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Some posts are in English, some are in Italian – Happy Reading!

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When the Streets Shout the Past

Sometimes it hits me when it’s absolutely not on my mind.

But a motorcycle buzzing by, the smell of hot cement, the impatient sound of a car horn assault my senses, shatter my long-accepted resignation, fire up my tamed emotions.

Give me the city, damn it.  I want to be drowned by the noise, the voices, the pounding of traffic, the intoxicating scent of exhaust.

Settled in the quiet tediousness of the suburbs, my Mediterranean blood flows fiery in my veins, demanding life.  The way it ought to be, pulsating, instigating, invigorating, the hell with the price.

There is a price for everything, my friends.  But the good pay the highest rate.  Incentives to being responsible: Few.  Think before you commit.

Keep your lavender bushes in the front lawn, let me have the allure of lively shops, busy people dreaming by the glittery displays, the sidewalks alive with impromptu music scenes, walking into a  cloud of cigarette smoke, inebriated by that glorious aroma, along the road, or in a small club, or backstage in the parochial theater.  Gliding to the sound of traffic, catching the fleeting glances of strangers, enticingly frightening, carrying a mystery you might not be able to resist.  Please don’t.

Give me the past, too, please.  The way I see it now, of course.

The past shouldn’t have the taste of regret.  It should taste of hope.

In Praise of the All-American Man

While I’m contently preparing traditional American fare for the glorious Memorial Day weekend – shaping the juicy hamburger patties, mixing up a perfect Macaroni Salad –  windows wide open,  since the summer has finally arrived in Westchester, I hear the faint buzz of an electric saw.  And my heart skips a beat.  As I peek out the kitchen window, I see men in t-shirts and jeans cutting grass, trimming hedges, building things in the front yards, firing up barbecues, tongs in one hand, a well-deserved beer in the other.

Hail to the All-American man, the good husband, the great, tireless provider, the weekend warrior, the thoughtful dad who lovingly follows his child’s first time on the two-wheeler, ready to catch him/her if faltering.  The man who gets up each morning, ready to face a new day, still tired sometimes, perhaps wishing for an easier life, or dreaming of retirement, but still ready to fight the world with one goal in mind: taking care of his family.

I am always perplexed and honestly surprised, when some women whine about their husbands because they…don’t make dinner, don’t do the vacuuming, they are not very ‘sensitive’.  Really?

Do we marry men or chefs? Do we want housekeepers, therapists,  best friends or real men?

I would much prefer to cook and bake daily, and, yes, clean my house and do all the laundry, ironing included (which I abhor, by the way), and also hold a job, of course, confident in the knowledge that a reliable man is taking care of the serious business: planning for the family’s future, protecting them, providing an atmosphere of comfort and safety.

God bless all of you, good old-fashioned American men, you strong and silent types!  We women don’t want you to be our girlfriends and confidants, but our rocks.

We love it when you drag out the power tools, down in the garage, building something amazing with your own hands. And yes, thank you for barbecuing! Now, that is manly cooking. Grateful not to have to deal with the smoke in my hair, and the bugs.

God bless the American man!  You are my hero!

When the Floors Had to Be Waxed: A Memoir

Rose graniglia floor

This was not a job that was done often, when I was growing up in Italy. It was extremely time consuming, required a good amount of elbow grease, plus the excruciating down time.

These days, most people in Italy prefer the trendier wood floors, especially sleek and elegant parquet, with tile usually installed only in the kitchen and bathrooms.  But back then, every apartment had floors made of graniglia, which is a kind of more affordable marble, sturdy and basic.  These tiles had all pretty much the same design, with some color variations, mostly in the yellow-orange, rose, and forest-green hue.  And those were the ones I grew up with in Portici.  I don’t remember too clearly the color patterns, but I believe the bedrooms were rose, while the long hallway was orangish. The living room and my father’s study were green. The dining room, the most formal space in the house, had instead a luxurious marble floor, with a nearly mirror finish.

In order to look attractive, all those floors were high-maintenance.  My long-suffering mother, who had a full-time job as a teacher, went food shopping on foot at the open-air market every single day, cooked and cleaned, and often assisted with our homework, tackled that major chore every couple of months.  Of course, the floors were all regularly washed weekly, but they lost that coveted sheen, and that was unacceptable.

Usually on a Sunday – since school is open six days a week in Italy – she would wake up in a fairly unpleasant mood, and begin her day of labor.  That meant, we had to get out of bed earlier then normal, and literally get out of the way.

Perfect graniglia floor

After seriously scrubbing all the floors, one room at the time, with a mop and a bucket, she allowed them to dry thoroughly, and we knew better than talk to her or even breathe then.  We were confined to a room where the floor had already dried, while my father had cleverly made plans to be gone for good part of the day (usually he went to his office in the school were he was the principal, to catch up on paper work in peace, while listening to Beethoven).

Then came the wax.  She would pour the liquid from a little bottle, then quickly spread it out with a special mop, and waited for it to set.

This is when the fun part began.

A smile of satisfaction would appear on her lips, we children released our breath, and got out our equipment: le pattine!

My unwaxed kitchen floor

The pattine were two thick pieces of soft cloth with a strap; you slipped your feet under the strap, and, voilà, you were on skates (pattini means skates in Italian)!   We each had our own set, and were rearing to go.  My mother would begin by going over the entire floor with a soft mop made for that purpose, then she would say Avanti, cominciate! And the race began.  Sliding and slipping playfully on the floors, we ‘roller-skated’ in circles, diagonally, and every which way, reaching every corner, sometimes slamming against walls and furniture, especially my very aggressive brother who was prone to turn everything into a serious competition.  The floors shined and glowed under our speedy feet, becoming a glorious rink, as our shadows turned into mirror images.

Oh, to fly freely through our spacious apartment, fearless and light, the fresh sea breeze from all the open balconies inflating our youthful sails.

The tedious chore had become a game, directing our infinite energy into a most practical job that didn’t feel like such.

The flawless glory of a highly polished floor.  My mother would be tired but satisfied and proud.  Only slippers in the house for that day.  My father would dutifully admire the result, and praise us for helping.

All was well with the universe.

Till the next time

The First Time I Was Happy

It is not a memory, it’s more of a sensation.

My mother was there.  I was very small, ensconced in warmth.

Life was good, her love was tender and forever.

Nothing exceptional was happening, but she was talking to me, though the words have faded into the nebulous past, which I attempt to catch, grasp, own.  But no.

We grow up, and we believe we are the ones.  The ones that will understand everything, make all the good decisions, move forward, paving a path of glory.

Because we know better, right?

Wrong.

She was not happy.  I know that now.  But she endured and smiled, because she was a mother.

Her hair was blond, and she was beautiful.  She was young, but who knew?

Happiness is a moment.  Yes, my friends, just one little moment, and you erroneously  believe it will last forever.  There is no forever.  There are only instants, subtle pearls that land in you hand, and you need to clench your fist!  Hold them, squeeze them, bleed them, because this is all you’ve got.  Frame them.  Hang them in your brain.

You will need them when life beats you, and you confuse them with rocks.  But they are the pearls that could save your life.

I recall other moments of happiness.  Fleeting, dear God, so fleeting.  Did I catch those pearls? Yes.

Because of them, I live.

And still hope.

The first time I was happy was glorious.  I didn’t know it then, but it was the essence of my life. A snippet of time to be frozen.

To hang on to when darkness sweeps over all.  Because happiness is not your friend. It turns on you in the midst of your joy, it crushes all you built, and leaves you deflated and lost.

Sometimes, your memories are the lullaby you need to descend into the oblivion of the night.

May your dreams be merciful.

Cherish the pearls.  They are rare.

Their Expectations

What matters.

Because you don’t count.

At some point, you are dismissed.  From having opinions.  Or wishes, desires.

They wish you settled in a certain ‘acceptable’ position, and expect you to be ‘just fine’.

You are to be content and satisfied, set aside any dreams you might still have.

Because, come on, life is too short to be happy.

Just stay where you are, they say without saying, don’t shake things up.  They want you reliable and visibly serene, completely enthralled by their needs and desires (because they still hold that privilege).

Your life of ‘quiet desperation’ is perfectly acceptable to them, just don’t mention it.

Hold your sighs till the silence of the night.

Your problems are inconsequential, just keep them in, please.  You wouldn’t want to disappoint their expectations.  They avert their gaze if they notice your restlessness.  Just settle down, accept you status quo.

You don’t exist as a human, you must become yielding clay, to be easily manipulated by their expectations.

You are trapped, cornered, blocked, censored, resentful, but dare not rebel.

It would shatter their expectations.  The only ones that are worthy.

Guilt consumes you, relentless. How dare you question your duties?

You learn to dwell in the gray zone.

Even when it darkens to charcoal, diving into deep black at times, but then retreating.

Your sheer will power fights the natural tumble into the feared, though secretly desired, oblivion.

You are not brave enough.

There is no escape from their expectations.

(Character Study)

La mia dinastia

 

26 gennaio 2019

Ho creato una dinastia americana e non me ne sono neanche accorta.

Una ragazzina diciottenne, che, fierissima, mostra il diploma dell’illustre liceo classico, in viaggio per New York.  Che regalo da sogno!  Chi se lo aspettava mai che i miei mi facessero un dono del genere? Complimenti per il diploma e quel gran bel voto, Mara, vai e goditi l’America per un mese!

Sono passati quarant’anni.

Sono diventata una New Yorker.

 

Da me, a lui, ai tre figli, poi ai loro coniugi, infine ai nuovi piccoli. Siamo in dieci adesso.  Il ciclo della vita continua e cambia continenti, lingue, culture.

Ho cominciato una dinastia americana, io, la figlia del direttore di Portici, timida, sempre un po’ impacciata, certamente insicura, persa nei sogni di grandi amori e terre lontane.

Conquistati entrambi.

Eccomi qui, figlia nativa di Napoli, ma il sangue che mi scorre nelle vene è modenese e molisano a metà. La prossima generazione è americana, grazie a me, cari antenati modenesi e molisani! Il vostro nobile sangue scorrerà nelle vene di bambini delle stars and stripes, che parleranno pure un’altra lingua, ma che si tengono ben strette le loro radici italiane. Bambini bellissimi, dagli occhi in varie tonalità di blu, dal chiarissimo, quasi grigio, all’azzurro scuro e intenso, a quello che a volte si confonde col verde.

Un pezzetto del vostro futuro apparterrà per sempre alla terra dell’Empire State Building, delle praterie senza fine, della costa ventosa della California.

 

Vi ho portato in America, miei cari! I Di Sandro continueranno la loro avventura oltremare e così anche i Nocetti, questi ultimi forse alle loro prime armi con i grandi States.

Il cuore duole a volte, l’anima piange, la nostalgia ti abbatte, la delusione per il comportamenteo di alcuni che si sono rivelati infidi ti fa intristire e anche infuriare.  Ma a quegli umanissimi sentimenti se ne aggiunge un altro che poi finisce con schiacciarli tutti: l’orgoglio, l’immenso orgoglio di ciò che sono riuscita a conseguire semplicemente vivendo la mia vita, senza programmi, ma armata solo di spontaneità e infinita speranza.

 

Ad maiora, mia grande dinastia, seguite i vostri sogni in questo grande Paese!

Fotografie dell’autore: dall’alto: Il fiume Hudson, Westchester County, NY, sulle cui sponde abito adesso; Empire State Building, NYC;  Portici (Granatello), dove sono cresciuta;  Modena (la Ghirlandina), la città di mia madre;  Colli al Volturno (le Mainarde), il paese di mio padre;  Napoli (la Clinica Mediterranea, Mergellina, dove sono nata).

 

Quando volevo la tata

20 gennaio 2019

Per me, dico.

Avevo sette o otto anni.

Adoravo i fim di Walt Disney, come tutti i bambini.  Erano magici, dolci e toccanti, un insieme di emozioni che afferravano il cuore anche ai più piccoli.  Certo che sognavo di andare a Disney World, nei lontani United States.  Ricordo di ricevere delle foto da alcuni dei famosi ‘parenti d’America’ che neanche conoscevo allora, e morivo di invidia nel vedere quei bambini sconosciuti felici nel Magic Kingdom, circondati da quel che mi sembrava un vero e proprio scenario da film.  Naturalmente non cosa facilmente realizzabile quando abitavi a Napoli e l’America era a migliaia di chilometri di distanza, e si parlava pure un’altra lingua.  Rassegnatissima già a sette anni.

Però c’era il cinema, e il cuore mi palpitava di gioia ogni volta che i miei ci portavano lì, cosa che non succedeva spesso, dato che il babbo non spendeva facilmente soldi che non fossero assolutamente necessari.  Un grande senso di frugalità, molto probabilmente dovuto alle difficoltà patite durante la guerra.

Quando disse, all’improvviso, una sera, “Andiamo al cinema, bambini!” rimasi quasi di stucco.  Ero emozionatissima mentre ci avviavamo, con tutta la famiglia, a piedi verso Via Roma.

E così conobbi Mary Poppins.  Credevo che il film fosse un cartone animato, come altri della Disney, e fui molto sorpresa nel vedere questa introduzione meravigliosa delle reali strade di Londra (una città che sin da piccolissima sognavo di visitare), in tutta la loro gloria.

Poi arrivò lei, Julie Andrews, splendida e dolce, una fata in discesa dal cielo, tenendosi a un ombrello nero, i piedi coperti da stivaletti eleganti, perfettamente volti nella prima posizione.

Fu amore a prima vista.

Dal momento in cui aprì bocca rimasi affascinata.  Severa ma tenera, mi faceva un po’di soggezione, ma quando cominciò a seminare magia nella camera dei bambini, a scivolare giù sulla ringhiera delle scale, a tirar fuori una lampada dal borsone e a conversare con gli uccelli, ecco, rimasi quasi completamente ipnotizzata.  E quella voce stupenda da usignuolo, quelle canzoni dolci e simpatiche, che imparai subito a memoria, inclusa la famosissima Supercalifragilistichespiralidoso, che non ho mai più dimenticato.  Le passeggiate sulle vie della mia città dei sogni, con quei fortunatissimi bambini Banks, Dio, quanto desideravo essere la piccola bionda Jane!  La gita al parco, dove s’incontrano col simpaticissimo Bert, poi si tengono tutti e quattro vicini e saltano di colpo dentro il quadretto appena dipinto da lui sul marciapiede! Eccoli in una scena surreale e coloratissima, vestiti da festa, lei in veli bianchi, esuberante e raffinata.

Che meraviglia il ballo degli spazzacamini sui tetti di Londra, e Mary tra di loro, ballerina abile e aggraziata!

“Mamma, ti prego, prendici una bambinaia! Inglese come Mary Poppins!” Imploravo mia madre, la voglia di vivere la magia del film una vera scossa nelle vene, il desiderio tale da farmi male allo stomaco.  “Tu hai tanto da fare, con la scuola, il mercato, la casa, così si occuperà lei di noi tre e non ti daremo più fastidio!”

Niente da fare.  Mi guardavano divertiti, i genitori, non avendo nessuna intenzione di procurarci una tata, anche se io insistevo che avremmo potuto mettere un altro lettino nella nostra stanza, dal momento che non abitavamo nella grande casa a tre piani dei Banks (e non avevamo neanche cuoca e cameriera fisse).

Comunque Mary Poppins è sempre stato il mio film preferito e continuerà ad esserlo.

Il mese scorso, la magia è tornata sui grandi schermi con Mary Poppins Returns, ed io, che di rado vado al cinema, ci sono corsa con le mie figliolette di tre e sette anni (okay, diciamo ventitré e ventisette), e mi sono immersa completamente nel sogno e la magia di questo film, innamorandomi di nuovo di questo straordinario personaggio, il ruolo rinato alla perfezione nella performance brillante della bravissima Emily Blunt, ben consapevole che il mio cuore abiterà per sempre al Viale dei Ciliegi, 17.

The Time I So Wanted a Nanny

For myself.

I was around seven or eight.

Disney movies were dreams come true, when I was a child growing up in Italy.  Disney World, on the other hand, an impossible dream, since one just doesn’t pick up from Naples, Italy, and takes three little kids on a flight to Florida.  Unheard of.  Later, Disney Paris came along, but, by that time, I was on the other side of a child’s dreams and had zero interest in lame rides with Mickey Mouse and company.

Anyway, in the middle of my childhood, Mary Poppins burst into my life.

Andiamo al cinema stasera!”, my father announced. We are going to the movies!  Not something we did often,  My parents, though both educators and financially comfortable, were rather thrifty, and superfluous things were not lavished on us frequently.

I was used to Disney cartoons, and when the movie about this lady with the silly last name began, I was amazed that it was a live action film.

It was love at first sight. This beautiful fairy-like lady gracefully coming down from the sky, hanging on to an umbrella, her elegantly booted feet in a perfect first position, seized my heart, never to release it again.

Poised, perfect Mary Poppins, firm and kind at once, scaring me a little, then making everything better with her (literal) bag of tricks, singing the most beautiful songs I had ever heard with her silky nightingale voice. I memorized all of them, including the unusual and adored Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, but of course they were dubbed in Italian by an unknown artist with a remarkable voice, so I was singing Supercalifragilistichespiralidoso and Basta un poco di zucchero (instead of Just a spoonful of sugar).

The magic wonder raised me out of my seat in that super-crowded theater, and catapulted me into the surreal world of Jane and Michael Banks, the children we all wanted to be.

Oh, the dance of the chimney sweeps on the rooftops of London (a city I always dreamed of visiting, as a child), with pretty and talented Julie Andrews twirling among them! The walk to the park, when the four of them held hands and jumped into a picture that Bert had just painted on the sidewalk, and all was transformed into a colorful fairy tale, with glorious new costumes!

Mamma, I would beg, please please, hire a nanny for us! You are always so busy, with school, the market, the house, all those things you always complain about, how worn out and unappreciated you are…You would not have to worry about us three annoying children anymore…And we would live in a special magic world. My desire was so intense that my chest physically ached as I pleaded my case.

No chance.  My parents had no intention of hiring a nanny, dismissing my passionate insistence with an amused look on their faces.

Needless to say, Mary Poppins has remained my favorite Disney movie of all times, and always shall be.

Then, recently, the magic was back, with the new sequel to the movie.  I took my precious daughters, three and seven (okay, twenty-three and twenty-seven), to see it, and fell in love all over again with my favorite character.  Emily Blunt did a remarkable job with that iconic role, nearly as perfect and captivating as the original, and my heart will forever yearn to live at 17 Cherry Tree Lane.

Finisco sempre in cucina: e va bene così

6 gennaio 2019

Non ne avevo nessuna intenzione. Troppo da fare, stanca, apprensiva.

Ma ci pensavo.  Ai tortelloni che faceva mia madre.  I tortellini erano buoni, certo, ma la roba in brodo non è mai stata la mia number 1, ecco.  Però i tortelloni, belli grossi, panciuti, ripienissimi di ricotta e spinaci (o bietole), allora, questo è un pasto ne plus ultra.

Dunque, vado giù nel seminterrato della mia casa newyorkese e cerco il vecchio tagliere che usava mia suocera.  Eccolo!  Per niente nascosto, ma non ci ho dato uno sguardo da anni, usando sempre e solo quello più piccolo di marmo per fare i miei vari biscotti e crostate.  Ma questo è il ‘tagliere della pasta’, e questa farò!

I ricordi sbiadiscono, si accantonano nel buio, e tu li lasci lì, perché ti punge troppo risvegliarli.  Poi smetti di pensarci.  Ma, all’improvviso, è Capodanno, e ti ritrovi a Portici, mia madre (modenese DOC) tira la sfoglia, che diventa così sottile e enorme sotto quel matterello lunghissimo; lei si affanna a finire presto, perché poi si asciuga e deve ancora tagliare i quadretti.  ‘Via, bambini – diceva – copriteli coi tovaglioli, si seccano, si seccano…!’ E noi lì, a gironzolare intorno al tavolo di fòrmica della sua cucina gialla, con niente da fare ma aspettare il risultato delle sue fatiche: i bei tortelloni fumanti, lucidi di burro fuso, spolverizzati abbondandemente col parmigiano che toccava a me grattugiare.

Preparo l’impasto, nella mia cucina gialla di New York, l’odore onesto di uova e di legno m’ipnotizza, la pasta è soffice, elastica e liscia sotto le dita.  Era sempre di sera, quando lei faceva i tortellini/tortelloni, poco prima di preparare la cena. ‘Guardate-diceva-, ecco come si formano i tortellini, osservate, ricordatevelo…e non ditelo a nessuno!  È un segreto della mia famiglia, da passare ai vostri figli e a nessun altro!’ E così ho fatto, muta come un pesce, tanti, tanti anni dopo.  Capisco, mamma, certe cose non si buttano al vento, sono preziose e importanti, pesano di memorie e di una vita intera, devi raccoglierle e custodirle nel silenzio.

Taglio i quadretti con la rotella, cerco di farli uguali, ma non misuro niente, altro che riga, tutto a occhio, come faceva lei, veloce ed esperta, con lo sguardo perso nella malinconia dei suoi ricordi.  Invece delle salviette, li avvolgo nella pellicola, che li terrà belli morbidi (viva i tempi moderni!).  Il ripieno l’ho già fatto, la ricotta soda dal caseificio di Brooklyn, gli spinaci freschi in un bel pacchetto sigillato, già lavati e asciugati (di nuovo, viva le comodità moderne), il parmigiano importato (carissimo!), profumato come allora, quando lo grattuggiavo a mano, ascoltando l’hit parade alla radio, in attesa emozionata della canzone della settimana.

Uno alla volta, li farcisco, con attenzione, ma il più velocemente possibile (‘si seccano!’), e li metto in fila ordinata e diritta, così potrò contarli più facilmente, sulle lastre per i biscotti; li copro con la carta stagnola e li metto in frigo.

Il tagliere mi aspetta, e lo pulisco con cura con il raschietto, il legno spesso e solido, confortevole, come quei giorni di tanto tempo fa, quando prendevo per scontato, nella mia innocenza puerile, i piccoli miracoli quotidiani, la mamma sarebbe stata sempre lì, nella calda cucina gialla, impegnata con le sue meraviglie culinarie.  E mio padre, nello studio, con la libreria scura cinquecentesca, immerso nelle sue carte e nella gloria della musica di Beethooven.

Il tempo ti ruba il passato; poi te lo sbatte in faccia quando meno te lo aspetti.

Che fai allora? Ti abbatti per un istante, ti lasci lavare dal dolore, ti afflosci.

Poi ti rialzi, ti rimbocchi le maniche e ti metti a fare i tortelloni.

(Ringrazio di cuore mia cugina Elisabetta a Modena, che mi ha pazientemente tenuto la mano step-by-step con la preparazione della sfoglia perfetta, via messaggi Whatsapp.  La tecnologia è stupenda quando funziona!)

Another Year! Benvenuto!

It wasn’t planned, but, as the new year approached, I suddenly decided to dive into the holiday memories of my Italian childhood, as an intense yearning for my mother’s delectable Tortelloni alla ricotta spiraled out of control.

She used to make tortellini and tortelloni alternatingly, based on her mood, I suppose, as the first course for the major holidays, especially Christmas and New Year.  As most of you know, tortellini are small, stuffed with a meat and parmigiano filling and traditionally served in a rich chicken/meat soup.  Keep in mind that the amazing homemade tortellini from Modena have nothing to do with the abominations found, either fresh or frozen, in grocery stores.  These are handmade jewels that involve endless hours of labor, which can only be achieved with great patience, passion and determination (a nice glass of wine nearby only enhances the experience, believe me).

Tortelloni are larger, stuffed with a creamy and savory filling made with ricotta and either Swiss chard or spinach, and served in a simple butter and parmigiano sauce.  Sheer perfection.

I made my filling a day ahead and refrigerated it.  I dragged out the big tagliere (large wooden board usually used to make homemade pasta) that had been quietly in storage for years, and got to work.  As I mixed the flour and the eggs, (the ONLY ingredients needed to make fresh pasta, don’t you dare add oil or anything else!), my American reality began to slowly fade, and I was a child in my mother’s yellow kitchen in Portici, casually observing as her magic hands created this huge, almost paper-thin sfoglia, a soft sheet, born from a small ball of pliable dough.  She worked quickly, my mother, pure-blooded Modenese that she was, raised in this wonderful tradition.  With a little wheel, she cut the squares, quickly covering them with dish towels, since they dry very fast, shouting directions to make room on the table, to the three of us kids, who were just hanging around the warm kitchen, caring little, taking it all for granted, innocently believing that it would always be like this, that time would stand still, she would always be there, rolling out pasta with that long wooden pin, happy and upset at once, rushing, stressing, exulting.

The tortelloni were my favorites, and still are.  Italian children are not very fond of soup (except for the iconic pastina in chicken broth), so knowing that these delectable fat and tender dumplings were to be served as a nice pasta first course was super-exciting.

Once they were all stuffed, she lined them all up on numerous plates and placed them on every flat surface in the house, to dry till the next day.  Now, in our modern times, people do not follow this practice any longer, for the legitimate fear of salmonella, and the tortelloni are placed to dry in the refrigerator, and of course this is what I do.  (However, maybe because nobody ever thought of such things then, none of us ever fell ill).

The table was set in the kitchen, with a soft, freshly-laundered tablecloth.  Unless we had dinner guests, we never ate in the dining room, when I was growing up in Italy, and with my family being small and introverted, it was quite a rare occasion that anyone else was invited to a meal.  But the room was large, sunny and inviting, the old radio (built by my uncle who was a master radio and tv technician) played cheerfully in the background.  My mother filled the individual dishes at the stove (she never placed the serving bowl in the middle of the table), and we would eagerly dig in, eating way too fast, our childish eyes much larger than our stomachs, often becoming frustrated for not being able to devour more of those marvels of gustatory joy.  Then it was over.  Another year or so to wait for the next batch…unless we begged her to please please make tortelloni again, for the next holiday, instead of something more mundane and boring like baked pasta or lasagne.  And the dear soul usually complied.

Well, wishing and sighing will get me nowhere useful, so I suck up the pain, lock it up in the sealed chambers of my heart, roll up my sleeves and lose myself in the exhaustion of honest labor.

Tortelloni filled with ricotta, spinach, a lifetime of memories, fury, love, frustration and infinite melancholy, are ready!  Come and get them!

Buon anno a tutti!  Happy New Year!