2019: K… A to Z Italian Famiglia Foods and Memories: King Cambo’s Meatballs
I’m back for “year 4” of the A to Z… April Challenge!
My first year of this challenge had me racking my brain for a writing topic… especially as I didn’t quite understand the process. But finally I came up with 2016: Southern Foods and Memories. They said write what you know… and being a girl born in the South… well this was what I knew. 2017: Conversations with Mama was a somewhat easy one for me as I’d journaled our conversations for years so I researched some of my favorite topics to write on. 2018: All About Nancy Drew has been my favorite topic so far, and I don’t know if I’ll ever come up with another to equal it. It literally had me researching every day for over six months… researching, reading and perfecting every post. I was totally consumed with Nancy Drew for months… and still am! I didn’t want to “not” participate this year, but I was drawing a blank. Finally, mid February, I came up with writing on my husband’s Italian family foods and memories. I did my Southern foods the first year, so it was time to finally give his family their due! I’m also participating in the yearly 52 Ancestors 52 Stories this year… I am really feeling over-extended this month. April is a tough month for me, as we usually are traveling to my mother’s and my son in Florida… but somehow I’ll manage!
I think I can safely say that before marrying into an Italian family, I had never eaten any of the foods I’m blogging on this month… such an underprivileged child I was! Growing up in the South where we ate fried chicken, okra, black-eyed peas, butter beans, mashed potatoes, creamed style corn and southern biscuits! Oh My…!
The day I asked Uncle Johnny about making meatballs, he stressed… “always taste the meat before frying, just a little taste, but you must taste.”
In bowl, mix all ingredients well, and taste – it should have a strong garlic taste. If not, add more garlic or garlic powder. Don’t taste too much – it is raw meat! After seasoned, form into balls. Fry in oil (preferably olive oil) in a frying pan… enough oil to almost cover half of meatballs. Turn over when brown on one side, and cook until somewhat crispy. Drain on paper towels – save some meatballs for the sauce pan. Extra meatballs in sauce make awesome meatball subs the next day… don’t forget the provolone cheese.
I use Italian seasoned bread crumbs… and if you can also add a small amount of Italian bread… moistened slightly with milk.
We don’t fry meatballs in our house anymore… my husband has become the official meatball maker and cooks them in the oven on parchment paper. I think they are just as good in the oven… and so much easier. No more messy stovetop with oil splatters all over!
Hubby preparing his baked meatballs!
In Uncle Johnny’s own words… “I make the “finest” meatballs! They must taste a certain way raw… and after mixing them, I taste the raw mixture. If they taste right, then they’re ready to fry. They’ll taste the same after cooking! My mother (Minnie) always tasted hers before cooking and since I learned all my cooking from my mother, I do the same. Mama was a great cook! Besides adding meatballs to her sauce, she also put squirrel in when I brought them home; they were delicious! Mama even put Starlings in her sauce too… Starlings are good, but squirrel tastes better… because their diet consists mostly of nuts.“
Johnny was the cook in his family… his wife and children were in the cooking line, but he was No. 1. His children learned to cook by watching him… he never followed any recipes. If you wanted to learn… you had best to watch. He was their biggest critic… never hesitating to tell them if they didn’t pass the test!
His theory on making meatballs was… always use fresh garlic, parsley and never skimp on the grated cheese… and of course always taste before cooking!
Uncle Johnny was a master at many things… always in the limelight… never afraid of a challenge. His first challenge came at age 18 when asked if he could drive… someone was looking for a driver in the modifieds at the Savin Rock racetrack. Johnny looked him right in the eye…. and said yes! When telling me this story, he said, “I just said yes even though I’d never drove in a race before, but I wanted to do it.” Johnny drove in that race like he’d been driving for years… he never lacked confidence!
That one race led to a career that lasted until he was age 70-plus… he was a winner more than naught and one of the most popular drivers at Savin Rock Speedway. He even met his wife at that track… she was one of his fans who came to every race… and humble even after she was his girlfriend… as she’d even stand in line to have him sign his racing photograph. Johnny was extremely popular at the West Haven Speedway… so much that the owner asked him to hold his wedding ceremony at the track… his wife squashed that!
Johnny & Maggie – Wedding Day
Uncle Johnny left racing for several years after a bad accident, but later at age 60 he came back into the game… it was hard to keep the racing out of his blood! The young guys loved to tease him when he returned to racing… thinking this old man was trying to stay in a game he’d outgrown… but they learned quickly that this “old man” could still drive circles around them… winning more races than not. Johnny always laughed about how strong he was… having arms like Popeye… from the many years of pulling on those old steering wheels… which had no power steering!
It was a sad day in our family when Uncle Johnny Cambino left our family… he was the storyteller of the family… always with a smile, a joke, and doing it his way… and we all loved his racing stories!
So what’s your best meatball story?
Continue reading more of the A to Z… Cooking Famiglia Italian Foods and Memories
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