggplant parmesan, to name a few. Basically, homemade anything!
Homemade Sauce -
Botticello tomatoes 
Gismondi garden basil, oregano, garlic
Mr. Gismondi's Garden Basil, Oregano, Garlic

Biscotti Christmas tradition
Biscotti - Christmas Tradition
In addition to what was already a daily feast for the mouth, the Notarnicola's had a New Year's Eve tradition. Surprise of all surprises, food! Their homemade menu displayed the exotic items present at this feast although, liver pate, yuck! There was stuffed pizza bread. Fish eggs. And so much more. However, the piece de resistance, were Mr. N's homemade cannoli's. Not much else to say. The word speaks for itself.

Uncle's, aunt's, grandmother's, and cousins would grab a plate and go downstairs into the family room to warm themselves by the woodstove and watch Saturday Night Live during the 1970s with Rosanna Rosanna Danna and the Cone Heads.

Biscotti Christmas tradition
Biscotti - Christmas Tradition

Let me be clear, they may have had this tradition, but to me, because many foods were new, every meal was like a special holiday!

And like most homes, no matter the heritage or holiday, you had to try food before saying you didn't like it.

I'll share a little excerpt from my book to show the day in the life of any meal at this home.

(excerpt TSW)
Whenever Mom N. asked if I’d tried a certain food, before thinking twice, I’d proudly speak once and declared “No!”

This was my way of stating, I hadn’t tried it, thank you, but no thank you, not interested.

Soon I learned the words ‘food’ and ‘no’ were not an equation in this home. The word no was the only leverage she needed. If I’d already tried a food I didn’t like, she accepted that response. However claiming I didn’t like the looks, smell, or color of something before trying it didn’t excuse me from her dinner table.

“Have you ever had eggplant parmesan?”


I could tell immediately I gave the wrong answer because she was about to serve me a huge helping.

Apparently I just needed to explain more so I said, “I hate squash. It’s soggy and I don’t like the way it looks.” 

Thoroughly satisfied that my explanation clarified this matter, I began to relax.

“Oh,” as Mom N’s eyebrows cocked with her unwavering stare. 

Although her smile emerged and twinkled, I wasn’t convinced I won.

My explanation was weak. She had absolutely no sympathy for not trying new food. Simply put Mom N’s firm smile made it clear, while sitting with her family of six as a guest in their home, I was about to try eggplant parmesan. 

Everyone knew the house rules were being spelled out for me. The dinner chatter ceased while everyone turned their attention towards my plate.

Oh boy, this is fun.


With a smile of embarrassment, I shifted in my seat, positioned myself, fork in hand, cut into my dinner, blew on it, paused, smelled it, then put a forkful in my mouth.

Twelve eyes watched. 

Hmmm, between the spaghetti sauce, rigot and mozzarell cheese, I can’t even tell it's squash.
“This isn’t so bad.”

Relieved, everyone continued eating and the dinner chatter resumed.
(end-excerpt TSW)

Thank you Notarnicola's for
welcoming me into your family and
introducing me to your heart - your kitchen
a new way of looking at food!
by the way ... I LOVE Eggplant Parmesan!


So you readers can appreciate some of these photos - if you hadn't figured it out, I hated squash. During this time of my life, Divine intervention put two families in my life, the Notarnicola's and the Gismondi's. Guess what? Same house rules applied at the Gismondi's. They had a variety of squash for me to try, too! Yuck. Guess what? I love squash now!

Side note: my husband thought he was marrying an Irish lass. Another blog for another day! 

Black bean brownies gluten free
Black Bean Brownies - Gluten, Dairy, Egg Free

Pesce's Farm
Strawberries from Pesce's Farm in Bolton and GF Bisquits

chef Becky Brown
Muffins (GF) - quinoa, egg, no flour no milk
visit Chef Becky Brown 

Butternut Squash
Butternut Squash Fries

Butternut squash baked fries

Butternut soup dairy free
Butternut Squash Soup (dairy free)
Mango salsa and vegetable stock
Mango & Pear Salsa and Vegetable Stock

sweet potato fries
Sweet Potato Fries prepped

sweet potato fries
Sweet Potato Fries - baked
Sweet Potato Fries - about to eat!

Hubbard Squash
Hubbard Squash - CCC Feeds Farm Stand
Before, during and after (roasted)

Hubbard Squash

Hubbard Squash

Hubbard Squash

There are many traditions and
wrapped up with food and emotions.

Whatever your tradition enjoy them with love
if you have to spice them up, 

sprinkle in a little thankfulness so that your experience

dazzles your palate!

Notarnicola Family: I don't have a good photo to honor your family. I will leave that up to you to post photos you are comfortable with and "the" menu.
Photos: by Tammy Sue Willey aka BarefootWilley
Because who knew then to take photos of food?! I don't have photos to capture their influence but I can share how I was influenced! 


Dawn Barrett said...

As it is currently New Years eve day, I am so glad to see this post. I have been reminiscing about my parent's epic New Years eve buffet. My pick was liver pate and I still love it but haven't had it in years! I cherish those years you were my constant partner for New Years! I have such fond memories and somewhere I have an old menu we hand wrote. If I find it I'll post it. Thanks for the memories and I'm glad you were part of those memories. Happy New Years! Love you!

Linda Loegel said...

Gee, Tammy Sue, I can't imagine why you were picky about food. After all, I'm so adventurous when it comes to food! Not! This is a great article. And my thanks to the Notarnicolas for welcoming you into their family. Happy New Year. Mom