Archive for January, 2009

The Logic of Italian Boys’ Names

For as long as I can remember, I gave my furry friends nicknames based on their real names.

  • My dog Maverick became Maverickaronyravydoodlenoodlebug, which then became Doodlebug or simply The Doodle.
  • My cat Kudzu became Kudzucchini (sometimes followed by Big Fat Weenie, but the poor thing doesn’t deserve to have *that* posted on the Internet).

Now I have Luna, aka Luna Balloona aka Luna Baboopa aka Boopers aka The Boop.

Stella? A similar pattern. Stella Bella aka Stella Bellamoopers aka The Moop.

So yes, I often call my girls, who are so *not* excited by the gorgeous view behind them and only want to be untied so they can run freeeeeee, (right to left),

The Moop and The Boop:

My girls unimpressed with the view on Flickr

Little did I know that this fascination with changing real names into something somehow related and yet not was actually in my blood.

You see, here in Calabria, most guys are named one of, oh, ten or so names. And yet they go by all different versions of those names, so for us non-natives, if someone is suddenly called by their real name, it can get confusing.

Here are, from my perspective:

    The Top 7 Most Common Male Names in Calabria
    and Some of Their Related Nicknames:

1. Antonio: Tonino, Toni, Totò, Nino, Antò
2. Domenico: Mimmo, Mico
3. Francesco: Checco (KEH-koh), Ciccio (CHEE-choh)
4. Giuseppe: Peppe, Pino, Pinuccio (pee-NEWCH-oh) (not Pinocchio!)
5. Pasquale: Pasqualino, Pascal, Pascala
6. Salvatore: Salvo, Turi
7. Vincenzo: Vincenzino, Cenzo (CHEN-zoh), Enzo, Cece (cheh-CHEH)

Note that although these names are spread throughout Italy, nicknames often differ by region, so do check with a local before trying to show off your nickname knowledge. And also note that this is completely separate from the sopranome system.

And in case you’re wondering about my P?

Well for his Paolo, he doesn’t like to be called anything but Paolo, but sometimes the older generations call him “Paolino” or, *very* local to us as it’s only used in this town, maybe one or two others, Paolehru (powl-EHR-oo). How cute is that?

Do you do nicknames?

Buon weekend!

Love Thursday: Almond Blossoms & Calabrian Proverbs on Love

As has become tradition, P brought me our first almond blossom of the year last Thursday (yes, on Love Thursday and everything!):

First almond blossoms, 2009 on Flickr

And now, since I’m in a loverly mood, a few Calabrian proverbs on relationships, love, and the like:

  • A carni supra all’ossu mera.
    Meat on the bones adorns.

The book I found these in expands (my translation): “The concept of traditional feminine beauty isn’t lean and long-limbed, which came from the style of America after World War II . . . . According to the Calabrese tradition, a beautiful woman must also be robust, with roundness and feminine features well-accentuated.”

Gotta love the Calabrese!

  • Ama l’omu toi cu i vizii soi.
    Love your man with all his faults.

I think this is a good one for everyone, don’t you? If you truly choose to love someone (I’m a big believer that love is a choice), you love everything about them even if some things frustrate the hell out of you sometimes. Ahem.

  • A megghju palora esta chija chi no nesci.
    The best words are those that never leave the mouth.

This last one isn’t specified for love, but I think this can be good advice in relationships. Yes, I believe in honesty and openness, but not every thought needs expression.

What do you think about these lovely proverbs?

Happy Love Thursday everyone! 

What’s Cooking Wednesday: Carciofi/Artichokes

Calabrian artichoke on FlickrOne of my favorite food discoveries here in southern Italy has been the artichoke. Yes, I had eaten them a few times in the States, but, while tasty enough, they just weren’t something I sought out.

Now I very much look forward to artichokes appearing at the market, which they are starting to do now, and I’d like to tell you about them for this week’s What’s Cooking Wednesday.

These flowers of a silvery-leafed plant can be quite a bit of work depending on how you prepare them, but before we get to my favorite artichoke recipe, let’s talk more about the ‘chokes.

Carciofi on FlickrHistory of Artichokes

Carciofi originated in Sicily, where they grow wild, as they do in Calabria, and *wow* are those good!

In the 15th century, Napolitans cultivated them, and artichokes soon made their way to the Medici dinner table in Florence, where they were an instant favorite.

Choosing, Buying, and Storing Artichokes

You want artichokes that have tightly packed leaves and healthy, colorful tips–if they’re browning, that ‘choke is on its way out. If you can get them still attached to the stem, do so, as they’ll stay fresh longer (you can also peel, cook, and eat the stems as well).

To store artichokes with stems, put them in a vase with water like a flower arrangement–move over Martha Stewart! Look at my Artichoke Centerpiece!

If you can’t get them with stems, wrap the artichokes in plastic wrap and keep them in your crisper. They should last a couple days, but do try to use them as quickly as possible.

Artichokes in water with lemon on FlickrCleaning Artichokes

Regardless of how you’ll cook them, the procedure for cleaning artichokes is the same. Snap off the stalk and tear off tough, outer leaves. Rub them with lemon to avoid discoloration and/or put them in a bowl with lemon slices.

You’ll then have to boil them, either whole or in wedges for about 30 minutes for large artichokes or 15 minutes or so for smaller ones.

Be sure to remove the hairy choke inside before serving or stuffing.

Artichoke Recipes

Artichokes can be eaten raw (the tiny, tender ones), braised with olive oil, parsley, and garlic, or stuffed with any number of fillings.

My favorite?

A great dish typical of Calabria that starts with the braising as described above and incorporates eggs, breadcrumbs, and lots of grated parmesan cheese:

Pasta with artichokes and eggs on Flickr

I’ve given you the recipe before for Pasta with Artichokes and Eggs, but you might have missed it, and I promise you, it’s too good to miss. It’s one of my all time favorite Calabrian dishes.

Do you like artichokes?

How do you prepare them?

Calabria: Home of the Paparazzi

Did you know that the paparazzi have their origins in Calabria, one of the poorest regions in Italy?

No, not the actual cadre of photographers who follow around celebrities waiting for them to do something embarrassing or otherwise tabloid-worthy, but the term “paparazzi.”

By the Ionian Sea by George GissingIn his 1908 travelogue, By the Ionian Sea: Notes of a Ramble in Southern Italy, George Gissing mentions the owner of the Hotel Centrale in Catanzaro, a man who unabashedly left notes on guests’ doors strongly encouraging guests to eat in the hotel’s restaurant instead of going elsewhere.

The hotel owner’s name was Coriolano Paparazzo.

Fast forward half a century, and beloved Italian director Federico Fellini was trying to pinpoint the perfect name for his overzealous photographer in the classic film, La dolce vita.

Legend has it that Fellini’s screenwriter Ennio Flaiano opened Gissing’s book “at random” and loved the name Paparazzo. Indeed, the celebrity photograher’s last name in La dolce vita is “Paparazzo,” and that’s why we call his modern, real-life colleagues “paparazzi.”

La dolce vitaAnd to think it all started in a humble hotel in Catanzaro, Calabria!

By the by, the Hotel Centrale went out of business in the 1970s, but the building is still there and, in 1999, Catanzaro officials added a plaque commemorating the “paparazzi” tale.

Perhaps Cherrye can hook us up with a photo?

Now go impress your friends with this knowledge, and if you haven’t seen La dolce vita yet, here’s a great excuse to enjoy the Fellini magic.

Do you know any interesting word etymologies?

I just love that kind of thing, so do share!

P.S. Be sure to head over to Cherrye’s My Bella Vita and Robin’s My Melange where I’m sharing Travel Tips from a Lawyer!

2009 Bloggies Finalist for Best European Weblog

On Friday I got some amazing news:

Bleeding Espresso has been named a finalist in the 2009 Bloggies for Best European Weblog:

2009 Bloggies

Vote for Bleeding Espresso here!

2009 Bloggies Voting

I am truly humbled and honored to represent the Bel Paese this year, and I thank all of you who nominated me from the bottom of my cuore.

We’re up against fabulous blogs Scaryduck, Iceland Weather Report, Bitchy Jones’s Diary, and one of my very favorites, last year’s winner, and perpetual finalist Chocolate & Zucchini, so it’ll be an uphill battle to win, but as the cliché goes, it truly is an honor just being nominated.

I congratulate all the finalists in this year’s Bloggies, especially my friends at Thursday Night Smackdown (Best-Kept Secret Weblog), Travellious (Best Travel Weblog), and Secret Agent Mama (Best Photography of a Weblog).

For those who are visiting here for the first time, a warm welcome from sunny southern Italy:

Approaching Chiesa dell'Immacolata on Flickr

The best place to start learning about me and the blog is in the About section, which also includes links to more of my writing, and through my favorite posts, hand-selected and provided for you in the “Best of” tab above.

If you are so inclined, please vote for Bleeding Espresso at the 2009 Bloggies by February 2…just in time for World Nutella Day on February 5th!

Grazie mille!

Michelle FabioMichelle Fabio is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer living in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy and savoring simplicity one sip at a time. 

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Homemade apple butter
Green beans, potatoes, and pancetta
Glazed Apple Oatmeal Cinnamon Muffins
Pasta with snails alla calabrese
Onion, Oregano, and Thyme Focaccia
Oatmeal Banana Craisin Muffins
Prosciutto wrapped watermelon with bel paese cheese
Fried eggs with red onion and cheese
Calabrian sausage and fava beans
Ricotta Pound Cake