Thursday, June 03, 2010

Family History and A New Culinary Adventure

One of my off and on again hobbies is genealogy and I find it interesting to see where some of my different traits, interests or tastes may have come from. I have sought out experiences relating to where my family originated from, like traveling to Scotland. Also, I have felt bonds to places and cultures before I knew my genealogy substantially traced back to them, like Sweden.

Of course, many characteristics are just dictated by the trends of current times, like a love of Italian food and food culture (fresh, seasonal, often simply prepared). Family history and the food families eat are often closely connected. I enjoy preparing my garden's produce into Italian dishes so much that one might think I have considerable Italian blood...but no...Jeff recently calculated that I have .78125 of 1 percent of Italian heritage! Or, said slightly differently, I am a minuscule .0078125% Italian. LOL!!!

Amazingly, there are references to my distant Italian connection in writings about one of my Swedish ancestors.
My great, great, great, great grandfather Lars Hjortsberg, a famous Swedish actor, married a dancer named Sophia Katarina Di Dosmo who was the daughter of an Italian immigrant father and a Swedish mother, in 1795.

Lars is pictured, left, in the garb of the order Par Bricole. He was Grandmaster, 1822-1830. It is a secret society with the goal of preserving the cultural heritage of Sweden, including theater.

There are a number of images of him, a marble bust and even a recent work of historical fiction. I wish I could understand Swedish; it is available in print and audio form!

My Italian ancestor, Giovanni Battista Di Dosmo (AKA Johanne Baptista Dosmo), a stable master of the royal stables of King Gustav III in Stockholm, was from Capo d' Istria. Istria is a peninsula in the Adriatic Sea to the east of Italy. This map of Italy is from 1782, contemporary with my ancestor.

I cropped the above map to highlight Istria and Capo d'Istria, which are depicted two map squares down from the key numbers 32 and 33.

Istria has changed ownership many times as borders were shifted. Fortunately, I could narrow down my focus to what was happening at the time of my ancestor's life. As far as I can tell from various online sources, it would have been ruled by the Venetian Republic when Giovanni lived in/emigrated from the area. The Venetian Republic was in control of the area from the 13th century until the end of the 18th century when the peninsula was handed to Austria. In the 18th century, there was outbreak of disease combined with crop failure and migration of people from the country to cities. Those factors, and the fall of Venetian rule, could have been reasons for my ancestor's emigration to Sweden, but I am purely speculating. Currently, Capo d'Istria, is the city of Koper within the borders of Slovenia.

Anyway, now I'll get to the point! This has been a very long winded introduction to tell you of my new learn to make fresh pasta! I don't have enough Italian heritage for pasta making to be in my bones, but we'll see how I do. I did once make ravioli rolled out by hand, but now I want to become proficient and have the benefit of machines. The texture is more delicate and silky than boxed pasta and doesn't overwhelm the 'baby' veggies I pick fresh from my garden. The investment part has been relatively easy. I already have a food processor for machine kneading dough. The big new purchase was a set of 3 pasta rollers/cutters that will attach to my KitchenAid stand mixer so I'll have both hands free to keep the pasta dough under control (ideally!). The rollers make sheets, fettuccine and linguine. Eventually, if I want, I can get a couple other cutter types.

I bought a handy stand for drying and it's even partly blue which is a color I like in my kitchen. However, Jeff figures I'll need more space and have pasta drying clotheslines running all over the kitchen!!

I've splurged on some Italian cookbooks for recipes, training and inspiration. I hadn't bought any cookbooks in quite a long while so I did go a little overboard and chose four including Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy: A Feast of 175 Regional Recipes by Lidia Bastianich. I enjoy her show on PBS and she happens to be from Istria. I can enjoy reading cookbooks like these as well as cooking from them as they are filled with pages of anecdotes between the recipes. In fact, the top book is a story about family and searching for authentic recipes with a few of the recipes included at the end. I think it will be rather anthropological.

And because I couldn't leave out my Swedish heritage, I got Sweet and Savory Swedish Baking by Leila Lindholm, which has been on my wish list for awhile, though most of the recipes are more Swedish influenced than purely Swedish. I can't wait to start trying the tasty sounding recipes. They will definitely broaden the range of spices I generally use. In the meantime, I love looking through the book at the pictures which are of a similar style to ones you might see in British Country Living magazine, but with a definite Scandinavian flair. (Skyhorse Publishing photo)

My pasta equipment and books have all arrived, so I can begin as soon as I organize my work area and purchase raw ingredients. I hope my efforts pay off, but at least I have dogs all too happy to eat any rejected pasta. Hopefully I'll soon have pictures of lovely pasta to show here!


2paw said...

I love your Italian percentages!!! You are lucky to have traced your family tree back so far!!
I ahve made gnocchi but never pasta so I hope your share your pasta experiences!!

knitseashore said...

Since I am 50% Italian (south) I think I had better ramp up! I'm looking forward to reading about your new pasta adventures.

How are you doing on caffeine?

Kristen said...

That is so interesting. How cool to know so much about a long-ago ancestor.
Happy pasta making!