The sign at the table says “Piccoli’s Pizza;” tucked behind it is Aldo Piccoli, his wife Anna and their daughter Franca, while spread out across the dark tablecloth are two versions of the gift they’ve created for today’s Pursuit of Passions event.
“We make a lotta’ pizza,” Aldo says, his Italian accent endearing him to the people who’ve gathered around to taste the simple dish that’s been cooked in the Piccoli household for decades. As they were preparing for today’s event, team members back at The Village of Glendale Crossing where the Piccolis have lived for some six months tried to capture the recipe on paper as Anna made the soft dough, but they couldn’t. The recipe is in her mind, they learned, and she only knows when there is enough flour by the tacky feel of it in her hands as she kneads.
It may seem like small things, but the lovely food and drink spread throughout the Bingeman’s Conference Hall in Kitchener this day represent the wealth of knowledge and wisdom held in the minds and hearts of the elders of our communities. Residents, loved ones, team members and volunteers from 18 villages gather together in the collective love of food and fellowship to share their memories and stories with friends old and new.
Aldo and Anna don’t just speak of the pizza they made this day; they talk of the path from Italy to Canada that led them to each other as the 1950s made way for a new decade. They talk of the passion Aldo has for gardening and making jar upon jar of luscious red sauce when the tomatoes are just right in the warmth of the summer sun. He tells stories of making pure olive oil as a boy in Italy with his older brother from the fruits of his family’s trees.
“That is the best,” he says, “pure olive oil,” and in his eyes one can see he can almost taste it again.
Throughout the hall, such memories are shared. Helen from Taunton Mills talks about the cake she brought this day, made from a recipe in her mind that goes back seven decades. She made it for her husband Bill after they were married, and made it every year after for their anniversary. She’d like to say it was a recipe passed down to her but that’s not the case. She made it on a whim as a young wife learning to cook, learning to live in matrimony, learning to bring a new family into being, and the cake is now known as hers by all who came to know and love her through the years.
“Food brings together family and friends,” says Janet Hamilton, who lives at Riverside Glen with her husband, Larry. She was asked to offer a welcome to guests to launch today’s event, and she chose to speak of her mother, toiling away in the garden each year to prepare her family for winter. Her mother and the women around her in those formative years taught Janet a love of cooking, and today she has a thick binder in her suite at Riverside Glen, filled with recipes collected over a lifetime.
“I think it’s important to recognize folks like Janet and her mom and all the ladies and gentleman in this room that have built this country,” says Schlegel Villages vice president of operations Rose Lamb. “Food is friendship and that’s what today and the Wisdom of the Elder events are: friendship and the sharing of knowledge with younger folks.”
Janet, Helen, Anna and Aldo and the many others who’ve gathered at Bingeman’s today have influenced the growth of our communities in countless ways, and the Pursuit of Passions event as part of the larger #ElderWisdom campaign launched by Schlegel Villages throughout June is a means of recognizing this reality.