The Ciambella Romagnola lives on : Her cake

It’s the simple, most ordinary things that remind me of her.  My mother.  Let’s say, I make her ragù with veal, with a touch of porcini, and it tastes just like hers, so I think, yes, I’ll tell her, I’ll call her…But no.  Silly me for forgetting that she’s gone.  Not in her yellow kitchen in Portici anymore, leafing through a magazine between chores.  Not hanging the clothes out to dry on the balpicturecony facing the stunning Bay of Naples, thinking (I know) how lucky she is to be here, witnessing this, the most amazingly beautiful panorama in the whole world.  She’s not rushing home from school any more, to get the pranzo on
the table quickly, before my father returns from school, too.  Four years already, but it can’t be, really, because I didn’t get the chance to say I understand you now, I care, I know, I admire you, I’m sorry.  So far away for so damn long, what happens is that you get used to not seeing someone (everyone!), and they slip your mind at times, shamefully so, because, well, because you’re doing stuff, living, fretting, breathing, thousands of miles away.  So it seems unreal, impossible, some days, that she’s actually flown away, up there, since she wasn’t always near me, already gone before she was.  Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.  Vulnerable and lost I am, when the truth of my reality enters my unconscious then conscious, and the excruciating burden of those preventable regrets leaves me picturebreathlessly shattered.  But I cut through the thick fog of remorse, fiercely determined, because then what?  Can one recover from the grief of things not done, not said, not even thought, yeah, not even considered, because life pushes you inexorably to move on, move forward…The Ciambella romagnola, a rustic, hearty cake from her native Modena, that she used to make for us on Saturday night for Sunday breakfast, well, it’s one of them, the little events that bring her back, in my yellow American kitchen.  As I unmold this plain cake, subtly fragrant of lemon, sparkling with the sugar granella I picked up in Portici this past October, I feel her presence.  It’s Saturday here in New York, and this is Sunday breakfast for my daughters.  But enough, here’s her recipe. You don’t mind, mamma, that I give it out, vero?  Oh, I write too much, I know.

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