Linda Andreotti is telling her story on Poseidon Cooks! and in the Kindle cookbook, ‘Ten Favorite Menus. Ten Favorite Anchorages.’ She’ll continue it in her new book, ‘Linda Andreotti’s Galley. I’ve told something of my story in ‘Fishing For Crocodiles’ and I’ve edited or ghosted many other people’s stories.
Now, more or less since I met him, I’ve been trying to persuade John Andreotti to write about his life – from being a boy in Eritrea, whose father, a photographer, compiled a unique record of Mussolini’s Eritrea; through his transition to Italy and the USA. Often funny. Often hard. Inspirational and unique. One day, I’ll convince him – and what follows will be part of that story.
I’m ten years old, standing on the deck of the ‘Vulcania’ as she pulls up to the New York quay where we will be reunited with my father, Constantino. Although my mother speaks English, she has not taught her children the language and I will quickly discover that my father despises it and everything American. In fact, he will soon return to Italy and excise himself from our American lives.
But who is that extraordinary figure standing beside him – the man with the huge golden teeth, now glittering in a rictus of greeting? And that monstrous nose? The massive eyeglasses? The huge and bushy eyebrows? If I’d even heard of Groucho Marx, I might be wondering why he’s standing next to my dad and waving at us.
Then I realize that this is Uncle Caesar, complete with joke disguises, the man who came to America before us to arrange visas and a new life. He’s a legend in our family. Wealthy, worldly, funny, adventurous and the perfect example of the Italian immigrant who fulfills his dream in America.
My mother is mortified but can’t help smiling.
At lunch, Uncle Caesar asks us how we’d like a couple of dogs. Dogs? What Godforsaken place have they brought us to? A country that eats dogs! I think of Catuscia, the much-loved Great Dane we had to abandon in our flight from Asmara, barely a step ahead of the Eritrean rebels.
Unk, as we now call him, explains that it’s OK to eat these American dogs, hot dogs. It’s not long before I get used to American fare (though we will always preserve our Italian traditions), and memories of our flight from Eritrea to Italy, aboard a Red Cross ship, begin to fade.
And now, on National Fig Newton Day, Linda is making her own version. I wonder how she could possibly improve on the symmetrical little bars of which I have bought many thousands, always remembering that drive across the northern states with Uncle Caesar. Naturally, I keep my doubts to myself (I may be a slow learner but I learn nonetheless!).
Once again, Linda’s culinary talent opens my eyes. She adds the ingredients that she calls ‘the Italian touch’ and I can honestly say that I have never tasted anything so delicious. They leave the originals standing in the dust and I wish that Uncle Caesar were here to try them.