Despite growing up during the Great Depression, Emily Leatrice never felt deprived. She remembered her early childhood fondly and would recount stories about the little pleasures that made her days special and life sweet.
We’ve focused on the memories and family stories Emily shared with us and round them out with additional details gathered from the readings noted in the Resources section.
–Sam Serrapede, Jr.
–EmilyAnn Frances May
Emily L. Serrapede (1931-2011) was the daughter of Sam and Josie Serrapede. She was the older sister of Gerry and Sammy. EmilyAnn knew her as “The Mom.”
Family Story: The Little Mouse
Emily liked to be in the kitchen on Sunday mornings whenever Sam was grating a chunk of Locatelli or Romano cheese. Josie was usually at the stove heating up the tomato sauce and cooking the pasta that were part of the main meal for the day.
As Sam grated the cheese Emily would stare at him until he stopped and asked her “Che fa? (“What’s up?”) Emily pointed to the large chunk of cheese and said one word, “Please?” Sam laughed and cut off a small piece which she took and enjoyed eating.
In a few minutes she’d come back and stare at him again. This time he’d ask her what she wanted and she would reach over for the chunk of cheese. He’d cut another little piece and she’d go into the living room and enjoy the sharp flavor of the cheese.
When she came back again, Sam would tell her to get out of the kitchen quick otherwise she’d turn into a mouse. Emily was not to be deterred and she’d wait for one more little piece before calling it a day. She knew that more than three times would get her into trouble.
Italian cheeses and olive oils were very expensive during the Great Depression. Since food preparation linked the family to their own culture and ancestral country many Italian families went without newer clothing or shoes just to make sure the quality of the traditional dietary items was the best they could get. This might be one of the reasons why Sam carefully measured out the size of the slices of cheese he would give Emily.