Lidia Bastianich Celebrates America Foods & Cultures on PBS

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May 13th, 2013

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via press release:

LIDIA CELEBRATES AMERICA
“Freedom and Independence”
Friday, June 28, 2013 at 10:00 p.m. ET on PBS

Renowned Chef Lidia Bastianich and Celebrity Guests Explore Tales of Freedom and Diverse Culture through Food in New Primetime Program –

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - Renowned chef and culinary author Lidia Bastianich sets out on a lively cross-country adventure to celebrate our vibrant culture through food in a new installment of her primetime PBS series—this time exploring diverse stories of hard-won freedom in time for summer fireworks. Notable guests join Lidia on her journey, including actress Anna Deavere Smith, opera singer Renée Fleming, chef Jacques Pépin, folk-rock artist Martha Wainwright and actor-comedian Alec Mapa, Lidia also candidly shares her own dramatic tale of escaping Europe’s Iron Curtain as a girl to come to the USA after World War II.

LIDIA CELEBRATES AMERICA “Freedom and Independence” premieres on Friday, June 28, 2013 at 10:00 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings).

The third documentary in the LIDIA CELEBRATES AMERICA primetime series, this new one-hour program looks at freedom and the American immigrant experience through the food, festivities, customs and traditions of four unique cultural groups as they observe various kinds of independence day events: the Fourth of July swearing-in ceremony for new U.S. citizens at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello home in Virginia; a lively Bastille Day party at the Connecticut home of chef Jacques Pépin; the “Juneteenth” events in Texas commemorating Emancipation Day among African-Americans in the South; and a Philippines Independence Day celebration in New York.

“At the heart of the LIDIA CELEBRATES AMERICA series is my own immigrant experience, so the subject of this special, in particular, resonates very deeply,” says Lidia. “When I came to this country at age 12, I had already spent two years in a political refugee camps, so independence is not an abstract concept for me. America’s diverse, multicultural free society truly is something to cherish and celebrate.”

U.S. Independence Day at Monticello in VA
The film begins on the Fourth of July in Charlottesville, VA at Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, where dozens of people wait to be sworn in as U.S. citizens. Among them is Faiza Jamil, an enthusiastic young Middle Eastern woman with a very compelling story who is eager to embrace her adopted homeland and register to vote. Lidia and viewers then take a tour of Monticello’s incredible grounds and learn of Thomas Jefferson’s role as the nation’s “first farmer” and how he developed agriculture to ensure strong trade and autonomy. Using ingredients picked from the garden, Lidia prepares sumptuous dishes in Jefferson’s kitchen for a special dinner with soon-to-be naturalized citizens--including bruschetta with fresh figs and prosciutto and a zesty tomato panzanella.

During the meal, Lidia recounts the personal story of her family’s narrow escape from communist Istria after World War II. Her father had been taken hostage and later outran bullets and dogs to cross the border and reunite with the family. They fled to the United States under President Eisenhower’s political refugee policy and were assisted by a charity organization. At age 18, Lidia made the commitment to become an American citizen and was the first among her family to become naturalized.

Bastille Day Party with Jacques Pépin in CT
The second celebration marks French Independence with a full day of fun, food and festivities at the Connecticut home of Lidia’s good friend, celebrity chef Jacques Pépin. Jacques and Lidia host a Bastille Day party for a few dozen French-Americans, playing the French lawn bowling game petanque, singing classic French songs with folk-rock artist Martha Wainwright, and preparing an array of dishes in his spectacular kitchen--including a creamy scrambled egg appetizer served stylishly, warm clams with pesto, savory crepes with Gruyere and ham, veal, and paté. The "piece de resistance" for Lidia is a special brioche dessert--a nod to the French Revolution and Marie Antoinette's famously callous line to the poor masses who could not afford bread: "Let them eat cake!"

“Juneteenth” in Galveston, TX
The film’s next stop is Texas, where actress Anna Deavere Smith joins Lidia on a poignant journey to explore the historical events surrounding “Juneteenth,” in a powerfully moving story involving the freeing of Galveston’s slaves two years after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Lidia meets with "Dr. Barbeque," who demonstrates how to grill a traditional Texas dry-rub brisket to commemorate the occasion. Anna also talks openly with Lidia about the oppression African-Americans have faced and how the promise of freedom is still slowly being fulfilled today.

Philippines Independence Day in New York
In the final celebration spotlighted, Lidia calls upon Filipino-American comedian and actor Alec Mapa to help her celebrate Philippines Independence Day in New York. Made up of thousands of islands and occupied by several world powers throughout its history, the country has a unique background and varied traditions due to its multiple cultural influences Lidia and Alec help their host shop for ingredients at a local ethnic market and return home to prepare Kinilaw, a Filipino version of ceviche marinated in ginger and coconut milk, and pork adobo. Lidia also gets a lesson in how to perform a traditional folk dance with fans to convey the story of Filipino independence.

The evening concludes with a treat for viewers and newly naturalized U.S. citizens as famed opera singer Renée Fleming joins Lidia to celebrate independence with a heartfelt rendition of America the Beautiful.

Lidia Celebrates America is a lively exploration of the rich diversity of cultures across the United States, and the vibrant ethnic and religious customs and traditions observed by various groups--in which food is a common denominator that connects all human beings. The series has shown how different Americans celebrate weddings, holiday traditions and independence. Coming up next, a special fall 2013 broadcast will spotlight a variety of important rites of passage as viewers join Lidia to celebrate “Moments and Milestones.”

 
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