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Australia Italian families keep connection to Italy alive through food

06:15  08 april  2021
06:15  08 april  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

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Melbourne chef and restaurateur Rosa Mitchell preparing tomatoes on her family's annual pasta sauce-making day. (ABC) © Provided by ABC NEWS Melbourne chef and restaurateur Rosa Mitchell preparing tomatoes on her family's annual pasta sauce-making day. (ABC)

Pasta sauce-making day is a yearly tradition for many Italian Australians, including Sicilian-born Melbourne chef and restaurateur Rosa Mitchell.

Tomatoes are grown or ordered in bulk, washed, cut and processed through a purpose-built machine to keep the family supplied with fresh bottled sauce year round.

The sauce might not look any different from what's readily available in supermarkets, but Rosa says there's no comparison in flavour and the ritual of getting the family together is important to her too.

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"You buy bottle tomatoes and it doesn't taste the same … and it's a beautiful tradition to keep and it's lovely now that I have my family and my grandchildren starting to join in and hopefully they'll grow up making the sauce as well."

Rosa's daughter Francesca, now introducing her own children to the annual fun of 'tomato day', recalls taking part as a kid as she and her cousins would run amok at her nonna's house.

"We'd probably get a job and then get bored and then run around and cause mischief and then reappear by the time it was lunchtime."

Using Rosa's homegrown produce from her farm in central Victoria, everyone plays their part in the production line.

"The men run the machines, the women do the washing and the cutting and of course the women go back into the kitchen and do the cooking, which is fine by me," Rosa, owner and chef at Rosa's Canteen in Melbourne's CBD says.

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Rosa and her husband Colin would usually be finalising plans to take a tour group to Sicily at this point in the year, but Australia's international travel ban means their next trip to Rosa's homeland is well beyond reach.

She says taking groups of Australian foodies on guided tours around the island of Sicily has been "one of the highlights of [her] life."

And with no end in sight to the travel ban, Rosa feels as though time is ticking away to return to her beloved homeland.

"When you get older you realise you're not going to be able to travel very much longer," Rosa says.

"Sicily's such a small place it's as big as Tasmania but there's so much to see. I don't think I'll ever see all of it and understand it all.

"So I'm really missing the travel and so I try to read and I belong to so many Sicilian sites … so you keep in touch a little bit like that but it tears at the heartstrings that you want to be there."

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Italy is in the grips of a third wave of COVID-19, triggering yet another national lockdown in recent days and though the vaccine rollout is progressing, the pace is slower than expected.

More than 10 million doses of the vaccine have been administered so far but with a population in excess of 60 million, many more are needed.

Even so, Australia's cautious approach to international travel beyond New Zealand is unlikely to change anytime soon.

The Department of Health's travel ban runs out in mid-June but is almost certain to be extended.

In the meantime, Rosa and her family keep their connection to Italy alive through their shared love of food.

"I think the traditions that you have with your family, it's part of your story, it's part of your history … and it's a really special time to spend together," Francesca says.

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This is interesting!