At the end of May I went to the “famous” Italian Market Street Fair. Sly Stallone ran through the market when he was in training as the Italian Stallion in the movie Rocky, which has made the street famous. My goal was to obtain a review copy of the book Italian Moms, Spreading Their Art to Every Table by Elisa Costantini with re4cipes compiled by her son, Frank Costantini. I met both of them at Fante’s Kicthen Shop where Elisa was signing her book that was made possible by Kickstarter.
Wikipedia tells us that Kickstarter is an American public-benefit corporation founded in 2009 and based in Brooklyn, New York, which has built a global crowdfunding platform focused on creativity. The company’s stated mission is to help bring creative projects to life.
In the May 19th article in The Philadelphia Inquirer, which brought me to the Italian Market Street Fair, I learned that the campaign raised $27,000 and presold 1,200 copies of the book. I also learned from this article that the book came about because the author was grieving the death of her loving husband Francesco, and this was her son’s way of helping her climb out of her grief. And it worked!
Italian Moms is much more than a cookbook. While rich in recipes, especially those from Elisa’s Constantini’s home in the region of Abruzzo in Southern Italy, it is also an autobiography of the author’s rich family life, both before she came to America with her husband and after she raised her children in Philadelphia. We learn about how Elisa as a small child helped her aunt cook special meals. Elisa notes that she could not even reach the countertop. But she learned well, as the more than 200 recipes demonstrate.
We also learn about the death of her second child, Agnes, who suffered from spina bifada. Elisa wanted to return to Italy, but her child was receiving excellent medical care in America, so the author decided America would be her home, even after the death of Agnes. These vignettes about her life are spaced throughout the book, such as the one called Finding Salvation, in which the author explains how she came to work at a special place for developmentally disabled children. At the end of this vignette is this sentence: “The smiles of these children saved me when I lost my daughter, and again after I lost my children.” Even though Elisa is in her seventies, she goes to work every day to be with the children, her “salvation.”
In between these vignettes of her life, we can enjoy beautiful colored photos of many of the recipes (See photo of Eggplant Parmigiano below), which far outnumber the vignettes. (Elisa thanks her friends Gabriella and Gina who shared their recipes with her for the book.) Yet, for me, the stories of Elisa’s life are equally important as the food she cooks, because she notes and I understand that, for her, cooking is love and she cooks lovingly for her family and friends.
The article in the Philadelphia Inquirer focuses on scripelles, an Abruzzese dish, so I will not feature these, because you can click on the link to read about scripelles. (“Genuinely Abuzzese Crepes by Samantha Melamed,” May 19, 2016 in Food & Dining section: http://articles.philly.com/2016-05-20/food/73205726_1_crepe-cook-italian-wedding-soup-kickstarter. One of the featured recipes in the article is the Timballo recipe, a lasagna-type dish made with these crepes instead of noodles. Very interesting!
There are many recipe categories: antipasti, breads, pastas, salads & vegetables, soups, sauces, meats, seafood, desserts as well as some traditional menus. I chose the eggplant recipe because it is one that is easily recognizable, and as her son Frank noted in an email to me, the picture is gorgeous! So here is Eggplant Parmigiano. In the book all the recipes have the English spelling and the Italian spelling, so under the English is Melanzane Alla Parmigiana. It looks delicious in either language!
Italian Moms is self-published by the author Elisa and her son Frank. It is available through Amazon.com. You can also buy an autographed copy from Elisa’s website: www.italianmomscooking.com. It costs $24.95.
I plan to ask Elisa and Frank is I can post some of the other recipes throughout the summer, including a salad, a vegetable and a dessert, so you have an entire meal. For now, here is Elisa’s Eggplant Parmiagiano. The recipe will bleed into the right hand margin, but if I made it any smaller, you would not be able to read the writing.