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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

YOU NEED A NOSE FOR IT


Being Italian is having a sensitive nose. The Italian nose is used for a variety of tasks, and is relied on to solve most Italian mysteries.

For instance: what to make for dinner? How much basil or parsley are you going to fling. The nose was responsible for Columbus discovering America when he said: Umma smella da land!

And so that brings me to my childhood, and grandma’s table, the place I learned to smell, and learned to eat. It was grandma’s teaching my mother how to smell that made for a great cook in Ma. But grandma was the reason for the seasonings.

Grandma had a pair of floppies before they were called flip flops, and wore them to indicate where she was heading, usually to the garden to pick some basil or parsley, or maybe some tomatoes from her garden. Her screen door would bang shut on its hinges as she went out on an exposition for her spices, gliding under the grape vines that grandpa worked for his home-made wine. When she returned to her large kitchen, I would take the time to smell the basil, and always think of her when I do today, calling it; green gold.

While Sunday mornings meant church, mom would fry her meatballs and start her suga, leaving the rich aroma of onions and garlic gently frying in the early sunrise that took longer to do in Brooklyn than it did say on Long Island, because of the building surrounding us. Once she added her tomatoes to the pot, the aroma became a hunger clue, for which we were affected all day.

After a large dinner of pasta and chicken or any other side dish grandma made, we sat for the onslaught of Italian pastry and the smell of almond candies, that usually came from either the Italian bakery or from a party favor from the many weddings grandma was invited to. Cannoli or sfogliatelle, the choice was yours, and the demitasse cups filled with black coffee and anisette: completed the meal with the lemon peel sitting in the empty cup, until later that evening when the sandwiches broke open, as we seamlessly began another meal. There was always a white linen table cloth, with the stains of pasta sauce and wine, dotting the fabric, under the broken pieces of nuts that scattered across the long table, my uncles and grandfather along with dad, playing poker, the swear words coming fast and furious at another table.

And so there were smells everywhere, in the food, the garden, even the hallway entrance to grandma’s kitchen, life was wonderful! 
La vita e  bella!

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