I never in a thousand years could have ever imagined that my 2nd book launch would be a sold out event with over 200 people wanting to attend.
I am honoured and humbled still to this day when I think about it.
Here is my speech.....
Welcome to an evening where we unlock the treasures between food and family…
It is an honour and a privilege to be here, I pay my respects to the past and present.
Food and family is a collaboration that affects our entire community.
Tonight is an opportunity for me to share with you what Sicilian food is means to me…
Can Food be much more than what we think?
I can hear the voice of my nonna, as she would wake up every morning and the first thing she would say to my nonno was Yacino cosa amu mancare oggi? `
Translated from my Sicilian dialect – Gioaccino `what are we going to eat today?
and I would laugh at her and say, nonna, its morning why are you so preoccupied about what we are going to eat.
And she would look at me and gently say to me, figgia mia - it’s the most important part of the day.
not knowing that they had faced famine and wars and this was their top priority for the day…
This is where my story begins –
Tonight I am hoping to inspire you to continue with a tradition that has crossed a continent, creating solid Italian cultural foundations in Australia from Italian migrants.
I look at life as a journey in my book of life..
Both of my great-grandfathers migrated in the late 1800’ s to America, each one going to the great land in search for a future that would sustain their families.
2 generations later.
My father’s family migrated in Australia in the early 50’s just after WW2, bringing with them an entire community.
Each family settled into Australia that once was part of a Sicilian community.
This is the Falconese community.
The Falconese community migrated slowly from word of mouth..
There where cousins, uncles, aunties, compares, commares, and acquaintances.
Leaving their homeland Sicily to come to a land that was embracing people who wanted a future, they worked hard to build this young country Australia as did all the migrants.
Many came with their trades, some had skills, fishermen, cooks, concreters, tilers, builders, dressmakers, and so much more, all of them had the palate that a only a milleranean culture can shape the future of such a young Australia.
So they joined a community and built a life filled with celebrations, festa’s name days, saint days, communions, confirmations, baptisms, and weddings that fashioned a nation with their food, creating strong communities!
This country Australia gave them the future they had desired and dreamt of for centuries.
They hit the jackpot!
They had the courage to leave everything that they knew, and left the comfort of their home, to sweat, work, leave an imprint for their families’ future.
They endured the hardship that many migrants are confronted with, but they persevered as they had one goal in front of them and that was and still is to this very day -
I remember as a child how my family celebrated with the community they had come together in this great land.
They had challenges but they had each other.
I wonder if any of you remember the celebrations of your childhood?
How we all shared our meals together enjoying the each other’s company.
Many years have passed.
Being born into it a Sicilian family has been the bridge to where food is my life.
A pivitol memory of my mother’s story ….
As a child she used to tell me a story about her father, Stefano Salmeri he was a fisherman a very noble one, they used to call him Rais Stefano which means leader and chief, he was an tuna engineer of a Tonnara del Tono in Milazzo, in Sicily.
Every year after the tuna fish season all the men would gather together they women would be cooking up a storm, they would get together early in the morning, each one would be getting there kitchen tables and would put them literally outside on the street making a table as long as the street, creating a sense of comradeship with each other, as the women would finish each one would bring out the dishes they had made and they would all share the meals to celebrate the end of season.
In her story I would listen and look at my mother Sarina’s face, her face was radiant as she recollected the precious moments to me, she would tell me of her father, and of her community..
This story has been imprinted in my memory.
And this was before the Long Table was even invented!
Interaction between people across the table sharing food creates relationship’s that are tangible, it builds peoples lives, and it breaths life into the soul.
I can see this even today, in my restaurant I created the Long Table, at first people would feel a bit awkward to sit with strangers, soon while they ate they would talk and become acquaintances, this stretches our character, we get out of our comfort zone when we are required to talk to someone we do not know..
The next chapter..
What has been the driving force -----passion and purpose has been to produce 3 books?
A passion for my Sicilian heritage..
And my Purpose to strengthen, educate and inspire relationships across the table… that food is much more than we think, because its about heart not mind…..
my intention in this is to build a strong community for our children to live in, as this will become their world, after we have all left.
So now we hit the core
Sitting at the bed of my mother’s side with my brother Joe, and my husband Marco, was one of the excruciating events of my life.
Watching this woman who had travelled across a continent leaving her country to venture into a new land.
My mum used to tell me the story of her coming to Australia, how she wanted much more in for her life ……her ….story ……was complete, her work was done….
She did what she came to do…
Sitting with her taking her last breath, was a pivotal change a moment where the vision of my kaleidoscope changed its focus.
Everything that this woman had lived had gone like a breath of wind.
Her entire life was gone like the wind…..
They’re still are so many questions I want to ask her.
As I sat and saw the ending of an entire era go, it was at that point that my mission had started…
I felt an urgency to wrap in a blanket everything my mother had taught me, as she had been my teacher.
Who would preserve her laughter, who would write down her rosy cheeks when she cooked, who would remember her?
I wanted to preserve my mother’s table…
My grandchildren wouldn’t even know her!
Time heals, and under this emotional devastation was the driving force for me to write, everything that was still fresh in my memory … before time washed the tangible moments of the family, I once had.. that I could still feel.
This was the beginning of my first book Carmela’s Cucina Povera, a journey of self-discovery and healing through Sicilian cooking.
I remembered the past and realised that I had learnt from my challenges and that it had shaped my future.
In this book, I write about my challenges growing up at school being a child of migrants, how it affected me, the three major challenges that I faced where,
I share with the reader how I overcame them through Sicilian cooking, finding my identity in Cucina Povera.
I realised that Cucina Povera was and is a major chunk of who I am, .
How is this so?
I love seasonal produce, I love simple meals, I love fresh pasta, I love food from the sea, I love food from the mountains, its all part of God’s precious earth. I have been cooking, and eating it all my entire life.
This was my turn to unpack my luggage and take an inventory of the treasures that lay deep within it, the memories, that were cherished…..
across my mother’s table…. with the people who had shaped my upbringing.
There is a greatness that lies within all of us that are born from a millenarian culture.
So I wrote, and gave it my best all from my heart and soul into the paper, every morning I would wake up around 5 o’clock and just write.
Unpacking the layers of my life, and finding the diamond of life in the memories.
Asking myself questions that only I could answer, the most burning question was and will always be to myself?
What do I want to leave behind?
This led me to find my purpose;
There are a series of Godly orchestrated events that paved the way for me to write my second book, the heart of the table; this is where we are now.
We will continue with this story after Rosetta Pavone our guest speaker has shared her story with us.
Rosetta is one of the Women in Sicily from Chapter 9 who share their story, with the reader about being born into a Sicilian culture how it has shaped their future.
They share with you their personal motto, their strengths, and a precious recipe that was from their mother, or nonna’s from their own region, this continues a tradition in writing into the next generation how food, binds us together.
What is the most important legacy to leave from our millenarian culture, the centrepiece of who we are, the core to our heart for the love of life?
Where all the treasures lie across the heart of our table.
The faces, the smiles, the eyes, the soul of our families.
This book -the heart of the table, -is for this era;
All the years of serving in the hospitality industry has led me here and right now.
A burning desire to continue with the Italian tradition of La Tavola, ….
Hearing my mother’s words – her calling to gather her family when it was time to mangiare….
---Tutti a Tavola…. Everyone a the table…
No one would eat until we all sat together looking at each other.. my nonno always sat at the end of the table doing the sign of the cross and thanking God for every meal we had…
I serve and welcome guests in my restaurant.
I teach Sicilian cooking.
I take an annual culinary tour to Sicily.
I cook for my friends and family.
I love to show my children and grandchildren how much I love them by cooking for them.
The women of my family showed me their love by cooking, this was their way of saying –ti voglio bene ---I love you.
My mother Sarina, would cook for me as a child and this way her way of expressing her love for her family without words…
They say action is louder than words…
Just a pure generated love conveying it through food….
A generation of Sicilian women who cooked for their family and the flavours would burst out into your palate, when you ate, you knew how much they loved your through the flavour…
My first Master class experience in creating a Napoli dish was with my nonno Giovaccino. I will never forget it, it was a Masterclass with the Ultimate Sicilian nonno who was a fisherman, WW1 and WW2 vet, had overcome the great depression, and the love of my life, the memory is forged in my heart, every time I make Napoli he is there with me.
These are moments and threads that create the quilt of life through food.
So where has the moment in a generation gone and become lost from what I know and where we are now?
Social media is great, but nothing beats the personal one on one the heart beat conversation across the table with a friend, turning off our phones and making the time to eat a meal, only centres us and gives us time out.
There is nothing like conversation with loved ones; it is the cassata to life.
It soothes the soul’s ache; it expands the heart to love, it announces the events with energy like no other ingredient in life.
One day I was in my restaurant and saw a table of four people all on digital devices. Not one of them was conversing with one another.
This was more fuel in leading me in the direction to my purpose.
We are living in an era today that has the freedom to talk, to express ourselves to reveal the very heart of our life with one another, as we communicate with each other and yet we have fallen into the lost zone of connection where we replaced it….
With little connection with each other…..
The digital era has taken the place where the table once was the gift for family to spend and share their time together while they ate and sat with each other…
This is the place where we are all equal where we can share our story, where we share our life accompanied with food.
The best memories are those across the table, where we remember our past, and it directs the sails to our future.
Why do I say this?
Because when everyone that once was my life had gone, I needed the strength to continue on my own journey it was,… when I remembered as I wrote that the memories became the treasures.
The table is the investment to our families, we don’t realise how important it is until we understand how to use it..
For example the corporate world uses the table as a middle ground to use their voices to impact the company and make it grow.
They sit around and talk about what’s important for the company, and create wealth for it.
This made me think? About our own table, why don’t we invest the time to create strong relationships that will influx into our community and make it rich?
There is an answer to how to create this wealth.
We all have it, its how we utilise it,,,,,
Now I want to ask you if you can do me a favour…..
Remember a special time that you shared with loved ones across the table. A time that was so rich and tangible ….
You…… just didn’t want the day to end………
a time so special that you have framed it in your memory… I want you to remember that time…
Feel that feeling…..
Now I want you to hold onto that feeling. And bear with me for a while.
We have everything we need, and yet there is a missing link in today’s generation that has affected most of us, and will continue to…
Now is the time to dig and get the treasure chest that has been stashed away in the corners of our memories and open it for what we all yearn for today.
This is what makes us rich this is the fuel to the human soul for us to continue our journey when our loved ones have gone.
A GENERATION WHERE VIRTUAL REALITY HAS DISCONNECTED THE PLUG IN INTERACTING AS HUMANS.
Italian Migrants came with an empty suitcase, and some without a suitcase…. filled with riches of the cultural soul, their integrity, values and wealth that makes humans excel, and a vision for their children to have a future; we now are living in a world where we have everything.
There is a majority of humans starving for interaction that food accompanies, the opportunity to share precious time across the table and eat and digest our meal as we share it with the people we love, it is a time for all of us to be gently reminded .. to what really is important.
This is the sanctuary of our home, our palace, our kingdom; its what makes us unique.
Let’s remember our past and bring the treasures into the future for our children, and grandchildren, to tell them the story, so it will never be lost, as this will become the community that they will live in.
Today I can see my family’s traits, the past and, how it has shaped the future for my children and my grandchildren.
Its important that we continue our journey and thrive with the treasures we have been given from our rich Italian inheritance
Here are some questions for all of us to think about….
How can we unlock the treasure from our suitcase, are they buried so deep?…
Is it covered in pain..?
Will our communities survive?
There is Power across our table… how will we use it?
We are nearly finished bare with me a little longer dear ones..
Now this is the time that I want you to grasp the feeling that I asked you to hold on to … close your eyes…..now place it into your book of life, into your story, and share this feeling across your table as this is your inheritance to your loved ones, share your story.
Please open your eyes now.
This is a picture from the back page from my book the heart of the table, some of my family and friends; these are my gioellis my treasures …..made up from the rich Sicilian Inheritance of my families roots… to share with you… my story of Cucina Povera.
It’s important that we remember – IT’S WHAT THE MIGRANT BRINGS AND GIVES TO THE COUNTRY; IS THEN WHAT THE COUNTRY WILL GIVE BACK TO THE MIGRANT.
The Italian culture is a fundamental key for our future to build strong communities..
-it welcomes strangers, a hospitality that empires are built of; the other side is that Australia has become a nation with a rich Italian culture.
The main ingredient in healing through food is -------human connection,---
we are made to connect this is in our DNA.
What I want to leave with you tonight is the gift, of the spirit of family, heritage and community, this is what I want you to think of when you remember my story.
to inspire you to create your own story…. Building wealth across your table.
A warm thank you to you my friends for coming and spending an evening with me.
Thank you To our guest speaker Rosetta Pavone… and to all the Women of Sicily who could not make it this evening….
To CO.AS.IT in generously bestowing me the opportunity to share my story with you.
thank you to my sponsors Alepat Taylor, Arancini art
And to my FIC federation family for assisting me in the preparation of the finger food tonight.
Italian Chamber of Commerce..
We will finish this evening with the voices of the Italian choir – La Voce Della Luna
Buona sera a tutti…