I am the eldest child of 4 children (Linda, Raymond, Janet and Diana) born to Mary and Albert Tonellato. I’d like to tell you how our family started and I’ll finish with our tradition of cooking baccalà.
My paternal grandfather, Secondo Tonellato, came to Australia from Caselle di Altivole, Treviso in 1927 to work and prepare for his family to follow him. When nonno arrived, he worked to get money and then he leased and later bought land on Frogmore Road to grow vegetables.
When his wife, Elisabetta, and five children were about to arrive in 1935, Secondo bought a train carriage to use as their home. The famous vagone which had only been used once by the Duke and Duchess of York while he was in South Australia in 1927. My Dad, Albert, was 10 years old when he arrived. He went to school at St Joseph’s Hindmarsh until he was old enough to go to work in a fish shop in Adelaide. After that he worked on his father’s land growing vegetables on Frogmore Road.
My maternal grandfather, Giosue Zoanetti, also arrived in 1927 from Zuclo, Trento. He went to work land at Basket Range until nonna, Metilde, and my mum, Mary, arrived in 1931 when she was 7 years old. She went to school at Basket Range Primary School and then to Norwood High. While at school, mum had many Australian friends and loved cooking using recipes from ‘The Green and Gold Cookery Book.’
Unfortunately, when Italy joined Germany in World War II, Italians in Australia were looked upon as the enemy and anxiety and fear entered the lives of Italians and Anglo Australians. After this happened, Mum recalled how some people treated her differently because she was Italian.
In 1941, the family moved to Fulham as my nonno had leased land there. Sadly, my nonno died in 1943 and nonna and Mary, my mum, moved to another leased property off Grange Road not far from Frogmore Road where Mary met Albert and in 1947 they married.
So started the Albert and Mary Tonellato family.
Mum and Dad believed it was important for us, their children, to experience the best of both Anglo Australian and Italian cultures. Mum loved sweets and cooked the best fritelle (fried pastries like doughnuts) and lemon meringue pie. She also baked hot cross buns on Good Friday along with baccalà.
In our family we still cook these foods. As for the baccalà, it was always Mum who cooked it with Dad as her kitchen hand. When we all had our families, it was never a sit-down and eat together meal on Good Friday as Mum preferred us to go mid-morning for a coffee and pick up the baccalà and polenta to take home. About 16 years ago, we decided it was time for us to learn how to cook baccalà. My sisters and sister-in-law, Elaine, all went to Mum and Dad’s house and we watched Mum and documented what she did. The next year we worked from the recipe while Mum watched on adding extra comments if we didn’t get it right and we adjusted our recipe accordingly. The following year we got it right! I still remember that Dad was very proud of us as he quietly told us that it was as good as Mum’s, without Mum hearing.
Every year since then, Ray or my husband, Armando, cut the cod which then gets put in a large tub of water which Elaine changes two or three times a day for four days.
On the Thursday before Easter, we clean and cook the cod in Ray and Elaine’s kitchen and we work all together on their long kitchen bench top sharing a drink and some laughs. When it is cooked each of us takes our share to eat with our families.
Dad died on 13 April 2010 and Mum died on 16th September 2020. For now, our children are happy for us to cook but when we are unable to continue, I am sure they will learn as we did, and so the tradition will continue.
Linda Zamperin nee Tonellato
26 March 2023