This article originally appeared in The Messenger’s Westside Weekly. All photos here are by St Michael's College, Adelaide.
It’s been nearly 50 years since Nick Mercurio graduated from St Michael’s College but he’s still playing a vital role at his old school, teaching students how to make his family’s special pasta sauce. Every year, he hosts De La Sauce Day at the school. St Michael’s then sells the bottles at its market stall days to raise money for charity. Here, Mr Mercurio has written a letter to his grandchildren, who attend the western suburbs school, to encourage them to keep the Italian tradition alive.
Dear my grandchildren,
I have been making sauce since I was a child. It is a tradition which we brought to Adelaide from my birthplace, San Giorgio La Molara in central Italy.
When I was a child, we made our own sauce, wine, prosciutto and sausages in our old packing shed on our celery farm.
We grew our own Roma tomatoes especially for sauce making and, every February, the family would come together for the big cooking day. We all had jobs to do on that big day, just like you have now.
The head of the production line was always my mum – your bisnonna (great-grandmother). We made sauce for many years with my cousins and, later, with my own kids, now your parents.
It is a day where we all come together, work, sing songs, eat and remember our heritage.
Since February 2016, I have helped keep the tradition alive at St Michael’s College and I help host an annual sauce day, which we call De La Sauce.
Every year since then, we have coincided the day with Shrove Tuesday and it has turned out to be a wonderful time to get together and live, breathe and, most importantly, taste one of our wonderful Italian traditions.
Not only does this day bring back an important cultural tradition, it teaches students at St Michael’s to learn safe and hygienic work practices in the kitchen, while the older students explore the mathematics behind the production. It also launches our Kitchen Garden Program’s cooking classes each year.
I, too, went to St Michael’s from 10 years old and I graduated in 1968. My son and nephews went there and now, you and your cousins.
I have so many wonderful memories of my time at school so when I was asked for advice on the sauce-making process, I readily volunteered to make it happen.
I am so happy that I have been able to reconnect and give back to our strong school community to keep this Italian tradition alive. I hope that De La Sauce Day will be a tradition that you will continue for many years to come.
Love Nonno (grandfather)
To find out how your school or centre can dig into pleasurable food education like St Michael’s College, head to the Kitchen Garden Classroom membership page.
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