I love you Nanna, forever and always!

I know I normally use my blog to share recipes and what I'm up to, but today I am sharing something far more personal-the loss of my grandmother. This is helping me through a difficult time and with photos and words I hope that I can honour her as she deserves to be honoured.

You always know that the day will come when the people you love so much will leave you and not be around to chat on the phone or have a coffee with you.
Well that time has come for me as I say goodbye to my grandmother, Nonna, Nanna or Ma as I affectionately called her as a child. One of the biggest female mentors and role models of my life has moved on to reunite with her much loved husband, my Nonno, and her siblings.  After almost 20 years without her husband, she has longed for the time when they would reunite.  I am positive they will probably go shopping together, not until she makes sure he has eaten something and they can enjoy a coffee together.

I always wanted her in my life. Even when we moved away, she was just a phone call away.  Our returns to Sault Ste. Marie would always start with a hug and kiss, and a spread of food anyone would envy. In her later years we could expect her pretending to check the mailbox in anticipation of our arrival.  I would also look forward to her visits because that always meant we would make bread, pasta, gnocchi and cook up a storm. You know she was ready to return home when she wanted to clean either my mother’s or my house and “put things away”.  Then questions and phone calls asking “where did Nanna put it?”  We would always find it, it was just all part of the treasure hunt she left us with so we knew she was there.  

My grandmother took care of me along with 8 other grandchildren, and because I was lucky enough to be the first grandchild I had her all to myself for 7 years.  I can honestly say I learned a lot and remember quite a bit from those years. I remember helping make pizza and bread and how she would give me some dough and let me create my own. I was in my glory. Standing beside her on a chair at the stove was something that I enjoyed.  It was not only the aroma of the fresh, bubbly tomato sauce, but she would let me dip my bread into the pot and enjoy, but not before she blew on it to cool it down. 
I can recall many times we would walk down Great Northern Road and North street down to the A & P at the time, for groceries, and on the way back we would be sure to look for dandelion greens to cut and bring home for dinner. 

Running around the backyard garden and picking potatoes, onions and garlic was not only fun, it was the start of something I knew I wanted to be a part of. Hiding in the tower of beans and tomatoes was a perfect game of hide and seek, all the while I was getting lost in the intoxicating aroma of fresh garden vegetables. Nanna would be picking ingredients for minestrone or a salad and it was she, and all of these memories that helped to develop my love of food and family. Watching not only how she took care of her own children and their families, she was also a friend to so many. She could start a conversation with just about anyone even if they didn’t understand her broken English.  It was her smile and enthusiasm to tell stories that I always admired about her. 

There is so much I want to say about Nanna and so much I feel. Currently there is a large hole in my heart and soul that she is no longer here.  Not to watch her cook, cook with, or learn from.  She had the patience to show me recipes and cook with me so I would understand what needed to be in the food so it tasted as good as it did. Each time her arthritic hands kneaded dough she was happy. Many didn’t understand her need to wake up and make bread, breadsticks or something else at 4am but it made her happy because she was going to share it with the family. She dedicated her entire life to caring for and preparing food for her family and friends. It was every thank you, hug and acknowledgement she savoured and thrived on. 

I remember when she came to the Canadian Living Test Kitchen when I worked there, and she made gnocchi for everyone. She was so happy and felt like everyone there were her grandchildren. She loved feeding people and she loved people. Two wonderful qualities I hope to continue to share in her honour. She was so proud of her children and grandchildren no matter where they were she always had photos of them up on her walls and would point out to friends who they were and what they were doing. 

If I thought my Nanna was happy as a mom and grandmother, there was even more excitement when her first great grandchild was born. My son, the first was now going to enjoy some amazing time with his BisNonna. All of my children have benefitted and been lucky to know and love their great grandmother. Although she was far, the photos were up on the wall and she would let others know what they were up to. And she always knew what they were up to.  She would call to check in and see if we had all eaten and if I was making her great grandkids pasta for dinner.  I know I will miss those calls.    

I hope that friends and family will remember the bright side of my grandmother. She was a unique and strong lady. She had her opinions and could hold an argument, but that was all a part of what made her Nanna. I am so lucky that I have had my grandmother in my life for so long and that she has been such a huge part of my career and who I am today.

My mom is now also a wonderful Nanna to my kids and I know they are super lucky to have her. She had a great role model and she has not or ever will let my grandmother down. She takes the time to talk, care and cook with my kids and if they don’t get it now, they certainly will as they get older. It took me awhile to realize just how lucky I was to have my grandmother around and know that she will always be with me because of these memories.

Always treasure the ones around you and try to learn as much as you can from them. I hope that someday, I too will play as integral a role in someone’s love of food and family as my Nanna did for me. Remember, write things down, and take photos and videos and talk to share stories. It’s all these things that will help keep families together, make them stronger and keep the memories of those you love close.

 We will love you always and forever Nanna Ortenzia. Con Amore Sempre Bella Nanna Mia xo


  1. So sorry for your loss Emily. I know your Nanna is super proud of you forever. XO


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