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  • Interview with Cooking With Nonna Host Rossella Rago
    Part 1 of 3 - Rossella's Family and Heritage

    Interviewed by Anthony Parente

    Rossella, thank you for taking the time to be interviewed for the Web site Rossella is a beautiful and bright Italian American who created a great site dedicated to Italian cuisine titled Cooking With Nonna. This is not your ordinary web site. Many sites just list the recipe. This site not only lists the recipe it includes a webisode so you can follow along with Rossella and her guest Nonna. Each webisode includes a biography of the guest Nonna, which in my opinion makes it more authentic and personable.

    What part of Italy does your family come from?
    Both my parents come from a relatively small town on the Adriatic Sea called Mola di Bari in the province of Bari. It is funny that they were both born there, lived there for different periods of their life and then by pure coincidence met in Brooklyn, NY and got married.

    Have you had a chance to visit Italy and the town your family is from?
    Mola di Bari in the summer is a very exquisite little town to visit. I think I have been there 10-12 times in my life. Each summer many friends from different parts of the world would make it a point to travel to Mola and spend a month there. I have many fond memories of the summers I spent in Mola with friends, relatives and of course the endless hours I spent at the beach.

    Do you still have relatives in Italy?
    As year go by I have fewer and fewer relatives there both because as time goes by some of the older relatives move on and also because many of my relatives, for different reasons have emigrated either to northern Italy or the United States. However, the many friends that I have made there over the years have certainly filled the void.

    Did your parents have any specific Italian traditions that they continued to follow and share with you as you were growing up?
    Not only are my parents Italian, they still live like Italians. My mother especially is still very much a follower of many traditions. Of course the most important being that in late August she starts canning tomatoes for the entire year. So far she has not missed one year yet. She says that she feels rich having her jars on the shelf in the basement. I can tell you that I'm a very strong supporter of this tradition. Whenever she cooks you can really taste the difference in her sauce.

    What is the one thing about being Italian that you love the most?
    Probably the fact that wherever I go, I meet other Italians and as soon as we both realize that we share the same culture this new bond forms between us. It's as if we share a deeper level of understanding of some of the smaller ways we all live our lives. Whether it's the way we notice how our mothers and grandmothers never seem to want to throw anything away, or simply noticing certain ingredients that never seem to be missing in an Italian person's refrigerator, we all see the world in a little bit of a different way because we've been lucky enough to be a part of such a rich culture.

    What did it mean to you to win the titles of Miss Mola USA in 2003 and Miss Idea USA in 2005?
    My career in pageantry has meant so much on both personal and cultural levels. I remember awaiting my opportunity to participate in the Miss Mola pageant since I was a child. In our community, being Miss Mola was never only about superficial beauty. In fact, it served as more of an opportunity for young women to make their debut into society. I'd like to add that the first time I competed as a braces-clad, shy 15 year old, I did not win. However, I placed second in the competition and it gave me the drive and motivation to win the next year I participated. Winning Miss Idea 2005 ended up being quite the rite of passage for me in my personal life. It was there where I truly learned the importance of poise and how to be a strong Italian woman. In the end I found that Italian-American pageantry differed from any other pageantry circuit on the planet. To all the naysayers that insist that pageants only objectify women, I rebut that my experience has only served in building my confidence and celebrating my femininity!

    Part 2: Cooking With Nonna

    Part 1
    Part 2
    Part 3

    Photo copyright © MontanaUSA. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

    Article Published 2/22/10


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