Nonna and I Cooking

Here is a photo of my Italian great-grandmother Nonna, her daughter and my great Aunt Connie, and a little me making binulatis, which are sausage breads shaped into small rolls. My Nonna and my Nonnu immigrated to The Bronx just before the Great Depression from a village in Sicily, Italy, where they met and married. Nonnu was pursuing a successful boxing career, and Nonna came along to join him in New York a few years after he came to the United States. As with many immigrants, they did not have much to their name and spoke no English. As a young woman in a strange place, Nonna clung to the things that made her feel at home; one of those things was her traditional Sicilian cooking. One of Nonna’s favorite foods to make were these binulatis, which she made for every Christmas, Thanksgiving, and New Years dinner. She loved sharing her Sicilian heritage with me, even at an early age. She passed away a few years ago, but since then, I have kept her recipe books. This summer, my mom, my great Aunt Connie, my sister, and I made our own binulatis from scratch for the first time. As a vegetarian, I made my own spin on the batch I cooked and used spinach and broccoli instead of the sausage, but maintained the essence of my Nonna’s tradition. I like my variation, though; there is something so wonderful about making your own mark on family history but also staying true to what shaped you. Family and food are intertwined in so many ways for me, and a lot of that is because of my Nonna.

Place(s): Italy, Sicily
Year: 1920

– Mary Hess

Relationship:  Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more