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Mpowered. By Women for Women: Rita Diacono

Mpowered. By Women for Women: Rita Diacono

Meet Rita Diacono – Culinary legend, matriarch, chef, volunteer with 11 children, 30 grandchildren, and 15 great grandchildren.

 

Aged 94, Rita Diacono should be kicking back and taking it easy right now. However, she still remains active by volunteering with struggling families and passing on her parenting experiences. Most will know Rita Diacono as the legendary matriarch whose children and grandchildren grew up to be award winning chefs and owning famous restaurants such as New York Best Bistro. However, over the past eight years, Rita herself has used her parenting experience to help struggling families in need with their own domestic issues, including volunteering at Home-Start, a government service run by trained volunteers that offer practical and emotional support to struggling families. Listen to the full podcast below. 

Rita describes herself as a mad woman! ‘At 94, I should be sitting down in my living room, either reading or watching television. But I hate television with a passion. I much prefer sitting down with a book if I am relaxing. I also love walking on the Sliema front, but it is not the same as I know it before.’

Rita values family above everything else. ‘To my parents’ dismay, I got married at the young age of 21 years old. I ended up with 11 children, 8 boys, 3 girls, and later with 30 grandchildren and 15 great grandchildren. Family is my first preference. But I also always loved cooking and charity work. I always say that you can’t just sit down and do nothing, but I try to give my family all my time where possible.’

Although Rita’s mother never cooked herself, Rita always felt a passion for cooking. ‘My mother never cooked, and I was not allowed in the kitchen. However, our cook used to call me down to the kitchen anyway and I used to love helping out. My passion for cooking stemmed from this experience.’

Rita is in heaven when her two passions, family and cooking, come together. ‘Saturday is an open day for me - my children and grandchildren come for lunch. Sometimes, I’m fully booked! Timpana is a dish that makes me very happy. In fact, I always make it for Christmas. The whole family comes to me for Christmas. We take off all the furniture of the living room and I hire chairs because I don’t have enough. But everyone helps out – I don’t do it alone.’

Raising such a large family, Rita explains that she had help along the way. ‘I had help bringing up my children and she is still with me today. She is 87 years old. Today it’s impossible to have such a big family due to financial reasons but it is so beautiful. I love a noisy household.’

On being an active volunteer, Rita claims that this started from her voluntary work at Dar tal-Providenza. From there, she went to Apogg where she used to cook and clean for them. Then, Home-Start came along and throughout her eight years volunteering with Home-Start, she used her parenting experience to support 35 different families.

Times have changed and Rita expresses just how much she has seen times changing. ‘Children are now more demanding. The more they have, the more they want. I have always believed that you don’t show love by giving everything that they ask for. Everyone is always constantly on their phones. My biggest advice is to make it a point, at least once a day, to sit at a table together. Times have changed but you need to accept it. If not, you will lose them.’

Rita gives us one last parting advice. ‘Don’t be too harsh with them, try to go down to their level but explain the consequences.’

Thank you, Rita for being so inspiring and humble and, although you refuse to see yourself as a role model, in our eyes, you surely are! Listen to the full podcast below. 

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