Sunday, October 14, 2012

Rose's Recipes: Italian-American

A warm stew hearty enough to feed a hungry family and an introduction to the man who changed my grandmother’s plans.

Oven Beef Stew

2 T. all-purpose flour
1 ½ t. salt
Pepper to taste
1 ½ lbs. beef chuck (cubed)
2 T. shortening (optional substitute: olive oil)
2 – 10 oz. cans tomato soup
1 ½ C. chopped onion
½ t. dried basil
2 ½ C. water
4 medium potatoes, cubed
4 medium carrots, sliced
½ C. dry red wine (or water)

Combine flour, salt, and pepper. Dredge meat cubes in mixture. Brown in hot oil or shortening in Dutch oven or other oven-safe pot. Add soup, water, onion, and basil. Cover and cook in 375 degree oven for one hour. Add potatoes, carrots, and wine. Cover and bake one hour more.


From my Grandmother's memoirs:

Saturday morning, I sat down with Joe’s sister, Rose, for a cup of coffee.
“Ann and Frankie are back,” she said.
“Who are Ann and Frankie,” I asked.
“Ann is Joe’s wife and Frankie is his son. Didn’t you know about Ann and Frankie?” I froze. Joe had never said anything about a wife and son. What kind of man was this?
“Rose, tell me about Joe,” I said.
“What can I say? Where can I start?” she answered.

Frank Marino was born October 9, 1872, in Caccuri, Calabria, Italy, the son of James and Mary Countico Marino. He went to school in Calabria and helped in the olive groves. In 1902, after an argument with his uncle, he left his wife, Annunziata, four-year-old son, Vincenzo, and newborn daughter, Mary, and traveled to America. He planned to make money there and return to Italy for his family.

He did return, in 1907, for a visit, but then headed back to America again, leaving his wife with another baby girl, Carolina. In 1912, Annunziata and the girls joined Frank in America. She left her son in the care of his uncle, who felt it unwise to take the boy out of school and into a foreign land and an unknown future.

Joseph Anthony Marino, 1940's
The family settled in Shinnston, a small coal camp town in northern West Virginia. Joseph Anthony Marino, their second son, was born May 5, 1913. He weighed only three pounds and could fit in a shoe box. His life was in jeopardy because his mother didn't like American food and refused to eat but sparingly during her pregnancy.

He quickly developed, however, into a healthy young boy and was soon joined by a set of twin girls, Katrina and Jeannina, another sister, Rosana, and a brother, Francisco. In the twenties, Frances and Guitano were born, making a family of ten children. They later Americanized their names to Katie, Jennie, Rose, Frank, Frances, and Guy.

Home was a four-room company house. There was one bedroom, a front room, dining room, and kitchen. The parents and youngest slept in the bedroom. The other children shared a bed in front of the fireplace in the living room. Meals were served in the kitchen and the dining room was unused and just for show. The two older girls stood on tubs or boxes to wash clothes, iron, and do dishes. They cared for and changed babies as they arrived. Their mother restricted her duties to making meals, bread, and holiday cookies. She was good at delegating work. Most of her pitas, fancy Christmas and Easter bread, and fritas were saved for visitors and neighbors. They were hidden in the unused dining room. Joe, at an early age, learned how to enter through a window and get his share.

The older girls took Joe and the twins along when they went to pick blackberries for their father’s homemade wine, to collect coal along the tracks for the fireplace and stove, and to the closest grocery store for the bare necessities. Frank protested loudly if a small portion of the berries was set aside for jam or jelly. He liked his wine. The family adjusted to the noisy weekends when he and friends gathered around the kitchen table to drink, play games, and demand service. The drinking began when Frank’s workday ended on Friday and continued through the weekend. He rarely failed, however, to return to work on Monday.
The family lived in a cozy neighborhood with about eight houses on each side of the road. Everyone knew their neighbor. The children played together during the day and returned home early since there were no street lights.

Joe and the twins tagged along behind neighborhood kids on a mile-long route to grade school. In a bag or pocket, they carried a chunk of homemade bread, a small piece of pepperoni, or a pepper and tomato sandwich. As they grew older, they often hid to eat their lunch, away from the eyes of more well-to-do children with sandwiches, cookies, and fruit for their lunches.

Dinners, as a rule, consisted of homemade bread, macaroni, beans, soup and/or greens. Nancy prepared her plate with fresh, green vegetables, oranges sliced and sprinkled with olive oil, and fried bread dough.
Their highlight at Christmas was a small wind-up dancing man on a box their father placed on top of the fireplace. On Christmas morning, they might receive an orange or an apple or, on rare occasions, a small bag of Christmas candy.

Winters were cold. Many days, the children trod to school with red, runny noses, chapped hands and lips, numb fingers and toes, and tears in their eyes from the bitter wind. Their father worked hard, but food and clothes were costly for a large family, leaving little for extras such as gloves, scarves, toboggans, and books. When Joe brought home a list of materials needed for school, Frank let forth a string of expletives. The children learned to save paper, use pencil stubs, and borrow books. Despite these restrictions, Joe was a good student.

When Joe was ten, Caroline married Sam, a man fourteen years her senior. She joined him in Morgantown where he owned and operated a shoe repair shop. They took the youngest daughter, Frances, with them, but soon traded her for five-year-old Rose. Caroline was leaving home and was made to feel it was her responsibility to help out by taking one of the children.

That summer, Joe, carrying a small cardboard suitcase, boarded a train for Morgantown and his sister’s home. While there, he rose early in the morning and went to the shoe shop to open and prepare it for the day. When school started, he would rush off when his brother-in-law arrived. After school, he returned to the shop for his shoe-shining job until after dark.

He became quite adept at shining shoes with rhythm and made enough in tips to pay the shop’s rent. He didn’t dare keep any of it. It was dropped in the rent box. He cried for over an hour one evening after work for ten cents to go see a western movie playing in town. When Caroline finally convinced Sam to give in, Joe ran all the way to town.

Joe didn't like the school in Morgantown. He missed his family and friends. He resented his sister and himself being used for child labor. Right before school was due to start again for the year, he boarded the train with money received from his sister and went home. Sam protested, exclaiming that was the thanks he got for taking in kids to help the family only to have them turn out ingrates. 

Knowing his father would share his brother-in-law's feelings, Joe looked for work so he wouldn't be a burden. He swept out the local theater after movies, cleaned and mopped the town drug store and a barber shop, and even opened up and heated a small one-room school before classes.

His father soon started suggesting he leave school to work in a local bakery. His mother refused and stood her ground. It hadn't bothered her that her daughters had minimal education, but she declared that if the sons of local businessmen and miners could have their educations, her son would have his. Besides, she argued, with a high school diploma, he could get a better job and earn more money.

Joe grew into a dark, thick-haired, Italian football star. He saved newspaper clippings describing him as "the fast Reno," in reports of the school's football games. He was junior class president, editor of the school newspaper, and maintained a good grade point average. 

Before graduation, he was invited to West Virginia University to try out for the football team. There were no full time scholarships for college players. Students were given the privilege of playing. When summer football training began, he made the trip to Morgantown. He left the house with his father asking, "Aren't you ever going to stop playing and do something to help out?"

Joe ran onto the football field to join the other beginners. There were several taller, bigger, and tougher looking contestants, but he knew he had speed and felt he could compete. He fared well through the routines and returned to the dressing room. His dreams vanished as he was told the tuition and book costs to attend the university. He had planned to live with his sister and work to pay room and board, but he knew he would fall short of the money to meet expenses. He packed up his few belongings and returned home. School days were over and it was time to go to work.

For more of the story and great family recipes:

Rose's Recipes Archive

Turning It Upside Down
Beautiful Basics

Birds in a Nest
Cabbage Rolls and the Role of a Woman
The Sauce

Do you have a great family recipe and/or story?  Submit it to us at


  1. I've never tried that recipe and I think that will have to change this week. Although I was familiar with the story, I loved reading it again. I love when you post from her journals because it is like she is still here with us. Well, I guess, in many ways, she is.

    1. I could read from the things she left us for days, even when I've read it before. It definitely helps me stay connected to both of them. I feel so fortunate that she left us so much in writing. Thanks!