Luisa Tetrazinni, born in 1871 was an Italian coloratura soprano and enjoyed great international fame. She enjoyed a highly successful operatic and concert career in Europe and America from the 1890's o the 1920's. According to Wikipedia, her voice was remarkable for its phenomenal flexibility, thrust, steadiness and thrilling tone. Luisa is thought to be eponymous of a popular American dish, Turkey Tetrazzini, that has come to be one of my family's favorite casserole dishes.
Over the years, I've come to appreciate Wikipedia as a source for general knowledge as well as word origins. I was not disappointed when researching the origin of a dish we've come to know as Chicken rather than Turkey Tetrazzini. My Grandma Elliott, was the first in my family to make Tetrazinni, a dish which allegedly originated in San Francisco, a city where Luisa Tetrazinni resided for years.
Since my grandmother came from a Southern background of fried chicken and chicken and dumplings fame, it is a mystery to our family how she came upon this recipe. It has passed down through my mother to my sister, my daughter and I and often finds its way to the table at holidays. Our added pleasure with the dish can be seen when someone at the table mispronounces it as my Grandma did, “Chicken TetZaZinni.” We all chuckle as we remember her small faux pas with obvious affection and absolutely no disrespect intended.
The recipe made its way into the 1991 edition of the North Kannapolis Baptist Church cookbook, only a few years before my Grandma Elliott passed away. In my copy of the cookbook, it bears its real title of Tetrazzini, followed by her given name Hattie. Surely, my grandmother never dreamed this recipe nor the cute way she had of saying its name would live on after her in our hearts. Our family found my grandmother's cooking and baking to be as remarkable and thrilling as Luisa Tetrazzini's voice must have been to her listeners. She stole our hearts more than one time in the kitchen.
Most people called my grandmother Hattie. I had the privilege of calling her “Mamaw Hattie.” I always wanted to be like her. I can still see her open the door wearing her apron and opening her arms to give me a great big hug. Grandma.. I haven't worn that title, even though I'm a grandmother. My grandchildren chose to call me “Neenie.” It's my name for now and forever.
Imagine the thrill I had one day when suddenly, out of the blue, my granddaughter announced while eating this family favorite....”We should call this “Chicken TetzaNeenie.” My eponym was born.
I will never thrill an audience with my voice and you may never find my eponym on Wikipedia, but I feel sure this family recipe and the love that passed from my Mamaw Elliott will continue to be passed around the family table for years to come.
“Will you please pass the Chicken TetzaNeenie?”
1 (8 oz.) package spaghetti
3 cups chicken
1 cup celery
1 medium onion
1 can chicken mushroom soup
1 can cream chicken soup
Saute onion and celery in butter. Cook spaghetti in water and chicken stock from chicken for more flavor. Mix chopped chicken with sauteed vegetables and soup. Drain spaghetti and add to mixture. Pour all ingredients into a greased 9x 13 pan and top with grated cheese. Bake 350 degrees for 30 min.