P.C.Pop with Pablo

Posts Tagged ‘UConn’

Save the UConn Coop

In Books, College Students, Malavenda, Pablo Malavenda, UConn, Uncategorized on January 31, 2016 at 3:23 pm

uconn_logo1Dear Distinguished Members of the UConn Community –

I am writing to strongly recommend that you save the UConn Coop. Please do not be tempted by a quick profit from a commercial bookstore or a sales presentation that makes promises that cannot honestly be kept in such a tumultuous time in the history of book stores and book sales — especially textbook sales. (Remember Borders, Walden Books, Tower Books, Crown Books, Bookland, etc.)
The UConn Coop has served the UConn students, faculty & extended community for so many years — with great success. There is so much value in what they have offered — member owned, member run and focused on service. The UConn Coop for decades has been offering things that a corporate bookstore would not — like supporting local authors, sponsoring book signing, hosting authors, presenting film festivals — and even replacing water damaged books in a residence hall and working with the library to offer unique services benefiting students. Most importantly they are always supporting and fighting for the students and faculty at UConn — not some international board of directors.
I am one of many alumni voices in my family — and we are all united to save the UConn Coop — and quite frankly surprised that this is even something being discussed. Whatever UConn is being offered to potentially replace the UConn Coop is NOT WORTH IT!
Thanks in advance for considering my request. Please save the UConn Coop. (I would like it to be there when my two high school age children attend UConn very soon.)
Sincerely,
Pablo
UConn 1984, 1991

Lifetime member, UConn Alumni Association


1/21/2014 Grabs Co Op Crowds by Patrick Gosselin


What Can You Do?

The Co-op needs your help! If you believe that the UConn Co-op is the best operator for the UConn Bookstore, then please share your support by writing a letter or email to:

Members of the selection committee: (martha.bedard@uconn.edu;alan.calandro@uconn.edu; eliza.conrad@uconn.edu; patricia.fazio@uconn.edu;robert.hasenfratz@uconn.edu; michael.kirk@uconn.edu;kyle.muncy@uconn.edu; sally.reis@uconn.edu)

Martha Bedard, vice provost for University Libraries

  • Alan Calandro, senior advisor and director of special projects, Office of the Executive Vice President for Administration
  • Eliza Conrad, student
  • Patti Fazio, assistant vice president for brand strategy
  • Michael George, alumni
  • Robert Hasenfratz, professor of English and chair of the English department
  • Michael Kirk, deputy chief of staff, President’s Office
  • Kyle Muncy, associate director of athletics for trademark licensing & branding
  • Sally Reis, vice provost for academic affairs, Letitia Neag Morgan Chair in Educational Psychology, & Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor

President Susan Herbst: (president@uconn.edu)

Members of the UConn Board of Trustees: (boardoftrustees@uconn.edu)

Further, our proposal for Making the Future together will be publicly available on our website so that you can see exactly how the Co-op plans to move forward. We will host a public event Monday Feb. 8th from 10 AM – 12 PM to demonstrate public support during our presentation to the university, followed by a forum to listen to your feedback and discuss further ways to support our selection as UConn’s official bookstore. Keep an eye out on @UconnCoop,Facebook page, and #SaveTheCoop for further details.

Finally, share this message via your social networks both on-line and off-line.

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My Story of Pasta Fazool

In Family, fatherhood, Food, health, Italian, parenting, Summer for Renewal, Uncategorized on August 25, 2012 at 12:58 pm


Pasta Fazool aka Pasta e Fagioli — This is My Story


Pasta e Fagioli is one of those dishes in my family that popped up every now and then — and everyone loves it. Later in life I was given more insight into this simple Italian meal from my Grandmother, Phyllis. If I hadn’t lived with my grandmother for a while in college, I might never have heard some of these stories about our family, our heritage, our Pasta e Fagioli. When I was accepted into college my family didn’t have a lot of disposable income to support me 100% — so, I made some tough decisions to make college more affordable. First decision was to attend a regional campus of UConn to save some money.  Commuting to the Hartford regional campus would allow me to live at home and pay a fraction of the cost of tuition/fees compared to the main campus. By the time the first day of classes rolled around I unfortunately no longer had a working car. Just getting to the campus every day was a challenge. I did various things to get back and forth and for part of that time I lived with my grandmother. My grandmother lived in the south-end of Hartford and the UConn Hartford campus was on the west-side of Hartford — actually in West Hartford. I soon became a city kid and got comfortable taking the bus everywhere.

My new home was in one of the oldest Italian neighborhoods in Connecticut. Franklin Avenue is a well-known center of the Little Italy of Hartford — and I live right on Franklin Avenue in an apartment with my grandmother. The street level of her building was one of the best Italian grocery stores on Franklin Avenue and directly across the street from one of the best Italian bakeries in the city. It was a very walk-able neighborhood — everything you needed was within walking distance and downtown Hartford was only a 20 minute bus ride away. My grandmother did not drive or own a car either but never struggled getting by on Franklin Avenue. At this point in her life my grandmother was retired but still very busy. I soon realized that during the day through early evening she had a definitive routine.

My grandmother’s routine was driven by “her shows.” Her first soap opera came on at 11 a.m. so everything had to be done by then. She got up and made breakfast. One of my favorites was French toast made with Italian bread. She often ate hers with salt and pepper — not maple syrup. Once breakfast was done, my grandmother planned the menu for the day and then went shopping for fresh bread and everything else she needed for lunch and dinner. She enjoy really fresh food, so she shopped every day at the small grocery store downstairs, the bigger grocery store a block away, and one of the several bakeries on Franklin Avenue. Her options of places to shop increased on Wednesdays because she walked a couple of blocks up Bond Street to attend early morning mass at St. Augustine’s. My grandmother worked very hard all morning planning the meal, shopping, tidying up the apartment, and making lunch. Her ultimate goal was to be settled in her chair in the TV room with her lunch ready to eat at exactly 11 a.m. when her first soap opera started. The dinner she planned would be pretty traditional with an Italian flair but lunch was consistent — a sandwich and a side dish. My grandmother used fresh Italian bread, fresh deli meat, and fresh cheese usually provolone. She then prepared a hot side dish. Although for most this would be just another lunch — but to my grandmother it was an inspired work of art made with love. The sandwich was toasted or grilled and was a masterpiece.  The side dish could be almost anything like a simple soup (chicken noodle, turkey rice, split pea & ham, minestrone), vegetables (ratatouille or grilled vegetables like peppers, onions, squash, zucchini), pasta (risotto, pastina), or creamy polenta with grated cheese and/or tomato sauce. I learned a great deal about cooking and planning meals during these times. My grandmother shared little tricks and techniques and soon I knew how to turn a good sandwich into a great sandwich.

Most of the time, my grandmother was so focused on getting settled for her soap opera TV show, that there wasn’t much time for chatting. But I learned that if I listened carefully, I could learn a lot. She not only taught me about food but also would tell me the story behind the food. One of my favorite stories is how this is the food that the poor people at in Italy. Most of the ingredients of her side dishes were inexpensive, grown in the garden or from left-overs from dinner. As I mentioned in another blog, we rarely went out to eat at an Italian restaurant because they served we could make better, fresher and much less expensively — for pennies. As Italian chain restaurants started to pop up and become popular it amazed my grandmother that they offered and charged a lot for Italian “peasant” dishes like polenta, pastina, risotto, Pasta e Fagioli, and even pizza with homemade pizza dough.

Another story was about Pasta e Fagioli. Pasta e Fagioli is the ultimate poor-family meal. Among her friends when she was a kid, Pasta e Fagioli was made at the end of the week with the left overs from the entire week. Pasta e Fagioli literally translates into “pasta and beans.” So technically any soup that includes pasta and beans can be called Pasta e Fagioli. It is a delicious, hearty meal that you could make with everything you had on hand. Pasta e Fagioli can include meat but it can also be a vegetarian meal. Now you have to be careful with old time Italians because even though it was served vegetarian most of the time in my family — the flavor in the broth came from pork. A hunk of salt pork, some bacon fat or a ham bone was often used to add flavor. Salt pork or bacon fat was used when sautéing the onions and celery and if you had a ham bone on hand you would include it with the water or broth when you begin simmering the soup.  You then add the first of the two main ingredients — the beans. It can honestly be any bean you like but in my family it was typically kidney, chick peas, canteloni beans or some combination of the three. After an hour or so of simmering, remove the hunk of pork and ham bone and add beans and pasta. My favorite is a mini tube pasta called ditellini. Others in my family prefer a bow-tie pasta. I think you get the idea — frugal families would take all of their leftovers for the week (including hunks of salt pork and bones), add rough-cut vegetables, onions, celery, garlic, broth/water and the magic ingredients — pasta and beans.

Pablo’s Pasta e Fagioli Recipe – click photo

The best part about Pasta e Fagioli is it is the ultimate Italian food for the soul. There is nothing more comforting that a hot bowl of Pasta e Fagioli with grated parmagiana, crushed red peppers, and a slice of crusty Italian bread. So it is not surprising that most Italian restaurants offer Pasta e Fagioli; and it is one of the best things to bring to a carry-in or potluck. And when you want to show your friends that you care about them during tough times or times of joy, nothing says you care more than sending a big pot of Pasta e Fagioli. You’re not only sharing a meal but you are sharing your heritage and a family tradition.

Another quite humorous part of this meal is the pronunciation itself. When I was growing up we ate something called “Pasta Fazool.” Everyone in our family called it Pasta Fazool; our friends called it Pasta Fazool; you could order Pasta Fazool in a restaurant on Franklin Avenue and get what you wanted without the server giving you a strange look. Basically there was no reason for me to question the proper pronunciation of Pasta e Fagioli. It wasn’t until the coordinator of the potluck lunch at work asked me for the recipe of my Pasta Fazool that I actually saw how it was spelled. And then the first time someone ordered it at the chain Italian restaurant, the well trained server of the fake Italian restaurant gave us a funny look and corrected our pronunciation — which by the way wasn’t correct either. I again denied our family mispronounced Pasta e Fagioli because we also didn’t pronounce other foods phonetically — like lasagna, manicotti, mozzarella, or ricotta. I later discovered that the pronunciation, Pasta Fazool, is unique to the American-Italian community in the Northeast. So I now proudly say Pasta FAZOOL!

Our Pasta e Fagioli is vegetarian (often vegan) and a healthy, high protein, low fat meal. Today, I share this story and meal with my family — the next generation. The most wonderful part of this meal are the memories of my grandmother and our time together. The cook that I have become is in large part to my grandmother. She was a creative and confident chef. She loved making meals special and loved sharing meals with others. As a tribute to her and all of the other great cooks in my family, I am committed to not only sharing these meals with my kids but also keeping the stories alive. My grandmother would be very pleased that I have kept many of her traditions alive and I am still sharing her stories and our memories.


Buon Appetito!


If you want my recipe for Pasta e Fagioli, click here.


This PC Pop Blog post is a part of a series called the Summer for Renewal. Read the other Summer for Renewal posts too.  They are as follows:

 


Read more stories about growing up in my family and our traditions, check out these PC Pop posts:


Flashback to the Eighties – Social Media and a Spontaneous College Reunion

In College Students, Family, Malavenda, Pablo Malavenda, social media, Summer for Renewal, UConn, Uncategorized on August 4, 2012 at 7:27 pm

Long Live Watson Beach at UConn

U Conn Husky, symbol of might to the foe.
Fight, fight Connecticut, it’s victr’y, Let’s go
Connecticut U Conn Husky, victr’y again for the White and Blue
So go, go, go Connecticut, Connecticut U. Fight!
C-O-N-N-E-C-T-I C-U-T. Connecticut,
Connecticut Husky,
Connecticut Husky, Connecticut C-O-N-N-U. Fight! (repeat)

{NOTE: In recent times, the original word “Hi!” has been replaced with “Fight!”}


In preparation for a visit home to Connecticut prior to leaving Indiana I took the first step in what became a viral invitation to a spontaneous UConn Watson Beach alumni reunion thanks to Social Media. The result was a serendipitously perfect day.

Initially I reached out to just three UConn Watson Beach alums with whom I still engage on Facebook. Once we were able to nail down a date for a mini-reunion, the three of us invited other UConn Watson Beach alums to join us through Facebook. Everyone was encouraged to spread the word, and it became viral in a tiny way. After a week or so, we compared lists and identified individuals who had not been contacted yet. We pooled our resources and used ever means necessary to track people down. LinkedIn became another powerful means to locate and connect because of their internal messaging system as well as the availability of email addresses.  More and more, individuals are hiding their email addresses on Facebook and other social media sites but since LinkedIn is about professional networking, we found a few more missing alums through there.

Now we had to plan our day. It became apparent that many wanted to see the Storrs campus — so, our meeting place would be the UConn campus. One fellow alum who lives about 5 miles from campus then offered her home for a pool party following a morning visit to our old stomping grounds.  Since I not only graduated from UConn twice (almost thrice) and worked there for over 10 years, I contacted a friend/alumna/colleague to see if we could actually get in to see our beloved Watson. This friend/alumna/colleague coincidentally was our “staff resident” back when we were students and still works at UConn in residential life. During my time at UConn she became a great colleague and was a next-door neighbor — and continues to be a Facebook friend and conference buddy. She readily agreed to meet us at Watson on that Saturday morning and let us in to see our college home. Things were really coming together.

I attended the UConn Hartford Campus for two years prior to “branchfering” to the main campus and moving into Watson Hall in the Fall of 1981. Watson Hall was my home from Fall 1981 through Spring 1984. Most of my close friends from the UConn Hartford campus as well as other Hartford “branchfers” were also residents of the third floor of Watson. When I arrived within a week of moving in the president of the Watson Hall council resigned. I ran for the mid-term position and won.  I was the president for the next three years and worked with a dedicated and talented team to resurrect the image and programming of our beloved Watson Hall. For a variety of reasons, we called our front lawn “Watson Beach.” So when we became one of the best councils on campus — we officially changed our constitution to reflect our new image and new name — the Watson Beach Council.  This was the beginning of creating one of those special affinity groups within the UConn alumni community; one that has a very strong bond with hundreds of UConn alums.

The summer of 2012 has been designated (by me) as My Summer for Renewal. Why? Because last summer I made a mistake — I put work ahead of family and friends. That was wrong and I promised my family, friends…and myself, that my priorities would change in 2012. My priorities are once again focused on making sure that I am physically and psychologically healthy; so that I am able to build and maintain positive relationships with my family and friends. When planning our summer, we made sure that we were able to take at least two weeks off for a trip to Connecticut so we may reconnect with as many friends and family as possible.  {NOTE: We accomplished a lot in two weeks but we still did not connect with everyone and had to make some tough decisions. For instance we met with UConn college friends but could not possible connect with former colleauges at UConn. Next time — for sure!} The UConn Watson Beach Reunion was a priority for the 2012 Summer for Renewal.

The morning of this Saturday reunion arrived and my wife, kids and I started our journey to Storrs, Connecticut, home of the UConn Huskies. Our reminiscing started as soon as we hit the road because the route we traveled was one we did hundreds of times in the past. My wife and I traveled this road for over a decade each Sunday to my family homestead for Sunday dinner. This trip was also special because we were sharing our excitement, pride, and stories with our two children who have grown up loving UConn. The excitement was building and our anticipation grew. We arrived on campus early and good thing because the first change we encountered from the “old days” was the new road sytem on campus — roads eliminated in the center of campus and more one-way streets. We finally found our way around campus to our designated meeting spot — Watson Hall. We parked our car and the magic began. Our posse of Watson Beach alums weren’t the only ones on campus but we found each other quickly — emerging from every parking lot and loading dock in the vacinity. It was as if we never left campus — as if it were once again the fall of 1982. After a flurry of hugs and kisses, we picked up right where we left off. We were so happy, so comfortable, so loud and so much in love — with UConn, with Watson (Hall) Beach, with each other. Some I had seen as recently as January 2011 but others I had not seen for 20-30 years.

Soon our former staff resident arrived with the keys to Watson Hall and our day began officially. It did take a while to get everyone’s attention and to move us all into the building though. When we approached the building as a group, our rowdy group of friends were a bit quieter, more focused and more serious. It has been so long for all of us — but everything came back — immediately. Watson Hall has not changed much since the mid-80’s. This probably frustrates the current residential life staff at UConn but we were thrilled. And like a parent waiting for their kids to get home from a long night out — Elmer Watson (the portrait, that is) was waiting for us in the main lobby with the same warm eyes and loving smile making us feel welcome and safe. I was afraid that the portrait of Elmer Watson, fellow alumnus and namesake of our college home, would be gone; but Elmer was still there covered in protective fiberglass with scratches that I would put money on were there when we were there back in the ’80’s. The old place looked great. New furniture, new carpet but it felt the same — we were home. We all did laps around the lounge reliving all of the many happy and crazy memories of our college days. And yes — alcohol was involved. Back then, the drinking age in Connecticut was 18 years old and kegs were allowed  at residence hall council lounge parties.  Thanks to President Reagan (I say bitterly), the drinking age rose to 21 in 1984 — so, these memories are truly unique and in contrast with today’s residential life experience at UConn. We survived. No, we have thrived.

Our once motley crew now includes nothing short of great success in raising families, developing their careers and impacting a number of different communities. Our cohort includes a wide variety of professionals — engineers, corporate executives, entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers, college deans, pharmacists, educators, and marketing executives. We traveled from Indiana and others from Manhattan, Boston, and every corner of Connecticut. But on this day nothing matters except that we all bleed Blue and White. We even burst into the UConn Fight Song once or twice throughout the day. We all love UConn; we all love Watson Beach; and we all fondly remember our college experience. UConn gave us opportunities to grow up, to develop strong relationships, to dream, to be leaders and to serve each other and our communities. UConn brought us together, and we remain friends for life.

Our plan was to see the campus and go to the “pool party” around noon. After exploring Watson Beach, sharing stories, and taking a lot of pictures we moved on — reluctantly but excited to see our campus.  We could have spent the entire day at Watson but we had to stay on schedule; so, we set off, on foot, of course.  Just the walk from Watson to the center of campus brought back many memories but so much of the campus has changed that it was difficult to absorb it all. Additionally, there was construction in and around over three major buildings in our short 2-3 block walk. Our “must-see” list included Gampel Pavilion, the Memorial Football Stadium, the Student Union, WHUS Radio Studios, the UConn Coop (bookstore) and the Dairy Bar. The UConn Coop is brand new and sits on what was once a parking lot. The Memorial Football Stadium has recently been demolished because since they became a division one team they have been playing at Rentschler Field in East Hartford. The grassy field known back in our day as the “Grad Field” we crossed many times a day as students is the new location of the Business School.

Even the Student Union is different.  The front facade hasn’t changed since 1952 but the back has been expanded and is unrecognizable. I just had to see the radio station and the Doug Bernstein Game Room. Doug lived in Watson, on my floor, and is a Watson Beach alumnus. Unfortunately Doug was not able to join us on this day but some of us couldn’t resist going to see the Student Union game room named in his honor.  Doug has done well enough that he has been able to give back and one of his gifts was this game room. To our surprise the plaque included a letter in which he is found guilty of taking a Space Invaders Machine from the Watson Hall Rec Room. The letter was signed by Lorraine Gervais our head resident.  Doug “borrowed” the full size video game machine because he needed it to host a tournament in his room on the 3rd floor of Watson. Needless to say, we remember that tournament as if it were yesterday (and not 31 years ago) and remember how much Doug enjoyed torturing Lorraine. Lorraine was a “by the book” residence hall staff member, and of course, she charged him, held a formal hearing, found him guilty and sanctioned him. Ah, the memories. Also on our visit to the Student Union is the WHUS Radio studio. WHUS is where I had a weekly radio morning show for close to eight years but it is now in a brand new location in the newly renovated part of the Student Union. I am happy that my alma mater is growing but I miss the old Student Union, I miss my old WHUS studio, and I miss all of the green space between the Union and Watson Hall.

Lucky for us, Gampel Pavilion was open that morning with kids and families registering for UConn annual summer soccer camp. Although Gampel was not around when we were students most of us have been to games and events there since. It brought back lots of great memories of some high energy basketball games, Homecoming events, concerts, and March Madness pep-rallies. While working at UConn in the 90’s, I rarely missed a home game and often sat (or should I say stood) in the student section — and was one of the behind the scenes coordinators of most of the concerts and special events including the Indigo Girls, Spin Doctors, Leaders of the New School (featuring Busta Rhymes), Bob Dylan, Public Enemy, and Anthrax (to name a few). The difference is that UConn has been able to hang quite a few more championship banners since then. This of course make us even prouder alums.

Like many alums, one of the highlights of our visit was the campus bookstore — the UConn Coop. The energy level of our group increased tremendously as we rushed through an entire store with endless items celebrating and honoring our beloved alma mater — and some textbooks. We all stocked up on our UConn gear as if it was an end of the world moving sale. For us out of state UConn alums, it is exciting not only to browse the UConn Coop but also to see UConn stuff everywhere in the entire state including all over every shopping mall, in grocery stores, drug stores, gas stations, and even in discount stores like Old Navy. We all had UConn fever and were loving it. We finished our tour of campus in our own time. We took a few last pictures with the Husky Dog statue and we wound down our visit to campus and moseyed over to our cars.

Next on the agenda was the Watson Beach Alumni Pool Party. The party was such a welcome retreat from campus because the focus was now on us and our conversations. We were once again loud — laughing and sharing. There was no tension, no drama, no need to pretend — we were transformed back in time and we had a lot of catching up to do. The food was simple but fabulous; the pool was inviting and refreshing; and there were plenty of spaces to visit and talk.  They even had a cabana with a TV to get updates on the Yankee game. At one point we looked over and noticed that our kids had found each other and we were hitting it off even though they had only met that morning. One friend brought her Watson Beach T-shirt to show off and share; and yet another brought a stack of photo albums which were a big hit especially with the kids — as you can imagine. No one wanted the day to end, but all wonderful celebrations must. One of our friends brought a tradition from her home to our reunion. She walked everyone to their cars as they needed to leave and waved farewell to them and didn’t stop until they were completely out of sight. A few of us joined her for this touching ritual.

We finally departed around 3:45 p.m. to meet with some family in this part of the state. For the record we did double back to campus after our family visit to get UConn’s own ice cream at the UConn Dairy Bar. And yes, even the Dairy Bar has been renovated; and yes, I miss the old Dairy Bar with its old fashion, horseshoe shaped counter. But the ice cream has not changed — and it is to die for — Huskies Supreme for me! And like a perfect ice cream sundae — this was the cherry on top.

And to think, without Facebook, Email, LinkedIn, Google it wouldn’t have happened. It was spontaneous and a bit viral. It was in many ways serendipitous. It certainly was a perfect “Summer for Renewal” event. We were reassured by the friends with whom we don’t keep in touch that we’re still important to each other; and we were blessed to see in person those with whom we do connect with through Facebook and bi-annual visits.  You learn a lot from exchanging Christmas/Hannukah cards each winter but nothing can compare to the richness and deep connections that were made at this simple reunion.  The UConn Watson Beach Reunion was filled with hugs and laughter — and we created a whole bunch of NEW memories — and shared promises to “do this again” soon. And forever the words of our Alma Mater ring true — Old Connecticut – When times, shall have severed us far, and the years their changes bring, the thought of the college we love in our memories will cling. For friendships that ever remain.


Old Connecticut
Once more, as we gather today,
To sing our Alma Mater’s praise,
And join in the fellowship strong,
Which inspires our college days.
We’re backing our teams in the strife
Cheering them to victory!
And Pledge anew to old Connecticut,
Our steadfast spirit of loyalty.
(Chorus) Connecticut, Connecticut,
Thy sons and daughters true
Unite to honor thy name,
Our fairest White and Blue.
When times, shall have severed us far,
and the years their changes bring,
the thought of the college we love
in our memories will cling.
For friendships that ever remain,
and association’s dear,
We’ll raise a song, to
old Connecticut, and join our voices in our long cheer


This PC Pop Blog post is a part of a series called the Summer for Renewal. Read the other Summer for Renewal posts too.  They are as follows:

 


Read more stories about growing up in my family and our traditions, check out these PC Pop posts: