The Secret Legacy
Everyone in our little village in Italy seemed to know my uncle Giuseppe. He was a fantastic, professional chef, but not your run-of-the-mill type of chef. Giuseppe is famous for using secret ingredients in his tasty recipes that make people healthier, look younger and live to a hundred or more. He had a restaurant just a short distance from where my parents live. He is retired now and is nearly ninety.
It is thanks to my uncle’s secret recipes that my Mama and Papa are still living. Sure my Papa has minor arthritis, and Mama is a little overweight, but both are in their late eighties still going strong. They still have all their faculties and can still travel out of the house. And my Papa still visits his vineyards and the winery every day, a business he has had for over forty years.
I love my uncle Giuseppe; he always made me laugh. Ever since I was three years old, he has cooked for the family, and he would make us all laugh with his jokes and do funny stunts like Charlie Chaplin.
He would especially do a show whenever my sister, Sophia, brother Rico, or I had a birthday. One day I will never forget, is my tenth birthday, thirty years ago. While all my family was together in the sitting room, waiting for Giuseppe to make one of his famous pasta recipes for dinner,
He said, "Carla, come in the kitchen; I have a surprise for you!"
As I entered the kitchen, he grabbed both my hands softly, smiled with his pearly white teeth and said to me,
"Carla, do you believe in Magic?"
"Yes! Yes! Uncle Giuseppe," I shouted, jumping up excitedly, wondering what he was going to do.
Seconds later, he pointed to a plate of spaghetti on the table and asked me to look at the pasta.
"Now close your eyes and count to five; now, open your eyes," he said.
Suddenly, there on the plate, the spaghetti began to riggle, then spin and twirl. Individual pieces started untangling themselves and began rising slowly; now, the single pieces of spaghetti bobbed and weaved like a Cobra snake. I was so mesmerised I couldn’t move. After what may have been only a couple of minutes, the pasta slowly wiggled back down on the plate and stopped moving.
"How did you do that, Giuseppe?" I screamed , my eyes wide open in awe.
"Please do it again, please!”
My uncle grabbed my hands gently again and said, putting a finger up to his mouth,
" Sh! Sh!" "You must promise not to tell anyone, Carla; this is our little secret. It's a birthday surprise from me to you?" He whispered.
“Oh, thank you! Thank you! so much, uncle Giuseppe!” I remember saying, as I clapped madly, shaking with emotion. To this very day, I still have no idea how he did that trick with the spaghetti!
My uncle became so popular with his secret recipes, helping the locals to a healthy and long life—that many of them lived into their nineties, and some even reached a century and are still alive today, looking twenty years younger!
Soon news traveled throughout Italy, and It wasn’t long before TV and newspaper journalists visited Giuseppe.
Try as they may, they could never find out the secret ingredients to his healthy recipes. An American cooking magazine in 1975 did offer Giuseppe 100,000 dollars for his secret ingredients, but he turned them down. He would have been rich then. I did one day recently ask him why he turned the magazine down.
His answer was,
"money isn’t everything!"
Still, uncle Giuseppe had a thriving business with his restaurant. People would come from all over Italy and the world just to try one of his recipes.
A year ago, when I visited my uncle on my own,
I said to him, "don’t you regret not passing on your secret ingredients to someone to carry on your legacy?"
He turned to me in his armchair and, with a smile, said,
" Ho gia in mente una persona - I already have a person in mind!"
Ever since that day, I have tried to figure out the likely candidate who Giuseppe would pass on his secret. Could it be his only son, Luca, who is an architect but has no genuine interest in food except to eat it? Indeed, not his brother, Giovanni, some ten years younger than him, who has no interest in cooking and is a farmer most of the day. Then there’s Giuseppe’s wife, Aunt Mia, some three years his younger. Yes, she cooks but not to a chef's standard. Maybe it’s an entirely unknown person I have never seen or heard of before? Anyway, whoever it is, my uncle needs to pass his secret to them before it is too late.
After a few weeks, I visited Giuseppe and Mia, again we were watching a TV documentary together on the secrets to living longer. After, a nutritionist mentioned that he had discovered the recipe for long and a healthy life. He then fired off a list of superfoods and particular nutrients people should have in their daily lives for increasing their life span. I then noticed something odd Giuseppe, shouted out,
“No! No! They have got it all wrong! Stupido!”
Guiseppe then said something strange,
“It’s not what nutrients are used that is the secret; it’s what you do with the nutrients that make all the difference!”
For a few seconds, I observed my uncle suddenly blush; it was as if he had realised he had let the 'cat out of the bag,' or nearly! That was the closest I've ever got to learning his secret ingredients. I am still none the wiser, today.
He quickly melted away the awkward, intense moment by turning to me and asking me how Mama and Papa were—ignoring the rest of the TV documentary.
Two years ago, after Mama and Papa passed on in their nineties, Uncle Giuseppe and his wife Mia was getting close to her century. And Indeed, it was Giuseppe's 100th birthday; today, Saturday, my sister, brother, and I and my family were all invited.
When we arrived at uncle Giuseppe's home on this glorious, sunny, summer day with my family; husband, Paolo, and my two children, my daughter, Bianca, and my son, Gino, I had never witnessed such a feast before! Outside in the large garden, stretched out on four long tables were bowls of various olives, salads, varieties of tomatoes and peppers, all of which I have never seen before. There was an array of cheeses, Mozzarella, Gorgonzola, Burrata. Green, purple, black, and red grapes, large pizzas, and many different dips. There must have been a dozen different loaves of bread, including garlic and olive bread.
My Cousins, nieces, nephews, uncles, and aunts feasted on dipping their pieces of bread in the assortment of dips Guiseppe had just made with his secret ingredients.
Apart from an enormous variety of Italian foods, there were numerous Italian wines on the tables. I also brought some wine from my Papa's winery; now, I have taken over the business with my sister, Sophia, and brother Rico. There were: Albana, Canaiolo, Corvina, Dolcetto, Merlot, Nero D’Avola, and Sangiovese, to name a few, sitting on the tables.
After an hour Aunt Mia announced a band she had hired to play music for the special occasion. Meanwhile uncle Giuseppe was in the kitchen preparing pasta for one of his specialty dishes for everyone. After having something to eat and drink I went into the kitchen to say happy birthday to Giuseppe. As I came in he asked me to close the door.
“Come in Carla, I have been expecting you!” He said turning around after placing a lid on a large pot of pasta he had just placed on the hob.
“Carla,” Giuseppe said, grabbing my hands gently.
“Do you still believe in magic?” I suddenly felt like I was that ten-year-old girl again on her birthday, all those years ago.
“Yes!” I shouted, feeling a tingle run through my spine. He stared at me and smiled with his still, pearly white teeth.
“Do you really want to know my secret ingredients for being healthy and having a long life?” He said, still holding my hands.
“Look over there at that plate of spaghetti on the table!” Giuseppe said, pointing to the pasta.
" Count to five and open your eyes. "
As I did, like before all those years ago
the spaghetti began to move, twist and rise up, untangling itself into single pieces. The pieces of pasta then jiggled and started to dance.
My heart raced, it was just too fantastic to believe.
“Now, Carla, go over and touch it and believe it will make you healthy and live a long life!” My uncle said,
When I touched the spaghetti, still moving above the plate
I felt a surge of energy rush through me and then the pasta started glowing a gold colour and I felt it pulsate.
A moment later, the pasta slowly sank down onto the plate and stopped moving.
“There Carla, I knew it would be you to carry on my legacy!” Whispered Giuseppe, his face beaming.
“You see, Carla, it’s not the ingredients in the food that is the secret, but it’s the loving energy you put into the food with your thoughts -that is the secret to a long and healthy life!”