Celebrating Our Roots

Celebrating Our Roots

Hi friends! I’m delighted to share this month’s comfort food diary for many reasons. The first reason is because it comes from a friend of mine who I met just over a year ago, and thanks to whom I became so involved in many of the communities I am a part of today – from yoga to food.

Second, the uniqueness of May’s Comfort Food Diary can easily speak for itself as it sends a compelling message and perspective on what it means to “identify with our roots.” 

I’d like you all to meet Annie. She describes herself  “as resourceful, kind, to-the-heart-of-the-matter, minimalist, and an old soul.” Annie loves beautify artistry, rich heritage, and (*spoiler alert*) delicious hand-pressed noodles. She educates and cares for people by day and spends her nights hosting casual dinner parties, volunteering at cooking classes, practicing yoga, or spinning the wheel at a local pottery studio over looking the Puget Sound. Old souls alike, we inevitably found ourselves getting to know each other over food and cooking, and all the nostalgia and tradition that come along with it.

When I learned that Annie appreciates food, history, and tradition just as much as I do, I knew we would get a long more than just fine. She’s attentive to where ingredients come from, how they taste alone and together, and isn’t afraid to explore new cuisines and recipes. Furthermore, she understands the power of a meal and it’s ability to bring people together – family, friends, and strangers alike. But time after time again, when I ask Annie about her favorite food to eat, cook, or even reminisce about it’s always Italian – pasta, to be specific… 

And here’s why.

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My comfort food provides me with a feeling of well-being, home, and family.  Though I was born in South Korea and adopted at birth, I consider myself to be Italian, Polish, and Irish, but mostly Italian.  As early as I can remember, I grew up celebrating my Italian roots with a sense of pride and importance.

Annie’s Grandmother (right)

My grandma, a first-generation Italian has been a pillar of strength, wisdom, and integrity for many including myself.  She was a sassy, no-nonsense, honorable woman who cared deeply about justice and the core of what mattered most to her: family, faith, supporting the less privileged in our community, voicing her opinion, sharing her culture through food, and maybe a Mariner’s game here and there.

My great grandparents lived in Calabria, a small town at the toe of Italy’s boot.  Historically, folks living in this mountainous area were often farmers and laborers who faced a challenging economic life.  Luxurious spices, rich flavors, and cuts of meat that signified wealth in the northern part of Italy simply weren’t a part of the Calabrian culture.  Instead, many dishes were quite simple, focusing on the ingredients harvested locally.  Homemade pasta was an essential foundation for Calabrian meals and serves as my comfort food.

Coming from an Italian family, large gatherings focused around Italian food were my norm.  I have memories of my grandma making sure the Italian oregano her folks grew in Calabria was growing strong in her yard, so she could share the flavors she grew up.  The smell of it feels like home and is distinctly unique to anything found in the states. She was always insistent in making sure recipes that have been in the family for multiple generations were shared and honored as something special.  In particular, Christmas Eve is the time where our extended family rallies to make a five course Calabrian meal from scratch.  We practically roll our bellies out the door after such a feast, and I wouldn’t change a thing about it.  My cousins and I have taken on making hand pressed pasta for around the 40 of us that attend.  It certainly is a sight to see – elbow to elbow, smiling from our bones at the familiar tastes we know so well.

 

I love the process of making pasta.  Though there is an exacting science and art to it, I mostly like the tactile component, making sure the dough feels just right along the way.  It is hypnotizing and I get into a state of complete focus while I press the dough into silky, smooth ribbons. It’s simple and just so satisfying.  Han pressed pasta brings me to my center and reminds me of the things that matter most. It’s the most delicious food I know, and I am grateful for everything my grandma shared with me. I’ve had the chance to show my four-year-old twin nieces how to make pasta. While they are still young, I hope they grow to enjoy it just as much as I do.

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Written by Annie P. | Photos by Austin Flores



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