Happy New Year

Dear friends:

After a year of long hours spent studying hard and earnestly writing for this page, it is time to take some vacation time until the beginning of March. We thank all our eager readers and loyal followers for their continued support during these months, which has emboldened us to try harder to please them.  We made new friends across the globe, who have freshly enriched our lives. I’d like to especially thank my daughter Noël Marie and my son Gian Luca whose help has been priceless to carry on this digital task.

All right. All right. We heard you. For the past few weeks we have received many email messages to our page, asking us to continue the successful series called “Emotional frustration”, which is the necessary scaffolding for the homonymous book we are writing now and hopefully finish by July 2018. It seems that many ladies really enjoy seeing in writing some of the heartfelt situations they, or a few of their girlfriends, have gone through as they sip a cup of coffee, alone in the kitchen before the household wakes up. Due to popular demand, we’ll continue it until we formally launch the book.

As we previously announced my son Gian Luca and I will start designing a videoblog series called “Cibovagabondaggio” where we will visit novel, little known restos in the USA and abroad to show you what they have to offer and how they prepare it. Also as a film and film-making enthusiast I will start to regularly blog about movies in my son’s  website.

We hope that you have a Happy Holiday Season and an auspicious start of 2018.

Until next time

Hasta la próxima

A bientôt

Vi rincrociamo

Auf wiedersehn



La Befana

On this Christmas Eve millions of children in the Italian peninsula are (like their parents and grandparents once were too) waiting eagerly for a special character to show up late at night and deliver their gifts. No. It’s not Santa Claus. It’s a creepy old lady called La Befana.

She comes stealthily in every home in the middle of the night to deliver the gifts and then speeds away in her broom; however if the children have been naughty she only leaves  a piece of “coal” as a dire warning to mend their ways for the next Christmas season.

That tradition harks back to the ancient times when the Celts ruled over the “Pianura Padana”, the fertile land encompassed by the flowing Po river in Northern Italy. Every major Celtic settlement had a priestess that prepared a bonfire ritual after the Winter Solstice to implore the Gods for a mild Winter and a plentiful Spring-Summer season. In the Middle Ages that custom degenerated in the burning of “a witch” in the town square.

After the Holidays have passed Italians gather in a desolate part of the neighborhood to  celebrate the Epiphany with family and friends.  All the assistants contribute with a little money to pay for some wine, drinks and snacks. They serve a hot wine called “brule” which contains clover, cinnamon, sugar and in some instances also bits of apple. In the end they lit a bonfire to burn the Befana and watch which way the smoke is drifting to. If it’s the Southwest, it’s a good omen that the year will be good for planting and harvest.

In our traditional Italian culture, which has been nurtured by our mothers in the cozy hearth, the female gender has a double mental representation. On one hand it’s the loving and beautiful image of a young woman that gives us life and protects us all along. On the other hand it’s the disgusting image of an old witch that can take all that away. Personally I believe that our mothers sagely trained us from the cradle to be kind and affectionate with women in general so as not to awaken their hideous hidden self.

What will happen tonight at home? Will the Befana bring me a nice gift or a piece of coal? Hey, I’ve been such a good boy all year long… Don’t you agree, ladies?

As an exception we are posting this article on a Sunday to wish all our Christian friends, and those that are not but like the festivity, a very Merry Christmas with your loved ones.

Buon Natale!



The Impossible Love

-“Doctor…I think of him all the time—sadly our love was not meant to be.”

Victoria X. is a successful and enchanting middle-aged lawyer that has a beautiful family of five, a loving husband and four gifted children. However she still longs for that older man that seduced her while she was a college student with his wits and poise; they had a tumultuous love affair but it ended when he refused to leave his wife for her. Hr own Impossible Love.

Considering that I have heard many similar stories during my medical practice, I decided to use that concept in my novel “Madame D.C.” as one of the plot drivers. Maurizio, one of the three main protagonists, is being coached by a uniquely mellifluous counsellor that camouflages as an innocuous bank clerk in Coral Gables. The maliciously manipulative character aims to give him a unique emotional compass in the treacherous path to reach Emily’s heart so he would become inevitably, tragically beholden to “it.”

“Maurizio entered the cavernous lobby of the Coral Gables bank at ten in the morning, barely one hour after it opened, with no customers in sight. Mr. Roth’s secretary had left him a message the day before, telling him that his loan had been approved and that he had to come to sign the paperwork.

Maurizio could not believe that the fastidiously staid bank would take that risk with someone like him devoid of any significant credit track record. In fact he had filled the application forms expecting a negative outcome.

It turned out differently. He had a friend inside with unusual powers.

After he was done signing, Maurizio thanked Mr. Roth’s secretary and went out to the main lobby to cash a check for his weekend expenditures. Everybody seemed to be either taking care of a sudden wave of customers or taking their breaks, for which he stood in line for the next available clerk.

-“Psst… Maurizio, come here,” said a voice carried by a rare scent.

He walked up to the far window where Lucy was waiting. “Are you free?”

Lucy smiled broadly. “I only show up for VIP customers like you—”

-“Thanks. Just want to cash this,” he said passing the check across the ledge. -“Got my loan finally…. Thanks for putting a good word for me.”

-“Don’t know the half of it… Roth first rejected it but a top dog overruled him…He owes me ‘cause I helped him get rid of his rabid mate. Sad story.”Maurizio put the dollar bills in an envelope and was ready to leave.

-“Thanks… It’s time to go back for the lunch—”

-“Wait a minute…How come you don’t have a girl-friend yet?”

-“I don’t know…Funny that you’ve asked because I just met a nice girl.”

-“Well, then don’t let her go away…Grab her…Fast… Give her what every woman secretly desires in her heart and only a few can obtain—”

-“What? A nice car? She has a Jaguar already.”


-“What? A diamond ring? She has a rock already.”


-“Mmm…What can she possibly want? I know—a Falcon jet.”

-“NO…It’s the illusion that has prodded women to go through the travails of procreation for ages…And toil so hard for their children and spouses.”

-“Don’t play that sentimental card with me.”  Maurizio twinkled his nose.

-“Er…I’ll tell you in exchange for a tiny winy favour… Deal?”

-“Sounds fair…Okay. What does that rich uptown girl covet?”

-“An Impossible Love—the more twisted, the better….Colonize her mind, hijack her dreams, confiscate all her hours—put some poetry in her life.”

Maurizio was left speechless by the logic of his Caribbean Celestina.”

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone?

The PURE study

In modern nations the importance of consuming fruits and vegetables in order to prevent cardiovascular diseases has been studied extensively. However the same does not hold truth for the rest of the nations until the “Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology” (PURE) study, a prospective cohort study that involved 135,335 participants aged 35 to 70 years without cardiovascular disease in 18 low, middle and high income countries. Dietary guidelines recommend a minimum of 400g/day of fruits and vegetables but it has not been truly achieved on a global basis due to the cost limitations.

Victoria Miller et al. enrolled participants between January 2003 and March 2103 that responded to standardised questionnaires about socio-economic, lifestyle, personal health and family histories. They studied outcomes like major events related to cardiovascular disease (myocardial infarction, stroke, heart failure) and mortality rates produced by those conditions. Cox models were created to study the association with fruit and vegetables consumption. Potatoes and other tubers, fruit-vegetable juices were excluded; the legumes were beans, black beans, lentils, peas, chickpeas and black-eyed peas.

The authors wrote: “during a median 7.4 years (5.5-9.3) of follow-up, 4784 major cardiovascular disease events, 1649 cardiovascular deaths, and 5796 total deaths were documented. Higher total fruit, vegetable, and legume intake was inversely associated with major cardiovascular disease, myocardial infarction, cardiovascular mortality, non-cardiovascular mortality, and total mortality in the models adjusted for age, sex and centre…Higher fruit, vegetable, and legume consumption was associated with lower risk of non-cardiovascular, and total mortality. Benefits appear to be maximum for both non-cardiovascular mortality and total mortality at three to four servings per day (equivalent to 375-500 g/day)”

The researchers also found that participants that consumed more fruits, vegetables and legumes had higher education, higher levels of physical activity, lower rates of smoking, and higher energy, meat consumption and were more likely to live in urban areas. There was an 11% lower risk of major cardiovascular disease for the highest fruit intake category compared with the lowest category intake; there was a minimum benefit from a higher vegetable input. The authors hypothesized that given that vegetables can be consumed raw or cooked, the latter might have degraded nutrient contents.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

Il Panettone

The leavened cake made with a base of water, flour, butter, eggs plus the addition of dried fruits and nuts is a traditional staple in the Italian—and by extension the Italian-American—tables during the Christmas season. We have all watched our dear grandmothers and mothers bake it at home or in modern times accompany them to our favorite bakery to buy them.

What is the origin of this simple yet delicious accoutrement of festivities? There are two major legends and both arise from Milano in the Middle Ages.

The first legend says that the cooks preparing a big banquet hosted by Ludovico il Moro, the powerful duke of the city, had forgotten to take out the dessert from the oven, which ended up as pure carbon. A humble kitchen helper called Toni prepared an impromptu cake with the kitchen leftovers. The head cook was reluctant to present that novelty in the master’s table but he finally agreed, hiding behind a curtain to peek at the guests’ reaction. Everybody loved it including Ludovico who inquired who had prepared it. The cook came out of hiding, saying: “L’è ‘l pan del Toni”, i.e. il panettone.

The second one tells the passionate love that a young nobleman called Ulivo degli Atellani de Futi, a.k.a Toni, had for Algissa, the gorgeous daughter of a baker from the quarter of Contrada delle Grazie. Observing that the girl was permanently courted by many aspiring lovers that she invariably rejected, he devised a novel plan to seduce her. Camouflaging himself as a humble man, he was hired by her father to tend the wood oven in the early dawn, One day he mixed the best flour he could find with eggs, butter, honey and sultanina grapes and he clandestinely prepared the dough; then he baked it in the oven. When his boss came to check on his work, he was very impressed by it; he put it for sale in his stalls, becoming an instant success for the establishment.

When Algissa found out what he had done, she became infatuated with him. Except for the occasional gold-digger only interested in material goods, most women would appreciate that noble, original gesture inspired by his strong affection for her.

As the great playwright Jean Baptiste de Poquelin (Molière) sagely told us: “La grande ambition des femmes c’est d’inspirer l’amour.”

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

The compulsive gambler

-“Doctor…My husband is addicted to gambling—he’s destroying us.”

Maria X. is an educated and charming middle-aged lady with a caring husband and two teenage daughters; unfortunately the successful car dealer likes to visit almost daily all the gambling options available in South Florida to try his luck. He has won big several times but his losses are even greater. Slowly he is eroding the good financial standing of the whole family and only the firm determination of his wife prevented him from mortgaging their colonial style mansion in South Dade to pay off some outstanding debts.

The basis of this addiction is that gambling stimulates the brain’s reward system like drugs and alcohol, being closely related to some personality disorders like highly competitive, restless or easily bored individuals. Sometimes it is only another behavioural manifestation of mental health disorders like depression/anxiety, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder or substance abuse. It used to be much more common in men but women are catching up quickly; it appears in middle age but when it does in later stages, it worsens rapidly.

As we have already discussed in our previous articles about alcohol abuse and compulsive shopping, the addicted individual needs to increase the amount he/she/sie invests in order to maintain the same level of satisfaction. Oftentimes it is an escapist attitude to cope with family or work problems that cannot be easily shared with the individual’s intimate circle. When the addicted persons try to control or stop this addiction, they feel restless and irritable with the inevitably nefarious social and professional consequences. In a consumerist society like the USA with plenty of physical and virtual opportunities to wager on almost any kind of sports or gaming tables, this addiction is fast becoming not only a personal but also a public problem.

There are some American civic personalities that are questioning the spread of state-sponsored lotteries with the purported aim of funding education; they claim that they prey on the poor and gullible without helping them.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

The first man that listened to women

Sigismund Schlomo Freud—born on May 6th 1856 in Pribor, Moravia and passed away on September 23rd 1939 in London, England—is one of the most respected and at the same time debated physicians in modern medicine. He was one of the earliest founders of Psychoanalysis and his pioneering work in the intricacies of the Unconscious mind still perturbs us all deeply.  He was definitely the first man that considered women as human beings with their own particular sexual desires and listened eagerly at what they said.

If you peek briefly at our screen presentation, you will see a depiction by Brouillet of a theatrical class by Jean-Martin Charcot in the Neurology clinical ward of the Pitié-Salpetrière hospital of Paris, where he had showed the power of the techniques of hypnosis to extract information from “hysterical” women that expressed neurological symptoms. Charcot dismissed the sexually-related complaints of women—“la chose genitale”—as not relevant to the therapy. But there was one Austrian physician in the public that, after spending time studying with Charcot, went back to Vienna and teamed up with Joseph Breuer to design the free association and interpretation of dreams. The recall of the early psychological traumas uncovered the origin of clinical neuroses.

In the puritan social atmosphere of early 20th century Vienna, Freud was considered a dangerous, rebel practitioner and he struggled to make a living. Even today he still has many ardent detractors that view him as nothing more than a clinical impostor that has been unfairly idealized by the public. Frederick Crews writes in his book “The making of an illusion” that we must strip Freud of his perennial image as “a lone explorer possessing courageous perseverance, deductive brilliance, tragic insight, and healing power.”  He even claimed that Freud had plagiarized the data of Pierre Janet, a French psychologist, in his articles, which is refuted by the fact that Freud gave due credit to his colleague in his early writings about the origin of neuroses.

Keenly trying to disparage him Crews writes about Freud’s experimentation with cocaine, a new drug then, his Victorian views of women and even his purported affair with his sister-in-law. He questions his whining about being a “lone outcast” dismissed because he was a Jew, considering that 20 % of the student body in his medical school class were Jewish, even though only 10% of the city population professed that faith. As a member of the Italian-American community, I understand how Freud wanted to assimilate while at the same time  keeping a resilient sense of “not belonging.”

What really flustered me when I was reading this book is that the author claimed that Freud had little contact with patients and that he fabricated his clinical data. In the Library of Congress, we can see Freud’s 1886-1889 patient record book where it shows that he treated almost 500 of them regularly. There is no way that Freud could have learnt so much about women and their ideation without going through the slogging task of actually listening to them. I know. I have been there. In a humble physician’s office like Freud’s inner sanctum.

What really prodded me to write about women’s emotional frustration in my novel “Madame D.C.” and in my 2nd manuscript, is that, after stoically listening to them in my office for years, something has percolated through my brain. In our male-dominated society, that caring predisposition to really listen to them can make you a lot of enemies.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.