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Pasqualina DiRenzo on Royden Street

Pasqualina DiRenzo (1902-1981), the widow of Giuseppantonio Iacovelli, in the doorway of her house at 311 Royden Street, Camden, New Jersey, in the 1940s.

Pasqualina DiRenzo on Royden Street, Camden, 34 KB

The family next door at 313 Royden Street, the Di Rocco family, had a son in the U.S. military.  The words above and below the star in their door's window are "SERVICE OVERSEAS".  During the Second World War, "if you had someone in the service, the family put this in the window".

Pasqualina's son was also serving overseas in the U.S. Army, but despite this, the U.S. government took her shortwave radio away from her because she was not a U.S. citizen.  She and her mother Maria Vittoria D'Alessandro used to listen to Italian language programs.

But not all families put stars in the window.  Pasqualina's sister Nunziata DiRenzo did not, although she also had sons serving in the military.

There are milk bottles on the steps; the milk man used to come very early in the morning.

Pasqualina DiRenzo and her two daughters, Royden Street, Camden, 33 KB

Pasqualina DiRenzo and her two daughters in front of her house on Royden Street  On Pasqualina's dress is a large handkerchief bordered with lace.

Photographs lent by Pasqualina DiRenzo's daughter Filomena.  "We had a Kodak box camera."

Italian Drinking Biscuit

Pasqualina DiRenzo used to make these biscotti ("Italian cookies or biscuits"), and her daughter Filomena recreated this recipe from memory.  These biscuits were broken apart and dunked in wine; they were not soft inside after they were baked.  They are made in a way similar to taralli and they have the same ring shape, but they are much larger, after baking maybe the size of two small woman's fists across and maybe about 2-1/2 to 3 inches tall.

1 - egg -- or 2 if eggs are small
1 - tablespoon of oil (Pasqualina DiRenzo always used olive oil)
1 - tablespoon of sugar
    pinch of salt
    enough [but not too much] flour to absorb

Make well [of flour on a board] -- put in egg, sugar, oil.
Stir in flour -- knead (not too much).
Put under a dish for about 10 minutes.

Make biscuits -- then cut around [the outside middle of] the biscuit -- not too deeply [maybe 1/4 inch] -- then put in boiling water until they rise to the top.

Then bake at 350° F. for 45 minutes.  [They will brown in the oven.]

How many biscuits should this recipe make?  Like the depth of the slash before boiling, we will have to discover this by try and error.

[When the children used to ask Pasqualina DiRenzo's sister Maria Rosaria about the amount of an ingredient to add, she would tell them to use "enough".  "How much, Aunt Rose?" -- "Enough".  The Italian is quanto basta.]

• tablespoon = use a soup spoon
• 1/4 inch = 1/2 centimeter
• 350° F. = 175° C.

Vittoria Valente remembers these biscuits from the 1930s on Berkley Street.  But her Cousin Filomena remembers them also from the 1940s and even early 1950s.  Pasqualina DiRenzo originally got the recipe from the Iadarola family in Camden; this family was from Gambatesa.  Filomena did not remember the Italian name for these biscuits and so she titled her recipe "Italian Drinking Biscuits".  In Gambatesa they are called Biscotti con le uova ("Egg Biscuits").

The photograph below is from a photograph of store-made biscotti from Gambatesa.  It shows two "Italian Drinking Biscuits" or Biscotti con le uova.  Vittoria Valente said that the smaller of the two biscuits looks like the size they used to make in Camden, except that the Camden one was thicker and "didn't look the same" (See why below).

Store-made Biscotti con le uova, from Gambatesa, 26 KB

The smaller of the two biscuits measures 4-1/2 inches [11.5 cm.] across (diameter) and is 1-1/4 inches [3 cm.] thick.

Cousin Filomena agreed that the smaller biscuit is the Camden size, but the appearance is different.  First, the Camden biscuits were about twice as thick, or 2-1/2 inches [6.5 cm.] tall; and second, apparently the baker in Gambatesa, in order to make a spiral design, cut the rope of dough first and then rotated it before joining its the ends to make a ring.  But in Camden they did not do this [and people at home in Gambatesa do not do this]; first they made the ring and then cut it, and so the slash just went around the outside middle of the dough.

But Vittoria Valente and her Cousin Filomena agreed that the taste and texture of the Gambatesa bakery biscuits are the same as the Camden biscuits.

It was a lot of work to make these biscuits; it took all day.  People used to keep them for a long time, and they got hard, and then people used to dip them in wine; that is what Cousin Filomena remembers.

Inside Biscotti con le uova, 17 KB

Biscotti may be either sweet or vaguely sweet or savory or bland (as for example are taralli).  So the Italian word means "biscuit" in the British sense of the word, which includes the American word "cookie".

The URL of this Web page: https://www.roangelo.net/iacovelli/overseas.html
Last revised: 4 June 2006 : 2006-06-04 by Robert [Wesley] Angelo.

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