Sharing my dad’s memories 

For me, so many of my memories from childhood and adulthood, are tied to food. I don’t know if that’s true everybody, but it’s true and my family.  Recently my dad took the time to write down some of his memories of his childhood, and of my childhood and the memories were so poignant, and descriptive, and funny, and tied to food, that I decided to start a little blog to track some of his memories. I thought, however that I would share a couple posts here, I think you will enjoy.

There are two posts that I will share, both concern mushroom hunting, and tasting. I will finish up after the two post of his with a delicious cream of mushroom soup that my sister found and has since perfected and we all enjoy.

So, here is post 1 from my Dad’s memory blog, Bagna Cauda



Young kid. My dad asked if I wanted to go mushrooming. We went with three of my dad best friends, Martin, Barney, Charley. All founders of the Fratellanza Club. (The Fratellanza Club is a men’s Italian club in Berkeley, CA founded in 1932 by my grandfather and some of his friends; it still exists today. More on the Fratellanza Club.) 

On the way up to the hills above Napa, to a property owned by a club member, they talked in Italian. I knew these men since my memory began and I loved them all. They would bring me toys, take me for ice cream, etc. I understood half of what they were saying. Then one of them said “What about Bobby?” They began speaking in English. They were talking about mushrooming in Italy in their different areas, what was good or bad, poisons, etc. 

Side note….they talked about truffles. Piedmonte, where my mom and dad’s families comes from, is famous for truffles. They use trained dogs to sniff them out of the ground. The dogs don’t eat them but in France they use trained pigs and they do eat them. The joke was Italians are smarter. 

Then I asked a thoughtless, young, slightly insulting question. How do they know that the mushrooms here are the same? They said that they went mushrooming many times here with people who knew the difference and that California and Italy are very similar. Then Martin said, with a smile on his face…”Bobby, we are not foolish men.” 

My grandfather, Bartelomeo Fornengo, as a young man

Side note ….I think it was the wars. Italians were interned in camps here and looked down on by some. Yet, as a rule they were very successful, then the mafia, but to a man they were wearing what I call the respectable Italian man uniform. White shirt buttoned to the collar, no tie, coat with lapels, slacks well worn, but clean, and dress shoes clean and shinny. This was to go mushrooming in the woods???? 

I didn’t go through what they must have. Giving me a little more understanding about that was what happened to me in the park across the street after that. One of my friends ran up to me and excitedly said ” my mom said that i can’t play with you because you’r Italian and catholic” I had no reaction, I didn’t know what to think so ran and played with my friends. Days later he joined us all again. I guess he got tired of being left out. ….to be continued.


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