Giulia will be having her baby any day now so while we are all waiting I've started doing a little nesting myself. For a long time now I've wanted to go through Nonna's hope chest; it's nearing a decade since she passed away at age ninety.
She was an amazing woman: frugal, organized, efficient, as kind as they come and with a memory that makes your jaw drop. I loved listening to her tales of childhood, life during the Second World War when she was a young mom and stories about my husband: her cherished baby boy.
As Nonna aged she started organizing all her belongings: throwing out never used things, and getting down to bare essentials. She told me she didn't want to leave her two children with the burden of sorting through piles of things once she was gone, and leaving them feeling guilty about getting rid of all the trappings of her life. When the time came I was the one who sorted through her belongings and I appreciated her effort. One thing she did that I found to be so lovely was to label all the belongings of her life that she thought her children and grandchildren might enjoy. Her labels told a story about each item and I've loved them all.
Nonna's hope chest is an enormous solid wood chest that we've loved using in our home but going through it has stayed on the back burner all these years beyond a cursory glance to confirm that it seemed to be filled with sheets and towels.
Now that Giulia is having a baby and has her own family starting off the time has come to dig into the chest.
Tied in ribbon are set after set of sheets and towels: never used, all from the time of her own wedding. They're all 100% cotton and linen: ironed so beautifully that not a crease can be seen. They'll never look that beautiful ever again as I don't know anyone who irons quite like that these days.
There were two centrini wrapped in tissue that Nonna had embroidered when she was thirteen years old. Look at the picture above; that's one of them under the coffee maker. I won't go into all the wonderful things that I found in the chest, but I did find Nonna's Neapolitan coffee maker. All these years I'd thought it was lost, or had been thrown away, but there it was and I can't tell you how happy it made me to see it! It's three quarters of a century old and was the signature of Nonna's wonderful coffee since I first met her. I don't know quite why I loved that old thing...it's a bit battered...but its a charming little artifact from Nonna's daily life and part of one of the miracles she produced and served us every day in her kitchen.
I've always used a Moka to make my coffee, and more recently I use an espresso maker. The concept with the Moka is that water boils, and the steam produced passes through the coffee and into the top of the Moka.
The Neapolitan system is totally different and based on gravity, or a drip technique although the same powder-fine espresso coffee is still used. There are three compartments: one for water on the bottom, a coffee compartment in the middle, and the top compartment is to hold the coffee. When the water begins to boil you turn off the heat, flip the coffee maker and the water drips through the coffee into the third compartment. Very simple and very delicious!
Nonna's coffee maker is made by Ilsa and they still make the exact same model of coffee maker that Nonna used following the Second World War. If you're not a fan of the Moka system you might want to try the Ilsa drip coffee system...enjoy!