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Monday, April 03, 2017

WHEN SHE BAKED, SHE SANG!

Pop knew a good thing when he had it!
Mom was a truly great cook. She learned from my grandmother, her mother-in-law, and my grandmother was the best. They both cooked the traditional way with tradition ingredients, home-made Italian food, the only way to eat to live and live to eat!

Buried deeply in Mom was a need to bake, to express herself with the art of confectionary joy. The joy she achieved was ingrained in her whenever she whipped together a dessert.

The first holiday that comes to mind is Easter, that sacred holiday, bigger than Christmas to most Italians back in the 1950's. Dressing us up for Mass, with new clothes and shoes, haircut and any new accessories needed for the girls, we got together with relatives and feasted on 'il pasto di Pasqua Domenica'. Not only Lasagna or ravioli as the main course, but there were the Easter pies, the very tradition that defined Easter Sunday in my house. One of those pies was made with Ricotta cheese, and ANGINETTI, the Italian Easter cookies rounded out the day's feasting. it was this final act of eating that closed out the beautiful day. It seemed every Easter Sunday was sunny and warm to me in the 1950's. ‘IN MY EASTER BONNET & HERE COMES PETER COTTONTAIL" was the magic, with our basket of jelly beans and marshmallow chicks encased in cellophane confetti!

We would either go to grandma's or have it at home, where we would after dinner walk about the neighborhood in our Easter finery.

The next holiday to feast with Family was Thanksgiving, yes that day every American honor the Pilgrims who landed on Plymouth Rock or Ellis Island. The Plymouth Rock came empty handed, sponging off the Native Americans, while the Ellis Islanders came with pasta, salami, cheese and wine, and made the cakes, too, inviting anyone who was willing to eat all day. Mom would put her baking talents together to supplement the pasta, braciola, meatballs and sausage, turkey, sausage stuffing, turkey, along with the sweet potatoes, corn, mashed potatoes, salad, cranberry sauce, and fruit and nuts. God forbid there isn't enough and someone went home standing on their own two feet instead of crawling out of the place from over eating! Of course, how could one forget AMARETTI DI SARONNO, a crunchy-style of amaretti?

Mom would make a cheesecake to make you want to never leave home. Making the American foods was a gesture. Somewhat like a ship firing a cannon over the bow of another ship before surrendering. Sure, here's your American Holiday because we are American, but let's eat first, pass the pasta!

Then there was Christmas Eve or the feast of the Seven Fish or the Dance f the seven veils or something. All the different kinds of fish you could eat, all going well with spaghetti or pasta. Mom made an incredible lobster sauce with spaghetti or some years' crabs with spaghetti. There were baked clams, calamari, baccala, scungilli, shrimp, and mussels or even scallops and of course, fried eels. Then she took out her cookies, homemade Italian cookies of all kinds, almond, little round honey coated balls with sprinkles, and ANISE BISCOTTI, Italian twice-baked cookies flavored with anise, generally, fat-free and nut free.

To continue the culinary tradition came Christmas Day, and after a meal of pasta and meats, came Mom's TIRAMISU, literally "pick me up", a famous coffee-flavored multi-layered cake, originally from Northern Italy.

With each and every meal after a holiday came one more thing, something we always bought from an Italian Pastry shop, pastries, cannoli, SFOGLIATELLE, pastries made with layers of phyllo dough and shaped like shells or cones, often filled with sweetened ricotta; they originated in Naples, but are now popular throughout Italy and in North America and RICCIARELLI, almond-based cookies made for the Christmas holidays in Siena, Tuscany.




Whatever the holiday, whatever she baked, she would take out her mix-master and sing as she got the spirit f baking for her family.

And so we went our way, waiting for the next holiday, God bless your soul, Mom.




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