Squeamish, or even non-meat eating readers should not be deterred by the title of this slim, charming collection of memories. Growing Up In The Butcher Shop is less about meat and more about Italian Americans in the times of locally owned, family-run businesses in small town America.
The book offers Joseph C. DeFranco’s brief recollections of growing up with his parents and grandparents in a house that doubled as a butcher shop and Italian grocery store on Garibaldi Avenue in Roseto, Pennsylvania. It’s written in an easy, conversational tone (each entry is preceded by the words “Ciao Amici” and signed “Joe” at the end). At the end of the articles, DeFranco includes wise Italian aphorisms with the English translation, i.e.: “Tutti I fiori di domani è nei semi di ieri” (All the flowers of tomorrow are the seeds of yesterday).
Perhaps overly idealizing his childhood, DeFranco laments the loss of the good old days. He recalls an environment of trust, where customers were treated with fairness and respect. Those who didn’t have cash were on their honor to pay when they had enough money (in one instance, a woman wearing a mink stole and diamonds asked to have her name entered in the store credit book; the moral? “You can’t judge a book by its cover,” writes De Franco).
Reading Growing Up In The Butcher Shop is like walking into a local boutique years ago and having an informal— but meaningful— chat. The book’s release coincides with the trend of conscious consumerism expressed in the reopening of small markets and cafes in neighborhoods across America, and DeFranco convinces us that shopping at small, family-owned businesses is friendlier and more personal, fostering stronger communities.
Although bordering on cliché, the author’s romantic portrayal of simpler times will equally resonate with older generations harkening back to the pre-Wal-Mart era and younger people imagining a richer life.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.