Leaving Trentinaria for New York City

by Roxanne

There was a wealthy landed family who had a daughter with democratic ideas in Trentinaria, Salerno, Italia. She loved her maid and refused to eat in the dining room, preferring to eat with the help in the kitchen. There she learned the secrets of great Italian cuisine. She fell in love with a man of little wealth and married him against her parents' wishes. This woman was Caterina. She and her husband Gaetano left Italy during a cholera epidemic for a new world with many other family and friends. They first settled in Manhattan, then in NJ. Here they entertained friends with large dinner parties.

My great-grandparents raised their family in the new world and passed on all their recipes. Unfortunately, they did not insist on their children learning about their homeland or studying her language. However, recently two of my distant cousins researched the family tree. I learned so much from them. Their painstaking work brought to light facts I did not know, such as the knowledge that my own grandmother had lost her older sister during an influenza epidemic. What I did inherit are the marvelous recipes and a great ability to taste the nuances of a dish, an ability most of my extended family shares. Even the third generation of men in my family love to cook and eat, harking back to Great Grandmother Caterina, the adventurous and democratic matriarch of our family.

Besides a love of Italian cuisine, she passed down a heritage of loving child-raising, an insistence on not just propriety but good manners, compassion, pride in personal comportment, and a strong impetus for artful decoration of one's home through her daughter, my grandmother, Rosina, who was a wonderful and successful wife, mother, real estate investor, businesswoman, and Committeewoman.

I have no children but hope to pass on this history in another way.

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