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Cheese and culture

For the Santabarbara family, cheese is more than a tasty, high-protein treat, wine is more than a spirit that goes well with dinner, and meat is more than something you pick up at the supermarket. For them, these items are associated with hard work, culture and family.

Three generations of Santabarbaras sat around a kitchen table on a recent afternoon over plates piled high with homemade meats, cheeses and other Italian goodies to discuss how those foods are made and what that process means to them.

My family has quite a history, said Angelo Santabarbara of Rotterdam.

His parents lived in neighboring Italian towns close to Naples City but did not meet until they moved to Rotterdam.

"I'm the first generation that was born here. I kind of take an interest in what happens, what happened or what still is happening [with my family]. We still have family in Italy, back in our town in Italy," said Santabarbara.

In Italy, Santabarbara's parents, Angelo and Marianna Santabarbara, made much of their own food. They didn't have the luxury of driving in a car to the supermarket to pick up staples such as cheese and bread. They had to make it themselves and also figure out how to preserve it. Air could ruin anything. Oil could preserve anything.

"The way we survived over there, everything was homemade, and we had to keep on doing it, and it was a necessity to do it," said the elder Santabarbara.

In America, making your own foods, such as cheese and wine and pasta, seems like a luxury. The process of making your own cheese takes weeks from start to finish, on top of hours of physical labor. The same can be said for making wine and tomato sauce, all of which the Santabarbaras make in abundance.

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