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Saturday, October 22, 2016

Autunno Dalla Finestra Della Cucina.


Autumn is a very nostalgic time of the year for me. Looking back over 60 years ago, peering out of my grandmother's kitchen window, or mom's, there were certain clues to the time of year.

Growing up in an Italian-American neighborhood in Brooklyn, the fall was the most romantic time for nature and the rituals of life. If you looked out the three story walk-up and went to the kitchen window, which faced the back yard, you would see certain elements of life. One was the long pole that stood in the middle of the garden with three clotheslines strung across to hang the wash of the three families living in the building. I would watch the landlord mount and climb the pole to attach a fallen pulley or wheel to reconnect it, and think how could he climb that high and not fall?

If you looked out, you could see the tower of Our Lady of Lourdes, it's gray high bell tower slowly resonating throughout the neighborhood, wash hanging out all over the backyards announcing the Angelis. Christian, Muslim or Jew, you knew it was noon-time.

There was the last of the tomatoes as they grew imperfectly in looks but delicious in flavor, greenish and red, all destined to someone's windowsill and then jarred for a Sunday sauce.

In the Fall it was time to harvest the grapes, that time of year when wine and vinegar were magically created and the pride of a man's plot of land and devotion to his past. It was said that if you waited long enough until the first frost, the grapes would be at their sweetest. To present, someone with a gallon of the homemade vino was the greatest tribute one could give.

Grandpa would send over a gallon of homemade vinegar, where Mom would create the most delicious of salads, the taste stemming from the soured grapes!

But the most telling sign, the most defining tradition, and lasting icon were the fig tree! It occupied the most prominent spot in the garden, reigning over the tomatoes, zucchini, parsley and any other produce Grandpa grew. When the tree was barren in the Fall months, the cellar door would open and slowly large pieces of linoleum and cord would appear, slowing transforming the tree's natural shape into a mummy-like figure, as it was swaddled in the old carpet and then topped with a green bucket, with crisscrossed roping, awaiting the harsh winter. It was a sad reminder that the gloom of winter was about to descend upon the Brooklyn, and the casualness of summer would be transformed into the rigors of winter.

But in the end, it all began a cycle of old world traditions, mostly centered around the Church. There was All Souls Da, All Saints Day, that adopted holiday to Italian-Americans called Thanksgiving, and of course, the Christmas Eve feast of the seven fished.

It was a great time to be alive and the place was the best, Brooklyn, NY!



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