TORONTO - Make every dish unique. That might be the best way to describe Lidia Bastianich’s culinary philosophy.
Lidia is everyone’s favourite Nonna: chef, best-selling cookbook author, restauranteur and Emmy award-winning television host.
Cooking is in her DNA. Italian-born, now American, Lidia Bastianich personifies the ability to converge the diversity and innovation of her homeland with the products of the local environment to produce inviting meals.
Modest, she praises the American-Italian and Canadian-Italian ingenuity in discovering ways to embrace traditional cooking techniques with indigenous ingredients and flavours.
“Both are adaptations of an immigrant culinary culture,” she says. “As immigrants move to another country, they bring their culture with them. That means food, music, holiday traditions, etc.” she emigrated to the USA when she was 12 years old.
In a country like Canada, you can’t look at the food landscape without seeing the impact of local and global influences. Yet, a rather particular, if not unique cuisine, has emerged.
To commemorate Canada’s 150th anniversary, this year’s RC Show showcases the components of “Canada’s culinary mosaic”.
Bastianich’s culinary journey and career help illustrate what Canadian cuisine means, especially to the Italian community and lovers of Italian cuisine.
One can’t look at cuisine in a country like the U.S. or Canada without seeing how the world – Italy in particular - has helped shape and inspire menus, and vice versa.
“I would say that the tomato has probably had the biggest impact [on Canadian cuisine],” she says. “Extra virgin olive oil and the different authentic Italian cheeses have also made a significant impression on Canadian cuisine.”
The same can also be said for North America’s impact on Italian gastronomy.
“Italian Americans did not initially find many of their agricultural products when they arrived; but meat was much less expensive than in their homeland. Therefore, many Italian American sauces became heavier on the meat than their Italian counterparts. In addition, there weren’t as many herbs, so adding more garlic or onions to flavour a sauce was a typical way to adapt that flavour to the new home,” she adds.
Whether it’s Alberta beef or P.E.I oysters from the East Coast, food changes as the landscape does. But, any Italian (no matter where born) can agree, what’s most important in Italian cuisine is freshness and seasonality. That is a notion that transcends geography. It holds true in Bastianich’s food.
Some of her earliest childhood food memories were of picking and savouring fruits and vegetables from the family garden, or fishing with her uncle and enjoying their catch hours later. “That tradition still remains in Italy and is what I love the most about the country. It’s what I continuously talk about when teaching about Italian food.”
Although items like Canadian maple syrup have found a way into her go-to ingredient list, fresh staples like garlic, San Marzano tomatoes, Grana Padano, extra virgin olive oil and dry pasta can never be replaced.
It seems fitting to ask, “What would Canada’s food scene be without the impact of Italians?”
For Lidia the answer is simple. “Italians love vegetables and fruits. Canada produces so many wonderful vegetables even New Yorkers import. Moreover, Canadian-Italian immigrants have mastered the science of cheese making and meat curing developed and learned in Italy. These are now the mainstays of family meals everywhere in the country.”
Corriere Canadese’s own Publisher, the Honourable Joseph Volpe, today at 1p.m. sits down with Lidia Bastianich live, on stage at RC Show 2017, to talk about her culinary journey and how her Italian heritage has shaped her cuisine.
TORONTO - I attended a Vaughan Afro-Canadian Association event in Concord Wednesday night. To be more precise, I accepted an invitation, extended to the Corriere Canadese, to be a “keynote speaker” at the gathering.
I was prepared to speak, but I was frankly unprepared for the intensity of what I heard.
That a significant component of the Vaughan community and indeed of Canadian Society would invite the publisher of an Italian language daily to their event is flattering.
The evening was organized by mothers of children whose experience in the York Region District School Board has been a subject of concern for all thinking Canadians.
The Corriere Canadese has been covering the unfolding series of educational missteps, Administrative “lapses of judgement”, insensitivity (blatant intolerance and prejudice by Board officials) and the persistence of the parent groups to get a receptive ear.
It has not been alone in this, although the Corriere’s reporter – Mariella Policheni -, its political cartoonist – Ynot - and editorial board have been very direct in calling for a complete overhaul of the Board by the Ministry of Education.
We should have been tougher. And we should have done it even earlier.
It is hard to imagine the depth of humiliation, hurt and helplessness of the women who recounted a sampling of the experiences forced upon them and their children by an insensitive, indifferent organization whose funding source is public and whose raison d’etre is to nurture those values which distinguish Canada as a premier society in the world.
They had a difficult time holding back their tears. I thought of my own mother, and others like her who entrusted their children’s education and wellbeing to “reliable authorities” while they went to work in sweat shops or low paying service sector to augment the family income.
The mothers at the meeting were educated women. The vulnerability and long-term damage to their children even less comprehensible.
The Human Rights abuses perpetrated upon them, never justifiable, even more startling. All because of the colour of their skin.
I am glad that through the Corriere Canadese Ontario’s Italian-Canadian community was able to stand with those mothers in defence of decency and dignity. The actions of the offenders, apparently too numerous and “overwhelming” in number, could fill several books.
And this is 2017. And Vaughan’s Mayor trumpets his city’s leading edge “openness and diversity”.
In fairness, the Board’s Chair and Vice-Chair, along with two student Trustees, attended. So did one of the Ministry’s two “reviewers”.
Corriere will continue to follow these stories, but barring any compelling and persuasive developments to mitigate what has happened so far, the Minister of Education can only have one course of action open to her.
Take control of the YRDSB, start over and administer it directly.
TORONTO - I have been following the “debate(s)” swirling around initiatives like the “Legacy Group”, the representation of the Italianità in Canada and the influence of the Italian community in Ontario and Canada.
On the face of it, the former seems to be unfocused and the latter non-existant. How else does one explain the insistent efforts by at least two School Boards to eradicate the international Languages (Italian) from the extended day program. Or the absence of Italian representation in the federal Cabinet, or the silence of provincial and municipal politicians of Italian extraction on major issues of the day?
Is it because you, the Corriere Canadese refuse to give them space? I think as a community we put forward people of substance, with credentials that are at least equal to those of others. We have accomplished much in the building of this country. Its story should be our story.
It is not a story of banquets sponsored by one community group or another to “recognize” the “usual suspects” with yet another plaque. I do not want to deprecate the value of the initiatives of others – quite the contrary. This exercise has its value; but it is time that we all demonstrated our maturity as individuals as well as a community. It is time to reap the fruits of the labour exerted by others on our behalf.
To do this I think we need to have the strength to reach out beyond the “petty politics’ of party affiliations, beyond the echo of our own bell tower and beyond the sanctuaries of Academia or even the influence of Italian Authorities (directly or through their agents).
For all of their value, the Embassy and the Consulates are Italian institutions in the service of the needs of a foreign State. It is unrealistic for us to expect them to put themselves in our shoes. Nor should they. Besides our interests are long-term, the Diplomatic corps is here for a very limited time.
We need to build on the experiences and talents of those who have toiled before us in the cause of integration and validation. We cannot ignore what they have accomplished, allowing others to dismiss what has been done as little more than quickly extinguished “brush fires”.
By the same token, we cannot expect our ”youth” to be as committed to our sense of being and self worth if we do not engage them. We cannot sit by as they become “assimilated into something else”. I noted that Mr. Paina, for whom I have respect, lamented that young professionals, regrettably, have no interest in things “Italian”. He does not say why not.
For me, that is not a good enough reason to exclude them from deliberations regarding who we are. For how much longer do we keep going to the same people, “hammering on the same nail”? If we continually play the same chord, can we expect a different sound?
Today, there is much talk about how to use an asset that was generated by the sacrifices of pre-World War II Italians in the downtown area. It seems that a “process” is in place to determine its best use. An Advisory Board is already constituted to ascertain this objective.
I know this because I read it in the Corriere Canadese, which cites one of the Advisory Board members as a source. It goes on to say that once the “process” is done, the community will be consulted. May I be skeptical without being negative?
The people being consulted now are those whose handling of another great community asset – the lands on which reside the Columbus Centre and Villa Colombo etc. – has led to public acrimony and internecine law suits whose substance is generated by something other than the community wellbeing.
The Corriere Canadese has also pointed out that the Italian Authorities, the presumed (but so far unproved) owners of the Casa Italia, have embarked on a consultation of the Italian Community AND the Canadian Italian Community.
Was the Corriere Canadese able to determine how the members were selected? With respect, it seems to me that the composition of the Advisory Group has already pre-determined how that asset will be utilized.
I fear those of us who live beyond the downtown 416 area code, in the nether reaches of Mississauga, Hamilton- Niagara, Brampton Caledon, Vaughan, Aurora, Markham, Durham (I can go on and on) will be once again cast by the wayside.
We need to be inclusive now, if we want to avoid the pitfalls of the past when the good intentions and initiatives of dedicated people ended up in “tarallucci e vino”, as they say in Naples.
TORONTO - Wake up. Your Immigration policies and programs are hurting the local economy. With whom do you consult before you decide who will come to Canada and whom you will exclude? You don’t seem to have a plan, and you are bringing in people without thinking how you will integrate them into the structure of Canadian society, as we have come to know it. You are putting at risk the one industry that is 100% Canadian.
That is how the conversation over lunch with a prominent Developer/Builder/Entrepreneur began. He has been in business in this country - creating tens of thousands of jobs for Canadians and donating millions to philanthropic activities – for longer than the current (or the previous) prime Minister has been alive.
“Your policies are choking the engine of the economy in Southern Ontario – the construction sector,” he said, with the emphasis of one who lives the myriad of complex interdependent economic activities spawned by a healthy Building Industry.
My efforts to clarify my standing as a former, not current, member of government were unsuccessful. “Don’t be defensive; you have an obligation to shed light on the consequences of your party’s policies,” he said, “don’t shirk your responsibility, too many families depend on it.”
He was both frustrated and angry. We agreed to continue on condition that I keep names out of the conversation. He was a veritable torrent of facts, figures, circumstances, federal/provincial policy impacts. He also promised to provide me a memo, in confidence, summarizing “the tirade”. I received it the next day.
The [housing construction] industry is directly responsible for 26% of the goods-producing sector in Ontario. That’s not counting the multiplier effect on dependent industrial subsectors like furniture, appliances, utilities, attendant services, roads and transportation et cetera.
Yet “your short-sighted Immigration policies will wreck the market”, he said with a firmness that called for remedial action. “Don’t get me wrong, Canada needs people, talented and ambitious. My industry needs these people, otherwise we would not be in business. But of the 240, 000 permanent residents you landed last year, how many were bricklayers? Carpenters?”
Since I started in this business more than a half century ago, I have “never witnessed such a… shortage of skilled tradesmen”, he said. Drive anywhere in the GTHA and you will see “thousands of houses that require bricking, carpentry, etc.”
The business runs on presales, but if the tradesmen are unavailable, “closings” are put off. Penalties or premiums are applied. An already chaotic market is held ransom to labour shortage in a well paid marketplace.
“We’ve been forced to stop selling”, says our Builder, “because we lack the skilled tradesmen to build the houses we’ve sold”. What selling prices will be a year from now, he cannot anticipate, and can’t budget.
But if he and others like him don’t have the workers, they can’t build anyway. That becomes our problem.