Carnevale: Slip on your Venetian mask and dare!

Let the festivities begin!Mara, flapper dress, masked

Time to indulge, to be deliciously naughty, to ignore the code of a polite society and common sense.

Just put on that mask, and leave it there for a few days

Carnevale!

When all the rules are broken and, sure, do whatever the hell you crave to do.

There are no spouses and no kids, at Carnevale, no neighbors or co-workers to judge you, no wine you cannot imbibe, no super-caloric, scrumptious morsel you are not allowed to savor, no way-too-short way-too-low-cut way-too-gaudy-bright outfit you shouldn’t really…

Dance along the water-lined alleys of Venice, shout to the world who it is you really love/want/ desire/hate (make sure mask is securely in place!), swirl in a stranger’s arms in a candle-lit ballroom in a seventeenth century palazzo ducale, breathe in the seductive night air on the veranda, live your unspoken fantasies in the universe turned upside-down, allow the music to inebriate your senses, carpe diem is exploding full-force tonight.

Mara, flapper dress, full lengthBe a feisty Colombina, be a mysterious veiled danseuse du ventre, embrace the Charleston as sad/seductive/enigmatic Daisy, release your secret Charlize and swing from the ceiling in a flowing gold dress; sway on the battered cobblestoned streets of Naples in your own Dolce & Gabbana vignette, confident, regal in dizzying stilettos.

Or.

Grow up in my middle class family in Italy, and be told, No, niente costume, spreco di soldi.   Yet another year without the much-coveted costume to show off in school, just because you’ll never wear it again, waste of money. That’s right, my very pragmatic parents would plan extensive summer vacations on the then undiscovered beaches of Calabria, but refused to shell out for a silly Carnival costume. Didn’t matter that literally ALL the other children boldly displayed their exciting festive outfits; no peer pressure for my parents, for sure.

Oh well, we had our cardboard masks, eye holes clearly cut out, to place on our face and secure with a thin rubber band around the head. I had quite a collection of them, all intriguing girlie characters – golden-haired princesses, fairies and folktale damsels.

Of course the stelle filanti and coriandoli flowed abundantly, the cheerful multi-colored streamers and teeny tiny confetti that would fly out everywhere, to be discovered in every corner of the house for the next several months. And there were poems recited in school, theme plays, and sweet treats, since school was simply a stage at Carnevale, all things aIMG_2953cademic happily brushed aside.

Then, when we came home, excited and frustrated at once, my mother would be rushing around (she, also, barely home from school), to put together the delicate lemony dough for the frappe, a traditional sweet for martedì grasso, delectable knotted (or not) dough ribbons fried in a panful of bubbling oil (or strutto, lard, if you dared), to be copiously dusted with vanilla-flavored powdered sugar when still hot and crisp. They respond to many names, the delicious frappe of my Italian days, like chiacchiere, cenci, bugie, crostoli, and many others, based on what region you are in.   I call them frappe, since my mother grew up in Modena, and this is the local name for them.

A plateful of them, freshly fried, is a gift of golden crunch, sparkly citrus and vanilla flavors (with a healthy touch of wine or brandy). She would also sprinkle them with a handful of colorful diavolilli, which is what nonpareils are called in Naples (little devils).

Here is her recipe. Buon Carnevale a tutti!

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