Big Mike‘s older brother Fred was my godfather and favorite uncle. Fred was born in Italy and at the age of 7 emigrated to the U.S. aboard the Principe di Piemonte, accompanied by his mother and two younger sisters. They were met in New York by my grandfather, who had arrived in the U.S. a few years earlier in order to get established. Big Mike was born three years later in what was then known as Italian Harlem. Grandpa later moved the family to Yorkville, where he had a shoemaker business and where Big Mike grew up before he left for service with the CCC. Later grandpa and grandma moved to DeKalb Avenue off of Gun Hill Road in The Bronx, where, I believe, this photo was taken.
Fred was a consummate New Yorker whose sartorial elegance can be attested to in the above photo. He raised his family in Parkchester, the Bronx, while working for the Agence France-Presse in Midtown Manhattan. When Fred retired in the 1960s, he and his wife moved to Falmouth on Cape Cod. My wife and I, along with our two daughters, spent many summers on the Cape during the 1970s, 80s and 90s, before establishing residency there ourselves, a few years ago. During those summers we always stopped in to see Uncle Fred and Aunt Jo and bring them a supply of provisions from New York, which were unattainable on The Cape.
Fred invariably reciprocated with something from his freezer, which would serve as our first night’s dinner in our rental house. He also was generous in sharing his recipes, one of which was ‘Kale with Black Olives’. Kale, a dark leafy vegetable that serves as an excellent source of vitamins A and C, calcium and fiber, was one of his favorite vegetables and he used it both as a side dish and in soups. More of his recipes will be published in the future, but for now, I begin my tribute to Uncle Fred with Kale Steamed with Black Olives.
Also see: Uncle Fred’s Lentil Soup