Or when your cable Internet goes down, Saturday (thanks, RCN).
It’s hard to believe that Nonni (Dora) is younger in this picture than I am now, but I guess the camera doesn’t lie. Is this the same woman who, in my recent memory, would feign a heart attack when the cops pulled her over for speeding? Sure is.
She’d be in her early twenties here. She spoke English and Italian fluently, although her parents got by speaking hardly any English. New Haven was very Italian back then and her father was a member of the Marchigiano Club. No ladies were allowed, and you peed into a trough right there at the bar. Ah, the good old days.
Like the rest of her sisters, Dora couldn’t finish high school because she needed to help support the family. All of the girls were smart, but their mother insisted that they go to work as soon as the law said they could. Rumor has it that on more than one occasion, Dora fought to keep what she had worked so hard to earn in the dress shop.
Several of her sisters, like Eva, were already married and starting families. World War II was heating up, and Dora’s boyfriend, Freddie (whom she would later marry), was considering enlisting in the Army.
Around this time, Dora’s sister, Anne, a platinum blonde, was sitting in the audience of the Miss New Haven beauty pageant when the judges pulled her onstage with the other contestants. Their father, usually a mild-mannered man, was horrified. “You’re beautiful,” he would say to his girls, “but you’re not supposed to brag. You’re supposed to be quiet. Act like a lady.” But they made Anne go up, and she won.
This simple soup goes hand in hand with two of the family’s favorite pasta recipes coming up. Nonni isn’t big on amounts, as she just uses what she has around the house, but this recipe will get you where you want to be. She cuts her whole chicken in half because her pot isn’t big enough to accommodate a whole one. She freezes the other for later use.
1 whole chicken (3-4 lb.), cut in half
2 cloves, pressed into chicken (not garlic cloves, actual spice cloves)
2 small onions, peeled and halved
2 ribs celery, cut into large pieces
2 carrots, cut into large pieces
Small can (14.5 oz.) of stewed tomatoes
Salt and pepper
Add all ingredients to a large pot and cover with water by two inches. Bring to a boil, then cover, lower heat, and simmer for 1 hour. Strain soup and set aside. Reserve carrots and chicken (remove the cloves). Cut carrots into chunks and pull off shreds of chicken meat with a fork to add to soup. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with cappellettis or passatellis, or freeze.
Dora [Barbaresi] Donroe
New Haven, Connecticut