Memories and Musings: It’s that time!

Published 12:37 pm Thursday, May 9, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By Gene Gallelli

I can almost taste that first tomato sandwich on regular white bread – not whole wheat, not pumpernickel, not Italian – with mayonnaise on both slices and thick rings of ripe, homegrown tomato taking center stage. Yum!

Not far behind is the dish of linguine smothered in creamy pesto made from homegrown basil, olive oil, garlic, and toasted walnuts or pine nuts. Another yum!

Get the latest headlines sent to you

Did I forget the banana pepper sandwiches with scrambled eggs on Italian bread? If I had, my grandparents would be grumbling up There, especially Grandma Mangone, because it was her favorite and she loved to make them for me when I came home for lunch. (Yes, we had no cafeteria at school so we either walked home or ate lunch in the “lunchroom” at school.)

Growing up in East Rochester, if sliced tomatoes were in a sandwich they were in a BLT, often without mayonnaise because my dad hated it. Bushels of tomatoes brought our large extended family together to process and can for the season’s wonderful Sunday sauce, with a few from the garden in the salad that always accompanied the Sunday and Thursday pasta meals. (There was usually a pitcher of homemade wine on the table as well.)

When tomatoes were plentiful, they were often a midday meal sliced and topped with olive oil and minced garlic accompanied by slices of oven-fresh Italian bread.

It didn’t take me long after moving to North Carolina to acquire many new-to-me meals that have become favorites. I had my first sausage biscuit in Charlotte and rarely a week goes by that I don’t have them, often with egg and cheese. Speaking of cheese – how’s that for a segue – I can never get enough pimento cheese spread or a well-made dish of mac and cheese; a few from a box, a few frozen, and a few made from scratch. (To be honest, I’ve had bad ones from all three of the aforementioned.)

Growing up in the Rochester area, we always had fish fries on Fridays at the many gin mills that dotted the landscape. However, nothing can compare to the wonderful variety and preparations of seafood on the Outer Banks. Although my “chef” skills are predominantly peasant Italian, I have learned to do a pretty good job frying and broiling fish, shrimp, oysters and scallops. Oh, and I’ve done just okay frying soft-shelled crabs, which I love.

I could go on this savory journey forever, especially listing foods I’ve come to enjoy since moving to the Outer Banks: southern-fried chicken; chicken and dumplings; fresh tuna; hamburgers with lettuce, tomato and mayo … and more. But this discourse is making me hungry and I just had a sausage, egg and cheese biscuit.

Finally, if you haven’t yet tried Italian wedding soup, breaded and fried eggplant cutlets, and hot or sweet Italian sausage with onions and peppers, give them a try; I think you’ll love them.

Gene Gallelli was associate superintendent of the Dare County Schools for eight years. He received his doctor of education degree from East Carolina University, where he taught and supervised students studying to become school administrators.