Italian Heritage Week

This week is self-proclaimed Italian Heritage week in the Rana Household. I know, it’s a perfectly inspiring name. (Feel free to give me a better suggestion!). When my Grandma passed away this Spring, I spent hours with my sister and my Mom sorting through Grandma’s belongings, reminiscing, and digging through artifacts of an 89 year life. Having been born and raised in Sicily, Italy, my Grandma and her family came by boat to New York City 78 years ago.

Steamship ticket from the journey to America

Grandma had the privilege of witnessing the majority of the 20th century, lived through WWII, saw the end of segregation, had an email address and eventually owned a cellphone. Having buried her husband and two daughters, she poured all of her love into her brother’s family and her daughter’s family. She spoiled us with homemade tomato sauce and meatballs, trips to TCBY and presents from travels.

Not wanting to lose my Italian heritage with the death of my Nonna, I have instituted Italian Heritage Week chez Rana. Why ‘week’, you ask? As I’ve mentioned, we’re not so good with the traditions and schedules. Somehow, ‘week’ sounded much more doable than ‘day’. So, for our first annual Italian Bonanza, I made homemade tomato sauce (the recipe Grandma taught me when I was old enough to help stir), pizzaiola (meat cooked in tomato sauce) and 1 kg of spaghettini. (I too questioned whether it was moral to make 1 kg of pasta. My love for tomato covered carbs won out).

Proof of a delicious dinner.

Claiming a whole week for my Italian heritage ending up being a great idea. This means there’s very little pressure for a Day of Awesomeness, and we can enjoy pasta for supper multiple evenings. And I get to defrost another tub of cannoli filling. WIN.

What about you: how do you celebrate your heritage? Do you have a favourite family recipe? What have your grandparents taught you that you don’t want to forget?

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The Difference(s) Between Southern Virginia and Ontario

Sometimes, even going “home” to the USA can be confusing. Last week I went to Lynchburg, Virginia to be a bridesmaid in my dear friend Kristina’s wedding. A typical Northerner, I thought to myself, “Virginia. I’ve been there. Arlington, Washington, D.C.*, yup, I can do Virginia, I am American“.

It turns out Virginia is much bigger than I originally thought…

And then I spent the majority of the weekend experiencing culture shock. Because Lynchburg is something like the Deep South for this Pennsylvanian/Ontarian. Two things that kept surprising me the whole weekend were people’s southern accents (so lovable!), and how friendly everyone was–especially strangers, cashiers, etc. Seriously people: culture shock.

For example, on the first morning we headed out to breakfast at Cracker Barrel. If you don’t know about Cracker Barrel, get yourself to the US of A and have a taste of deliciousness. Anyway. I was trying to order apple struesel french toast (YUM!) and a cup of decaf tea.

Waitress: (In a southern accent) Okay, Love, what about you? Coffee?

Me: Actually, do you have decaf tea?

Waitress: Cold or hot, darling?

Me: Uhm. (Did we resolve the decaf issue? Are we talking about tea?)

Kristina’s Mom Who Is From the South: Amelia, do you want iced tea or hot tea?

Me: Oh. Hot tea. Yes. Hot. Can I have decaf?

Waitress: Why of course, darling!

As I sat bewildered by our exchange, Kristina’s Mom explained that the default is iced tea, so you have to specify. (Seriously, it’s morning and I’m ordering decaffeinated beverages, have mercy!)

The next day, at the rehearsal dinner, the groom proudly announced that his sister made the cake for dessert.

Me: What kind of cake did he say?

Bridesmaid from Florida: Cheerwine.

Me: What?

Bridesmaid from Florida: You know, cheerwine.

Me: I have no idea what that is.

Bridesmaid from Florida: You don’t know cheerwine? It’s like a cherry mountain dew.

Me: But it’s a cake?

Apparently, you use pop (soda in Virginia) called Cheerwine, to make a cake.

It must be, because in Canada, we’ve never heard of it…

Although I was skeptical (‘you use pop to make a cake?’) it was actually quite moist, sweet and cherry-y.

Cheerwine cake

In the midst of the large portion sizes and terms of endearment from strangers (‘love’, ‘honey’, ‘dear’, ‘sweetheart’–I almost didn’t notice Varun was absent!), we had an awesome time. The bride and groom were bursting with love, the food was delicious, the weather was perfect.

I was reminded this week how big and diverse the USA is. Who knew that just 12 hours south of Ontario is a land of Chick Fil A, sweet tea and friendly cashiers?

Driving through the hills of Virginia

*I realize D.C. isn’t VA, but it always ends up that my trips to DC include VA and MD…

We Do Not Hate

Good Morning!

Today’s post is a message and link from my brother Mark. Please read the following and join us in showing love to our Muslim brothers and sisters!

The last eight days have been for all of us a lesson in the power of hate and the power of social media. A spiteful American has sent a message of hate across the internet. In multiple Muslim countries around the world, people have had their very identities denigrated, and they feel hurt. Citizens, governments, and armed groups have incited protests that are damaging to life, property, and long term relationships. Newsweek responded by attributing the problem to “Muslim Rage”. A French magazine is publishing cartoons denigrating Islam and Judaism.

Just as one may have a right to spread hate, we have a right to counter that. I, for one, won’t have the country that I love represented by hatred abroad. Last week, residents of Benghazi, Libya, demonstrated in the streets to show their support for the American people. They realize that perceptions matter, and so they took the time to make sure that we understand that they do not hate us. Where is our response to them? 

I’ve created a blog called We Do Not Hate, made for one purpose alone: to send a message to Muslims around the world that we do not hate them. The blog is simply a collection of photographs of people expressing their rejection of anti-Muslim hatred. No political discussions, no polemics. Just a simple message. My hope is that people – especially Muslim people – who have been hurt in the last week will see these photos and be reassured that they do indeed have friends in America. 

If you support this message, please do three things:

1. Take a photograph of yourself and post it to the blog

2. Share the link to the blog on facebook with your friends and encourage them to share it too

3. If you have friends throughout the Muslim world who would benefit from seeing this, please share it with them [http://we-do-not-hate.tumblr.com/]

The people of Benghazi last week left their work and their leisure to spend time in the streets holding signs. What will you do?
-Mark
While that video made me incredibly sad, I am quite proud of Mark and his initiative. Will you join us?
If you do post a picture, come share the link in the comments section so we can all see it!

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