Home LeeLee Blogs Life & Lyrics- “High Hopes”

Life & Lyrics- “High Hopes”

Published on January 13, 2014, by in LeeLee Blogs.


Bruce Springsteen

Yes I’m 100% Italian…born in Torre del Greco, Naples, Italy in fact & NO….I will never buy a jar of sauce at a supermarket!!!!

No disrespect to anyone who buys sauce at the market but it’s against my upbringing, my genes, my DNA, and my Italian code of behavior.

Back in August, I made 345 jars of fresh sauce…that’s 800 pounds of tomatoes…with la famiglia (the family)!!!  It was an incredible experience that gave me enormous HIGH HOPES.   I hope and pray that my three sons, Thomas, Anthony, and Vincent will carry out my family’s tradition.  So of course, “I got HIGH HOPES.”

800 pounds of tomatoes

800 pounds of tomatoes

I consider growing up “off-the-boat” Italian a privilege. Sundays meant Church, a trip to the Cemetery to pay respects, AND the aroma of the most incredible sauce in my family’s kitchen.  The smell took over the entire house actually. Garlic, onions, tomatoes, meatballs, pork meat, sausage, brasciole. YUM!!!  My mouth is salivating just thinking about my traditional Sunday dinners…at 2pm by the way…yes, dinner in the afternoon!!!  It’s an Italian thing.

When it comes to food I am soooooooo spoiled.  My childhood home consisted of a wine cellar stocked with my dad’s homemade wine, homemade pickled veggies (gardinera, olives, eggplant, mushrooms), homemade sausage, homemade sopresata, homemade proscuitto.  A vivid memory is walking into the wine cellar and looking at a chunk of pig lathered in salt.  “Yuck, what’s that?”  HA! Little did I know that slab of pig would turn into the most delicious proscuitto!  Instead of Yuck, what’s that?… I now want to eat it by the pound.

The kitchen was also stocked with homemade bread and pasta at times.  If you like food, growing up “off-the-boat” Italian is certainly a luxury.  It’s definitely a privilege I’m so thankful for!!!  Shame on me for crying to my parents when I was only seven years old with… “Why do we have to eat TWO dinners?”  HA HA HA HA HA! I couldn’t understand why I was served pasta or soup before the main entree.  Silly me! Who wouldn’t want a bowl of pasta fagioli, lentils, or escarole and bean soup or maybe a bowl of pasta with sauce as the primo piato (first plate)???  Nevermind antipasti (Salads, frittata, appetizers) sometimes as well.  And nevermind worrying about your shape or sticking to a low-fat diet.  Italians don’t understand low-fat.  It’s not in our vocabulary.

Back to the 800 pounds of tomatoes



and family bonding…

This past August…very early on a saturday morning… a family production got underway in my parent’s garage.  I joined my husband, children, 93 year old grandmother, parents, cousins, aunts, and uncles in the garage for a full day of work.  Why the garage, you ask?  Well, there’s a gas line in the garage for the sole purpose of boiling tomatoes!!!!

After a quick coffee or espresso, the factory assembly line was in full swing.  Clean, cut, boil, press, stir (with a broom-looking spoon), jar, and cool.  It was an exhausting 12-14 hour process but so worth it! All for the love of fresh sauce.

Lee Lee at work

Lee Lee at work

I was so thrilled to share this family experience with my boys.  They enjoyed taking part in the process too.  More importantly, I’m so grateful they caught a glimpse of their mother’s Italian heritage.

“I got HIGH HOPES” they’ll want to continue the tradition of homemade tomato sauce!  Without a doubt I’ll help.  If my grandmother can still help cut 800 pounds of tomatoes at the age of 93, then so can I  !!!!

Fingers crossed that the tradition continues….I mean really!?!?!?  Who wants to buy a jar of sauce at the market after being raised with the authentic real deal????



One Response

  1. Rose Marie

    I could have written this myself! I was born in Sicily. I grow my own tomatoes and vegetables. I can and freeze. We get together and make wine too. I’ve made my own sausages, guanciale and prosciutto . I hope my daughters will also continue our traditions. Grazie, for sharing your story .