About Nonna Yolanda
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I’m happy and proud to be Italian, but I also love America very much. I was born in Roma, the eternal city, but soon after my family moved to Gaeta which I loved very… especially the beach. I’m the second of a family of eleven children: seven boys and four girls. My mother couldn’t do it all. She had many nannies and cleaning ladies and a cook to keep with the house. When I was young I was spoiled, I didn’t have to worry about doing any house chores or learn how to cook, I simply ordered the family cook what I wanted to eat and it would be made for me.
When my sisters and I became teenagers my mother decided that it was time that we learned how to cook because she believed that a woman couldn’t get married if she didn’t know how to cook. So she hired a lady specifically to teach us. The lady was like a mean teacher. She yelled at me when I burned my first “pane di spagna” (Angel Bread). Many times I pretended to be sick to avoid the cocking lessons. But when I finally succeeded in making a great cake with custard cream I received many compliments from my brothers. I felt good and important. As time went by I realized that indeed I was a good cook and that cooking was an easy task and soon became my passion. My brothers, who loved to have parties and entertain beautiful girls, kept on asking me for cakes. I proudly showed off my cakes at the parties and I really enjoyed their praises.
I loved it when they said: “Brava Yolanda la tua torta e` squisita!”
After finishing my education I started working with ambassador Guidotti and followed him to America where I met the love of my life, my husband Ali. He was really impressed with my cooking.
“My wife is the best cook in the world!”
My husband believed that my cooking attracted many friends at the house and he enjoyed their company and all the parties that we had.
“If you know how to cook you always have a lot of friends and never feel alone”, my husband always said.
One of my brothers, Guido, was especially fond of my cooking and he hired me in Africa as a chef when he started a chain of hotels and restaurant there.
“Yolanda you have a PhD in cooking” my brother used to say.
I became a teacher and I taught many young Africans how to cook Italian meals so that they could find jobs both in my brother’s establishments and elsewhere.
After twenty years of spending most of my time in Africa, I came back to America and settled in upstate New York. Thanks to my cooking I always throw parties and I enjoy the company of my new friends. I go out of my way to cook great meals. Once I went in the woods to pick wild apples that I needed to make my apple pie. While I was picking the apples I heard a strange noise. As I turned around I realized that I had company. It was a big black bear. I smiled at him even thought I was scared to death. Thank God he he didn't have me on his mind. He ate a few and slowly walked away. My husband yelled at me when I told him about the encounter with the bear.
You know that it’s dangerous to go in the woods. You had no need to use the wild apples to make the apple pie… next time just buy them. “It doesn’t taste the same. An apple pie with wild fresh apples tastes better,” I said.
“You are so passionate about cooking that not even the bears scare you!”
“I’m not afraid of the bears because I feed them and they love my cooking more than you do! I said to my husband!
He couldn’t help but laugh!
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Nonna Yolanda Calligaro