Q is for Quiche or “You speak Italian with a French Accent!”

Yesterday Linda Cascio Critelli came to the Grand Island Memorial Library to do a cooking demonstration and to tell stories about her experiences in France, as well as her knowledge of Italian cooking. She was selling a little cookbook, titled Sicilian with a French Accent. It features “deliciously simple cuisine.” She turned the library meeting room into a cooking show and added stories and taste tests! The beauty was in the magic that she brought with her!

As Linda told stories, she cooked sfingi Siciliens in a small fryer. She described it as being “like a cream puff.” She had a bowlful of dough, from which she picked up scoopfuls of dough with an ice cream scoop. She put the dough in the fryer, where they cooked until they were a golden brown. After they came out of the fryer, she set them on paper towels so that the fat could drain off. Once the “cream puffs were sitting on the paper towels, and the fat had been drained, she added a bit of powdered sugar to the sfingi, which made them look festive.

Linda shared three taste tests: the sfingi Siciliens, la Tapenade Provencale, and la Quiche aux Legumes.

La Tapanade Provencale is made with olives, capers, garlic, and herbs, and is made in a food processor. The quiche is like a savory open tart or a flan. In a handout with recipes for all three of the taste tests, she said that the quiche “consisted of a pastry crust, filled with eggs, milk or cream,and cheese, meat, seafood, or vegetables.” Linda, who is the queen of multi-tasking, taught us a little French while simultaneously preparing food.

Here are some of the stories that Linda shared:

Linda talked about her early experiences with foreign languages: “I heard Italian all of my life. My grandfather died when I was ten. Nobody spoke much Italian any more. It was mostly to keep secrets from the kids. The problem was, for some reason, I understood what Grandpa was saying. My mother would get on the phone with Aunt Betty and they would get to talking. I’d say to my brother, ‘We’re getting bikes for Christmas.’
“‘How do you know? She was talking in Italian.’
“He was five years old.

“So, of course, we got bikes.”

Why did Linda choose to learn French? In high school is when we had to pick a language to learn: French or Spanish. I picked French. It is romantic and a beautiful language. So is Italian. I studied it in my high school, from freshman to senior year, and went off to college at Buffalo State and studied Italian and French. That’s when I found out that I had an accent. (‘You speak Italian with a French accent.’) I think that my heart is French but I’m also an Italian citizen so my Italian family would kill me if they thought that I was more French than Italian. Once an Italian, always an Italian.”

About studying in France: “I was an
ants-in-the-pants kind of kid and couldn’t sit still. So when everyone else was
sleeping, I was thinking, ‘sleeping? What’s sleep?’ I want to go for a walk and
figure out where I am in this country. The city (in France) is known for having
a fountain in every corner. It’s a very pretty little town, with lots of trees.
Of course, everybody was sleeping. So I decided to take a walk. I found a
perfumerie, and I talked to the ladies. I bought some perfumes. I kept walking.
I realized that I was far from town. There was a little man who had a cane
sitting on a bench. I explained in French that I was from the university and
that I was lost. So he explained, with no teeth, how I was to get back to
school. (growly voice in French) So I took off completely in the opposite
direction. No, no, no, no! Come back here. I’m going to go with you. Oh no! He
accompanied me back, gave me a big hug, said I could come back, but I never saw him again.”
Linda loved France and returned there as a teacher: “My professors
were pretty much from all over France. It’s a wonderful country. I enjoyed
visiting there and taking students there.”

And, to conclude an evening of magic in the library, with tasty food and stories, there was a magic beauty in the sky.

1 thought on “Q is for Quiche or “You speak Italian with a French Accent!””

  1. I love quiche! And what an interesting story. I took French in junior high and we learned to say the Pledge of Allegiance in French, but the only words of it that I can still say in French are "indivisible,""the United States of America" and "with liberty and justice for all."

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