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February 11, 2011     Post-Gazette
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February 11, 2011

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1 POST-GAZETTE, FEBRUARY 11,2011 Page13 [ ]A Nostalgic Remembrance i iiiiii i i iii Most of the old timers felt uncomfortable eating out. You ate your mother's cook- ing and married someone who could cook due to the fact that she was taught "how to" by her mother and grand- mother since she was a young child. The attitude was, "Why eat out when my wife is a better cook." Babbo- nonno was from that school of thinking. If he was with his friends in either the North End or East Boston, he might have lunch at one of the places he was familiar with, and the only things he would eat would be Italian cold cuts, cheeses, bread made that day and a glass or two of homemade red wine. Family wedding, christen- ing and first communion re- ceptions were always held at someone's home back then, function facilities were few in number in Italian neigh- borhoods. After the religious part of the ceremony everyone would head for the host's house. The ladies of the home probably had been up since 4:00 or 5:00 am, pre- paring the gravy, making the pasta and getting everything ready for the afternoon, since they too, would be at the church to watch the priest marry, baptize, confirm or give out first,,holy commun- ion. In their minds, it was considered an ihfamnia if they didn't attend. Quite often, a trusted neighbor would watch the stove for the ladies while they were at the church. When everything was over at the church, the guests would head for the designated house.. Once there, they would be greeted by the hosts and then they would greet each other while munching on a before dinner spread that covered the kitchen table. Of course, this assortment of cheeses and cold cuts would be ac- companied by homemade wine. When it was time, ev- eryone would be directed to be seated in the dining room and a toast would be given by the head" of the family .to honor the married couple, the child that was baptized, the children that received first communion or the teen- agers that were confirmed, which ever the ease might be. That's the way it was. Well, it was back during WWII, and Nanna was recu- perating from a heart attack and a bout with pneumonia that followed it. She was laid up for quite a while and Mom was at the Boston Hospital for Women every day. The hos- pital was located in Roxbury and if no one was around to drive her, she or we often would take the T to get there. Back then, it was called the Boston EL (Boston Elevated Railway), and the trains, trol- leys and busses were an- cient, due to the fact that there was a war on and they hadn't been upgraded since the 1930s. After a lengthy recuperation, Nanna finally was allowed to come home. It made it easier on her and my mother who became her nurse for the rest of the recuperation. By the time winter roiled around, my grandmother was doing a lot better. St. Val- entine's Day was just around the corner and Uncle Nick was coming home on leave. He was in the navy during the war, and at that point in time, stationed at the navy base at Newport, Rhode Is- land, playing for the U.S. Navy Orchestra, conducted by Andre Kostelanetz. Dad decided to take the family out for a St. Valentine's Day dinner. He had played at the Cathay House, a long-gone, but then, quite popular Chi- nese Restaurant located in Boston's Chinatown. Back then, most Chinese" restau- rants had entertainment and Dad~play~ed with a band at the Cathay House and knew the management rather well. The family had thought of having a Valen- tine's Day dinner at the house, but were fearful that the excitement might be too much for Nanna. She was not the type who would let oth- ers do the work of preparing a dinner. She was always in the middle doing more than her share. Eating out was the best way to celebrate and Dad set it up with the man- ager of the restaurant. To save on gas, Uncle Nick, his first wife, Ada, Nanna, Babbononno, Mom, Dad and I squeezed into Dad's 1937 Plymouth and headed through the Sumner Tunnel at a cost of fifteen cents and worked our way through Bos- ton to Chinatown. Babbo- nonno had never eaten Chi- nese food before this point in time and didn't know what to expect. They left the order- ing up to Dad after we were greeted and seated by Dad's friend, the manager. When the waiter arrived, Dad or- dered a round of drinks for everyone and as the family toasted each other, Valen- tine's Day cards were handed to Nanna along with a heart- -- FOR YOU WHO APPFIKCIATF THE KINF~T -- THE MUSIC FOR ALL OCCASIONS 781-648-5678 shaped box of chocolates and flowers that were hidden from her in the car. Dad next ordered the food, egg rolls and pork ends for appetizers, shrimp in lobster sauce, mushroom chow yoke and fried rice for the entrees. Dad explained each course to Nanna and Babbononno, but my grandfather looked at everything like it was from another planet. The rest of us were familiar with Chi- nese food and dug in. Nanna was a bit more daring than Babbononno and tried the food and actually liked every- thing. Babb0nonno didn't want to be considered a wimp and sampled an egg roll and a few pieces of pork. He put duck sauce on both as sug- gested by Mom and liked them even better as he had a sweet tooth. Uncle Nick warned him about the hot mustard but he had to try it, anyway. He put a large amount on a piece of pork, popped it into his mouth, and within seconds, lunged at his water glass and swal- lowed the contents in one gulp, swearing in Italian and English. Nanna called him a cafone for the way he acted, and being out in public, he calmed down and continued to eat, minus the hot stuff. The main courses were to his liking and he dug in with his fork. What fasci- nated him the most was watching people at other tables eating with chop sticks. He had been to North Africa as a young man in the Italian Marine Corps and had learned to eat with his fin- gers in countries like Mor- roco, but considered that bar- barict Morn told him that, in China, people ate with chop sticks and not forks. This was all new to him and he was fascinated. All in all, things worked out rather well. When the bill arrived, it was accompanied by Chinese candy. Back then, fortune cookies weren't that com- mon in Boston. The restau- rants served a jelled candy with sesame seeds covering the brown colored pieces. I'm not sure what the flavoring was, but as a kid, I liked it. Babbononno tasted a piece and said, "Questo dulce tene il sappore di lavandina." (This candy has flavor of bleach water.) Having a sweet tooth, he ate it anyway. As we left the restaurant and headed for the car, my grandfather looked around at the neighborhood and the people, totally fascinated by what he saw. We all squeezed in the old Plymouth and headed toward the tunnel and home. Nanna thanked cvcry0nc for the flowcro and candy, and once we were back home, we wished each other a Happy Valentine's Day. Those were happy days and I would like to extend that same sentiment to one and all. From the Christoforo family, "Happy Valentine's Day." MAY GOD BLESS AMERICA We share one more photo from the "40th Anniversary of The Friends of the Public Garden Gala," which was featured in last week's "Socially Set" column. Here we see Alex and Annie Sacerdote smiling for the camera at the Taj Boston soiree. (Photo by Roger Farrington) pany, Harpoon Brewery, Ipswich Ale, Mayflower Brewing Company and Rap- scallion. For tickets and more infor- mation, , please log on to ....... Chris Lyons invites us to "Eat Well and Do Good." Throughout 2011, the Ashmont Grill will donate 10% of each meal served at its Monday Night Wine Club to a Dorchester-based orga- nization chosen by chef- owner Chris Douglass, "whose roots in Dorchester go deep." Monday nights in Febru- ary, the Grill's charitable partner is Leahy-Halloran Community Center, which is one of almost 50 youth and families centers operat- ing in Boston. Since 1973, LHCC has provided an ac- credited pre-school program, an aquatics program, plus human services, assistance and information to the residents of the Ashmont neighborhood. In March, the Grill teams up with Boston Partners in Education, which supports K-12 students in five public schools in Dorchester by providing academic mentors who tutor kids in reading, writing and math, giving them increased confidence and motivation. The five-year-old Monday Night Wine Club pairs re- gional wines with small plates of seasonal food. Re- crv or walls-in, sit commu- nally, while local experts cir- culate and speak to diners as the wines are poured. Start time is 6:30 p.m. Ashmont Grill is located at 555 Talbot Street, Dor- chester. For more informa- tion, call 617-825-4300 or visit ....... The Radcliffe Insti- tute for Advanced Study An- nual Gender Conference takes place on Thursday and Friday, March 3-4. Titled "Driving Change, Shaping Lives: Gender in the Devel- oping World," the event is free and open to the public, but registration is required by February 23. This conference will bring together leading experts from different fields, coun- tries, and perspectives at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study to explore the complex roles of gender in the developing world. Academic scholarship will be interwoven with practical experience as scholars, prac- titioners, organizers, and political leaders engage with one another in panel sessions on health, educa- tion, shifting populations, politics, and technology and media. Discussions will investigate intersections among these topics, crossing boundaries both conceptual and geographic. Participants include: Swanee Hunt, Aloisea Inyumba, Robert Jensen, Paula Johnson, Kirk Smith and Cecilia Maria V~lez White, to name a few. The conference will be held in the Radcliffe Gymna- sium, 10 Garden Street, Cambridge. For additional details and a conference schedule, please visit or call 617-495-8600. Y, ajoyl (Be sure to visit Hilda Morrill's gardening Web site, In addition to events covered and reported by the columnist, "The Socially Set" is compiled from various other sources such as news and press re- leases, PRNewswire services, etc.) m iJ r !, . i