This is a picture of my grandmother’s coffee grinder. When I was old enough, one of my chores was to grind roasted coffee beans in this cast iron and wooden grinder. I felt proud to be in charge of the coffee supply, an important part of our daily life.
During the 1950’s and 60’s my family would spend every weekend, summer and holiday at my grandparents’ little farm on Long Island. Our days revolved around growing food, preparing it in the traditional Italian manner and sharing meals together as a family. Breakfast, lunch and dinner were the markers of time passing. Food preparation determined the daily tasks we all performed, orchestrated by changing seasons and holidays, making our eat-in kitchen one of the most important settings of our unique, collective story.
While I was roasting and grinding the coffee, grandma would be cooking, and we would talk. I would ask her to tell me about how she and grandpa left their parents in Italy to come to America. I couldn’t imagine leaving my family and going to a strange land. I tried to picture how frightening and sad that must have been for them. What possessions would I be able to take if I had to leave my native country forever?
I never thought to ask grandma if she brought the coffee grinder from Italy. Now, no one is alive who would know, but it doesn’t matter. This humble object is a relic of my past, an artifact of our cultural heritage, a symbol of my initiation into our family hierarchy and a prized possession.
– Alphonse Falcone