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August 8, 2014     Post-Gazette
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August 8, 2014
 

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POST-GAZETTE, AUGUST 8, 2014 Page 13 by John Christoforo JVh n n a Babb onno A Nostalgic Remembrance Socially Scene (Continued from Page 7) Someone asked me to run a story I had written years ago about an episode in Babbononno's inability to Americanize, so here goes: It was Christmas Eve after- noon, and Babbononno got out of work a little early to do his last minute shopping. This was not the type of Christmas shopping where you buy presents for mem- bers of the family. It was the shopping for things that were traditional for the din- ner table on Christmas Eve and Christmas day. Mostly everything needed for the two days had been purchased by Nanna and my mother. But, there were things that Babbononno wanted that Nanna refused to touch. Among them, eels. Nanna was deathly afraid of snakes, and to her, eels were snakes. She wouldn't kill them; she wouldn't clean them; she wouldn't eat them. She scheeved eels. She called them " serpenti bagnatF (wet snakes). So, if Babbo- nonno wanted the eels for Christmas Eve, he would have to buy them and then kill, clean and cook them himself. Babbononno got a ride to the North End that afternoon and stopped at Giuffre's Fish Market which was on the corner of Cross and Salem Streets. He bought some qua- hogs, little necks, oysters, razor clams and about a half dozen eels. The eels were in a galvanized wash tub sit- ting on a wooden box in front of the store's entrance. He had one of the sales people trap six of them and place them in a shopping bag with the shell food he had selected. At his request, the man double bagged the eels because they were wet and could possibly soak through one bag. (This happened before plastic bags were invented.] Once he-left Giuffre's he headed for a bar that was on the corner of Hanover and Prince Streets. It was cold standing outside picking eels for his table, and a glass of wine or a shot of cognac might warm him up for the journey home. When he left the bar, he headed for Haymarket Station for the Boston Elevated (Boston El.) Once on the train, he headed for Maverick Station in East Boston. After he arrived at Maverick, he went outside to wait for the Meridian Street trolley. He boarded the trolley that would take him to the corner of Eutaw Street, found a seat and put his bag of eels down on the inside of his left leg, next to a heater. By the time the trolley arrived at Central Square, the eels were squirming around from the heat. Unfortunately, the double bagging didn't work. The eels soaked right through both bags and broke through winding up on the floor of the trolley. Many people on the trolley weren't Italian and new noth- ing about eels and eating seven types of fish for Christ- mas Eve. What they saw were several snakes wig- gling around their feet. Women began to scream. Several jumped on the seats. Even the men were jumping around trying to avoid the sea creatures. Seeing a commotion, the conductor stopped the trolley and walked back to where the passengers were in a panic. After spotting the rapidly moving eels, he began to yell at Babbononno who had no idea what the man was saying. Babbononno tried to explain in fractured English what had happened, and the two men wound up yelling at each other with neither knowing what the other was saying. As the two of them were going at it, a couple of brave souls tried to capture the eels with no luck. Babbononno pulled out a pocket knife, went down on his hands and knees and tried to spear his wandering dinner ingredients. It took quite a while, but old dead- eyed Babbononno speared all six of them and threw each back into the ripped paper shopping bags. A neighbor saw what was going on and offered my grandfather the use of her black oilcloth shopping bag. He accepted and quickly threw his ripped bags into the replacement. It worked. He had recaptured his dinner. As a result of the problem and the argument with the conductor, Babbononno was asked to leave the trolley. I'm not sure, but he may have even been escorted to the open door. Word has it that every aspect of Italian and American profanity came into play as my grandfather left the trolley. Knowing my grandfather when his tem- per was at its worst, I think gestures with either one of his middle fingers in a ver- tical position or a fast fold- ing of one arm into the other may have come into play. -- FOR YOU WHO APPRECIATE THE FINEST-- THE MUSIC FOR ALL OCCASIONS 781-648-5678 When tl4e conductor yelled that he was going to call the police, Babbononno walked away from the trolley and began walking up the Merid- ian Street Hill. He didn't get too far be- cause Bell's Caf4 was right off Central Square on the same side of Meridian Street as the Seville Theater. He entered the bar and decided to calm his nerves. He met a couple of acquaintances who also were calming their nerves and joined them in a sample of liquid refresh- ment. By the time he left, he was feeling no pain. When he left, he continued on his merry way up the hill toward Eutaw Street. Arriv- ing at number 70, he entered through the cellar door and wound up in the kitchen where Nanna and my mother were preparing the tradi- tional Christmas Eve dinner. Nanna smelled her husband and let him have a barrage of Italian curses, but broke into laughter when Babbo- nonno began to explain the events of the aftemoon. When he opened the shopping bag to reveal his purchases, my grandmother yelled and ran out of the kitchen. Undaunted, Babbononno dumped the six eels into the kitchen sink, and called for my father. When he appeared/ my grandfather enlisted his help in spearing each eel, killing them, dis- secting them, skinning the segments and then frying them in oil and garlic. When Nanna and my mother finally returned to the kitchen, the eels were in the frying pan and Dad was shucking the shell food that shared space with the eels in the original bags. Within an hour, Christ- mas Eve dinner was just about ready to be placed on the dinner table. Beginning with antipasto, then spa- ghetti aglio h olio, the seven fish were served to the mem- bers of the family. When Babbononno brought out the dish with the cooked eels, the final product looked nothing like their original appearance. Nanna was still squeamish and refused to eat even one piece. It seems that none of my uncles, aunts nor my parents had any desire to indulge, so Babbononno had six cooked eels all to himself for Christ- mas Eve. Of course, they were washed down with a few glasses of Zi'Antonio's best homemade wine, and all was well. GOD BLESS AMERICA. For information about advertising in the Post-Gazette, call 617-227-8929. Twin Brother is a folk rock band starting to produce quite a spark and will hit Boston on August 24th at TT & The Bears Place. (Photo by wuwm.com) the exception of having a couple friends play piano and sing on the title track. "This album seems more honest to me as a songwriter than any album I've ever written," says Sean, "I'm not pulling any punches here, and the songs you hear on the record are just about as true to who I am right now as anything." Over the course of a few months the band worked rigorously around the clock in the recording studio to pro- duce their sophomore album. With more time and ample comfort during the creative process they were able to refine every song into its completion. The band chose to title the album Swallow the Anchor because of the mean- ing behind that phrase. The title itself is an old saying that refers to a sailor giving up the ship life and retiring once and for all. "In a lot of ways I feel that way about many things in my life," says Sean, "things I would like to give up because I know it would be better for me, but in the end I just can't do it". Twin Brother will be at TT & The Bears Place located at 10 Brookline Street, Cam- bridge on August 24th. YOU may call the venue for tick- ets at 617-492-0082 or visit www. tttbearsplace.corn. Farm-to-table ,:Gala ... A Supper at Hancock Shaker Village with Gover- nor Patrick as honorary chair for the August 9 fundraiser. Governor Deval L. Patrick and First Lady Diane B. Patrick are honorary co- chairs for Hancock Shaker Village's annual Gala fund- raising benefit dinner, to be held from 5:00 pm to 9 pm on Saturday, August 9th. The evening's festivities will include Iocavore farm-fresh food prepared by Chef Michael Roller and songs from the American songbook performed live by the Gregory Caputo Big Band. A silent and live auction, as well as dem- onstrations of Shaker crafts by leading artisans, will round out the evening, which is su:. to include some baby animals from the Round Stone Barn, tool Funds raised by the Gala will benefit the Village, which is engaged in a multi- pronged campaign to restore its 20 historic buildings, many of which are in need of urgent care. "Every year we have a cause-within-the- cause that we also hope to raise money for, and this year the "cause" is our build- ing restoration," says Linda Steigleder, HSV President and CEO. The silent auction features -~ one-of-a-kind items and packages for dining, travel, and luxury goods. (A complete auction list will be posted on the website in early August.) The Gala will be held un- der the tent at the Village, with stunning sunset views of the Round Stone Barn, beginning with cocktails in the gardens (weather permit- ting). The entire event is handicapped accessible. You may call Maribeth Cellana at 413-443-0188 x 100 for additional information and directions or go online at www.hancockshakervillage.org / gala. Since 1960, the historic Village has been open to the public as a living- history museum presenting the Shaker legacy. While only a few Shakers are still living (and none live at Hancock), they're best-known today for their simple and elegant fur- niture and many ingenious inventions. Located on 750 acres in the beautiful Berkshires of Mas- sachusetts, Hancock Shaker Village is accredited by the American Association of Museums. In its collection are more than 20,000 au- thentic artifacts. The Vil- lage offers visitors a rotat- ing. schedule of exhibits, programs and workshops, a working farm with heritage- breed livestock and exten- sive gardens of heirloom veg- etables, flowers and herbs, tours for individuals and groups, miles of hiking trails and a picnic area. A Tasty Treat to Compli- ment Your Time in the City ~_ ... Cinquecento in the South End is ecstatic to announce, they are now serving Oys- tersl With a focus on the freshest East Coast oysters they can get their hands on, they are preparing them Taranta style (lemon and cracked pepper mignonette - with sliced candied lemon}. A personal staff recommen- dation is starting the meal with half a dozen & some sparkling ros on the patio. Book a table now and test them out for yourself. Be sure to make a stop in on August 14 for their first annual Bacchanalia. It is a wine, pig roast, beer, snack bar filled with music and cocktails. They are located at 500 Harrison Avenue, Boston and can be reached at 617-338-9500 or you can visit www. cinquecentoboston, com for more on events and their menu.