Cécile Kyenge

Cécile Kyenge Kashetu, born in Kambove, Republic of the Congo (Léopoldville), is a Congolese-born Italian politician and ophthalmologist. She is the Minister for Integration in the current Italian government. Dr. Kyenge is married and the mother of two daughters, Maïsha and Giulia. After moving to Italy in 1983, she became a qualified ophthalmologist in Modena, Emilia-Romagna.

She founded an intercultural Association (DAWA) to promote mutual awareness, integration and cooperation between Italy and Africa, particularly in her country of birth, the Democratic Republic of Congo. She is also the spokesperson of the association “March First”, which works to promote the rights of migrants in Italy. She collaborates with many Italian magazines, including Combonifem and Corriere Immmigrazione, an online newspaper and a weekly journal on the culture of Italy of the present and future.

In February 2013 she was elected a member of the Chamber of Deputies for the Democratic Party in Emilia-Romagna. Two months later she was appointed Minister for Integration in the coalition government formed by Enrico Letta, becoming Italy’s first black cabinet minister. She supports the introduction of a “Jus soli” law to grant citizenship to children of immigrants born on Italian soil. Under the current legislation, Italian nationality is passed on most commonly by blood, meaning the grandchild of an Italian, who has never set foot in the country, has more rights to citizenship than someone who was born in Rome to foreign parents.

But even if Dr. Kyenge is unable to push a single piece of legislation through Parliament, she will have secured an important legacy. Her April 27 appointment as Minister for Integration in Italy’s newly formed government has kicked off a much-needed discussion on race and immigration in a country that still struggles to come to terms with its rapid transformation.

That discussion has taken some brutal turns. “Kyenge wants to impose her tribal traditions from the Congo,” said Mario Borghezio, a member of the European Parliament for Italy’s anti-immigration Northern League in an April 30 radio interview. “She seems like a great housekeeper,” he added. “But not a government minister.” Even in Italy, a country all too often permeated by casual bigotry, Borghezio’s words went way too far. An online petition calling for him to be sanctioned or evicted from his post has gathered more than 75,000 signatures and the Northern League’s leader, Roberto Maroni, a former Interior Minister, has come under pressure to denounce him.

While Italians don’t like to think of their country as racist, the experience of non-white Italians and resident immigrants illustrates a culture that has found it hard to welcome increasing diversity. Dr. Kyenge’s appointment gives cause for hope that things will get better for Italy’s immigrant population. Appearing on an Italian talk show in May, Dr. Kyenge said her proposal will be ready “in the coming weeks.” She’ll soon get a chance to discover what her fellow parliamentarians are made of.

On September 23 representatives of 17 European Union countries gathered in Rome to condemn the “unacceptable” stream of racist insults directed at Cécile Kyenge and called for a new pact to stamp out discrimination across the European bloc. (The Rome Declaration-Pact 2014-2020 for a Europe of diversity and fight against racism.) “The reality is, Europe is made up of people with different skin colors, who belong to different religions or were born elsewhere but have chosen to live here,” said Dr. Kyenge.

Pollo di Modena

Italian Balsamic-Marinated Chicken –  A classic dish from Dr. Kyenge’s home region in Italy.

This simple recipe for balsamic chicken puts the rich flavor of balsamic vinegar to good use. The marinade not only flavors the chicken but tenderizes it as well. Balsamic vinegar was first made in the city of Modena. The region of Emilia-Romagna has a rich and diversified cuisine, often including meats, stuffed pastas and salamis.

4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 to 3 pound chicken, cut into serving pieces 
  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage, shredded
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2-3 teaspoons olive oil

Directions

In a large, non-reactive bowl, mix together the chicken, vinegar, garlic and sage. Refrigerate and marinate for at least 1 hour or up to 8 hours.

Remove the chicken from the marinade, reserving the marinade. Pat the chicken dry and season with salt and pepper.

Heat the oil in a large pot on medium-high. Saute the chicken in batches until browned on all sides.

Reduce heat to medium-low and return all the chicken to the pot. Pour in the reserved marinade and bring to a low boil. Reduce heat to low, cover tightly and simmer for 40 to 50 minutes, turning the pieces occasionally. Add a little water if necessary to keep the marinade from drying out.

Remove the chicken to a serving platter. Adjust the seasoning of the sauce and pour it over the chicken. Serve with crusty Italian bread and a salad.

Pollo di Modena Variations:

  • Substitute rosemary for the sage.
  • Add sliced mushrooms to simmer with the chicken.
  • Topped with sauteed pancetta before serving.

Elisabetta Missoni

Elisabetta Missoni is a member of the national association, Le Donne del Vino (The Women of Wine), launched in April 1988 and is made up of wine producers, restaurateurs, sommeliers, owners of wine shops and trade journalists. The association aims to promote the ever-increasing role of women, in what was once a male-dominated environment, and to play a major contribution in the development of women working with wine.

Not surprisingly, for someone who has a strong connection with the fashion industry, wine was never Elisabetta’s first interest. “Before I met Giovanni, I was very much focused on fashion,” explains Elisabetta, who is the niece of fashion designer, Ottavio Missoni. “But Giovanni was passionate about his wines and he knew how to instil that passion in me. The fine quality of our wines reflects our continuous search for distinction and simplicity. That is the part of our lifestyle that we most like to share with our clients and friends.” Elisabetta is behind the Foffani wine label that she produces with her husband, Giovanni Foffani. While Giovanni concentrates on the actual wine production, Elisabetta deals with public relations and customer service. She is also responsible for organising annual events and demonstrations.

The Azienda Agricola Foffani winery is located in Clauiano (Friuli region) which is east of Venice. It was built in the 16th century and is now protected by the Italian Ministry of Fine Arts. Wine production dates back to 1789 and the name, Clauiano, comes from Claudiano, meaning Claudian because the property was given to the emperor Claudius by the Patriarch of Aquileia around 1 AD. The winery produces a selected range of aged red wines and classical Friuli white wines made in steel barrels to preserve their original fragrances. The result is wine that is mentioned in the acclaimed guide “Gambero Rosso” year after year. Every year Elisabetta and her husband take part in the trade fair Colori dei Vini, the ‘Colours of Wine’ show. Emphasising the family fashion ties, the tablecloths are exclusive knitwear designs by Luca Missoni and match the colors of the wines available.

Agnolotti di Pontebba

(Ravioli with Sweet Filling)

The varied landscape and strong Austrian and Central European influences are evident in the Friuli Venezia Giulia regional cuisine that is based heavily on polenta, soups and salumi. The Friulian people aptly merge humble, local ingredients with exotic spices from foreign lands, resulting in a cuisine that, while often surprising in its blend of sweet and savory flavors, please the palate.

Ingredients for 4 people

For the dough

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 egg
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup water

For the filling

  • 9 ounces ricotta
  • 3 1/2 ounces prunes
  • 1 dried fig
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Salt to taste

Dressing

  • Cinnamon to taste
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 7 tablespoons butter

Directions

Place flour on a smooth surface and make a well in the flour, add eggs, water and salt and knead until smooth. (You can also do this in a processor or electric mixer.

Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and set aside to rest for 20 minutes.

In a pot with boiling water, cook prunes and dried fig for a few minutes until soft. Drain, chop and combine with ricotta and sugar.

With a rolling pin or a pasta machine, roll out dough in 1/8-inch thick sheets. Cut out 2-inch circles with a biscuit or ravioli cutter.

Place one spoonful of ricotta filling in the middle of each circle and close to form crescents.

Seal edges with your fingers. Cook in boiling salted water for 5 minutes. Carefully drain with a slotted spoon to avoid breaking the agnolotti.

Arrange in pasta bowls and serve with melted butter, sugar and cinnamon mixture.

Catherine DeAngelis 

Last November Catherine DeAngelis, M.D., M.P.H., received the Special Recognition Award of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) that is given to leaders in academic medicine for extraordinary achievements in the field. The award honors DeAngelis’ numerous lifetime accomplishments, her long-standing commitment to academic medicine and her decade-long tenure as editor-in-chief of “The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)”, one of the oldest and most revered medical journals in the world. DeAngelis became that publication’s first female editor-in-chief and the first pediatrician to hold that title.

In her role as the first woman editor, Catherine DeAngelis, M.D., has made a special effort to publish substantive scientific articles on women’s health issues. The journal plays an important role in bringing new research to light and featured articles can lead to fundamental changes in treatment. Under her editorship, the journal published a landmark study questioning the benefits of hormone replacement therapy in 2002. She also served as editor of the”Archive of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine”, from 1993 to 2000.

The granddaughter of Italian immigrants, Catherine DeAngelis was born and raised in a coal-mining town in northeastern Pennsylvania. She grew up in Old Forge, the middle child of three in a poor family. Her mother, the late Mary DeAngelis, worked as a waitress and her father, the late Sandy DeAngelis, worked in a silk mill. Both her parents only had an eighth-grade education.”We were poor, but we were happy,” Dr. DeAngelis said during a recent telephone interview. “We had a big garden and my parents canned what was in the garden. My dad hunted and fished.”

At first medical school was not financially possible, so she went into a three-year program to become a registered nurse. Following her graduation in 1960, she was accepted into Wilkes University. During her undergraduate years she worked as a nurse and set up an infirmary at Wilkes. She also worked in a laboratory, gaining valuable experience in immunology research. She went on to the University of Pittsburgh Medical School, again doing lab work, teaching student nurses and working in the V.A. hospital medical library to help cover her expenses.

After medical school, DeAngelis began a pediatric residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Working four hours a week at a free clinic in Baltimore, she began thinking about scientific ways to address the general problems she saw there. She had heard about Harvard University’s program in health law and economics and realized that she could apply for a master’s degree in public health fellowship with a stipend from the National Institute of Health.

After DeAngelis earned herdegree, she worked at the Roxbury, Massachusetts Comprehensive Community Clinic. While there, she noticed that many patients were not receiving basic care, primarily because of access and financial problems. With a little more training for nurses, she thought, some of these problems could be addressed. To solve the problem, she wrote a textbook for nurse practitioner-medical resident teams, Basic Pediatrics for Primary Care Providers, published in 1973.

From 1973 to 1975 she worked as a faculty member at the Columbia College of Physicians on improving health care systems in Harlem and upper Manhattan in New York, using physician-nurse practitioner teams. She then took a position at the University of Wisconsin organizing a system for children’s health care for the next three years.

In 1978 DeAngelis decided to move back East, where she became chief of the new Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at Hopkins Medical Center. She went on to become deputy chair of the department and was appointed vice-dean for academic affairs in 1994.

When she was made a full professor in 1984, Dr. DeAngelis was only the twelfth woman in Hopkins’s 94-year history to receive that rank. 68 percent of all women, who have been made professor since the founding of Hopkins, received their promotions while DeAngelis was vice-dean. Her success there is especially ironic, as her application to attend Hopkins’ medical school was rejected years earlier.

Old-Fashioned Italian-American Lasagna

Italian American food is based heavily on the traditional food of southern Italian immigrants, most of whom arrived in the United States from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. For many Italian Americans, who identify their food with their locale and the home areas of their ancestors, the food is based on staples such as dry pasta, ricotta cheese, tomato sauce and olive oil.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3 large yellow onions, diced (about 3 cups)
  • Three 28-ounce cans Italian plum tomatoes, drained
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups whole-milk ricotta
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 18 sheets lasagna, each about 10 inches by 2 inches, parboiled
  • 1 pound mozzarella, grated (about 3 cups)

Directions:

Heat olive oil over moderate heat in large saucepan. Add onions, stir and cover. Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent. Using a food mill, purée plum tomatoes directly into the pan. Add 2 teaspoons of the coarse salt and 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper and cook, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, or until sauce is reduced to about 41/2 cups.

In a small bowl mix ricotta, egg, 2 tablespoons of the Parmigiano-Reggiano, basil, remaining salt and pepper and nutmeg. Stir well to combine.

Butter generously the bottom and sides of a baking pan, 11 inches by 9 inches by 1 1/2 inches. Take 3/4 cup of tomato sauce and spread on the bottom of the pan.

Place 3 lasagna noodles on the bottom of the pan, overlapping them slightly. Spread a heaping 1/3 cup of ricotta mixture evenly over noodles. Spread 3/4 cup of tomato sauce on top of this layer. Sprinkle with a heaping 1/3 cup of mozzarella. Repeat this 4 times.

Then place the last 3 noodles on top and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and remaining 1/2 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano. (The lasagna may be assembled up to this point 2 days in advance and stored in refrigerator, covered. Bring to room temperature before cooking.)

When ready to cook, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Bake on the top shelf of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until cheese is melted. Let sit for 5 minutes before cutting.

Afua Preston

Afua works as Assistant Director for Foreign Languages, Translation and Interpreting Programs at NYU School of Continuing and Professional Studies and she has a unique ancestry. She was born in Ghana, West Africa, to an Akan mother and an African-American father. She came to America when she was less than 1 year old and her Father re-married. Her stepmother is Italian-American whose family is Abruzzese from Sulmona and Roccacasale. Afua calls her stepmother, Mother, because she was raised by her, but Afua also keeps in contact with her birth Mother’s family.

The Italian side of her personality comes out, she says, “in my cooking, sense of style, love of art and devotion to my family. I’m fiercely protective. People say that I have a sort of casual reserve called “cool orsprezzatura” — depending on which side of my family is speaking. When I cook, I’m always mixing in more garlic in my paternal Grandmother’s recipes or taking an Italian dish and making it more southern. The music in my life also has cultural collisions. I am a big fan of Italian singer, Lorenzo Cherubini Jovanotti, who mixes sounds of Italy, black America and Africa.”

Afua can speak Italian. Listening to her Great-Grandmother Mamma Adele speak to her Grandmother Mamma Dina made Afua want to learn Italian and, eventually, she earned a B.A. in Italian Language and Culture. She studied in Florence and learned to speak Italian. “The sounds of the language are beautiful. Not to mention, it helps to know Italian when ordering Italian food”, she said in a recent interview.

Afua said she retains her Italian side, “through food, art and music. I cook Italian food often. My Nonna says that I am the best pizzelle maker in the family. I read “Cucina Italiana Magazine” all the time. Both my parents are art historians, so I was always a lover of art. But it was especially after my semester in Firenze, that I came back to New York and had a new appreciation of the beautiful architecture and the stone and marble work in buildings in Harlem and Washington Heights.”

She feels lucky to have grown up with two well-educated parents and two grandmothers who worked very hard in life to raise themselves up from their poor origins through education. Her paternal Grandmother Millie, especially, raised her to believe she could be anything she wanted to be. Afua said, “I never looked at color as an obstacle for me to do what I wanted in life. But many children of color do have real obstacles and, therefore, feel that they could “never” be what they want to be. I’m kind of a zuppa mista. I don’t identify with any one group. Although my skin is black, I can’t really define myself totally. I would like to explore my African roots more though. My face and name are Ghanaian, my voice is very NY American and my soul is black-Italian American.”

Zuppa Mista di Legumi

A dish Afua likes to prepare – bean soup. Simplicity is central to the Tuscan cuisine. Legumes, bread, cheese, vegetables, mushrooms and fresh fruit are used

Ingredients

  • 8 oz mixed dried legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas and peas)
  • 7 oz spelt
  • 4 cups vegetable broth, heated
  • 1 onion
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 stalk of celery
  • Salt to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

As a first step to prepare this soup you need to soak the dried beans in warm water overnight, then drain them and use them in the preparation according to the recipe.

Chop celery, carrot, garlic and onion and put them to fry in a pan with a little olive oil.

When the garlic is golden, add the dried beans and the farro, stir with a wooden spoon and start cooking the soup slowly adding the hot broth.

Continue cooking over low heat, stirring occasionally. The time required for cooking and to thicken the soup varies from 30 to 40 minutes depending on the quality of the beans.

Season with salt and add a little olive oil.

Article Sources: 

Italy Magazine

Johns Hopkins Medicine

i-Italy Digital Magazine

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