I’ve been following the Great Depression Cooking series on YouTube for years, not so much for the recipes as for the joy of watching the gracious great-grandmother Clara Cannucciari share her knowledge, wisdom and stories along with simple, inexpensive Italian-American family food from the 1930s. The series began in 2007 with an episode on Pasta and Peas when Clara was 91 years old. The show was lovingly produced and directed by Clara’s grandson, Christopher Cannucciari, and eventually led to a DVD and book.
The final episode of the series was just released. It opens with Clara looking straight at the audience and saying, Thank you, everybody, this is my last show. I’m pretty damn old!” Later she speaks a little more about aging: “Nothing great about getting old, it’s terrible, you can’t do what you want, it’s just…but…I always say God put me here for a reason. I don’t know what it is, but he probably does.”
She truly saved the best for last, and in this episode she shares her mother’s recipe for old-fashioned tomato sauce, made from fresh tomatoes, nothing canned. She ends with the words “This is the perfect ending to a perfect show. I love you all, goodbye,” but then we see her welcoming a young child, presumably a great grandchild, and feeding pasta and sauce to a new generation.
This show is shining example of family history. Christopher Cannucciari is capturing and sharing his grandmother’s cooking and her spirit in a way that will help her live on in the lives of her extended family (which thanks to YouTube includes thousands of us. It’s also a lesson in oral history. Many elderly people are not particularly comfortable sitting down and talking about their own lives if you just try to interview them, and they may be much more comfortable doing what Clara’s is doing here, which is sharing a skill in the spirit of helpfulness. Her memories are shared in the context of talking about her family and how her parents managed to keep the family fed during the Depression.
Thanks for the memories, Clara!