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Salami, shortbread and parrot pie: new stories emerge from New Italy


Sharlene King
12 September 2013
New stories from the ‘spaghetti’ family tree that grew after the first Italian families settled on the NSW Far North Coast and married into the Anglo-Celtic dominated countryside have been collected in a new community history book to be launched this weekend (15 September).

Salami, Shortbread and Parrot Pie: Stories of Multicultural New Italy will be launched at the New Italy Museum Complex on Sunday 15 September at 1 pm. The book is a project of the New Italy community in association with Southern Cross University researchers and students.

Salami, Shortbread and Parrot Pie tells the stories of the descendant generations of Italian-Anglo-Celtic mix around the New Italy area,” said Dr Jo Kijas, independent consultant and Southern Cross University adjunct historian.

“The ‘spaghetti’ family tree shows that following the first generation of intermarrying between the Italian families, marriages across cultural and religious divides was the norm.”

Many people in the Northern Rivers know the story of the first Italian families to settle at New Italy, arriving in the late 19th century after being hoodwinked into a French Marquis’ farcical settlement plans in New Guinea. Fortunately NSW colonial premier Henry Parkes enabled the families’ safe passage to Sydney. From there, many of them eventually came to the Northern Rivers where they farmed barren land at New Italy with some success.

What happened to the children of those first Italian settlers? How the new settlers fitted into an Anglo-Celtic dominated countryside? Who ate salami? and What is mock chicken? are some of the stories captured in Salami, Shortbread and Parrot Pie.

“The Flett sisters of Scottish descent were renowned for their baking at New Italy events; Giacomo Piccoli’s sports days brought everyone from the district out into the bush through to the mid 1950s; and Ivy Ellen Smith (nee Gollan) often played the piano at the Friday night dances in Nardi’s Hall. Pedrinis married Trustums, Bertolis married McCormacks and so on,” said Dr Kijas.

“Stories of multicultural Australia are often thought to have a recent history and come predominantly from urban places. However, in our region, the stories of multicultural Australia go back to early European settlement and have shaped the experiences and histories of the area ever since.”

The book was funded by a Federal Government Your Community Heritage grant, thanks to Dr Kijas and Northern Rivers community historian Dr Kate Gahan.

Dr Kijas and Dr Gahan worked with the New Italy Museum’s volunteers to research and compile the book. Leonie Lane, graphic design lecturer in the School of Arts and Social Sciences, developed the colourful layout.

“It’s been a lovely project where the New Italy Museum Monday Group has worked together to compile and make public the stories about our diverse area that have been fairly hidden until now,” Dr Kijas said.

“We’ve also enjoyed working with SCU again. For example, the food chapter was prepared by Martha Beasley from the work she originally did at New Italy as a third year design student, with historical input from University historian Dr Adele Wessell.”

The book launch will feature entertainment by The Button Collective, winners of the 2013 SCU final of the National Campus Band Competition, who will be playing a smorgasbord of Italian, Scottish, Irish and English music.

Coinciding with the event is the opening of the new and expanded Casa Vecchia gift shop. New Italy Museum Inc volunteer Gail Williams and many others have worked hard over the past few years to create a beautiful selection of Italian and local gifts that now have a large home in the two-storey replica building of the original Antoniolli’s wine shop.

A light lunch of salami and other delights will be served.

RSVP at [email protected] or call 0425 793 668.
Photo: Cover of Salami, Shortbread and Parrot Pie: Stories of Multicultural New Italy designed by Leonie Lane.