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September 8, 2017     Post-Gazette
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September 8, 2017

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PAGE 4 POST-GAZETTE, SEPTEMBER 8, 2017 ? L'Anno Bello: A Year in Italian Folklore Treasures of the Vineyard: La Vendemmia in Italy by Ally Di Censo Symynkywicz September is a glorious time of the year in Italy. The sun still bakes the landscape into splen- did hues of amber and ochre. Local festivals called sagre celebrate the ongoing harvest, with town squares becoming veritable banquets of local specialties ranging from apples to truffles to figs. Of course, the country begins gearing up for the autumn as well, as the dusky nights become cooler and people adjust to the rigor- ous rhythms of the new season. However, one September event particularly captures the whole essence of Italy in the fall. It is called la vendemmia, or the grape harvest, and it sweeps the country through the autumnal months. La vendemmia is a sacred ritual in Italy, where the grape comprises a prized crop and its final product, wine, forms the crux of its national character. Throughout this har- vest, Italian towns buzz with the energy of people collecting their grapes in giant wicker baskets or on the back of tractors, ready to be eaten as a fresh seasonal treat or distilled into the coun- try's famous wines. Communal pleasures blend with hard work in order to create a beauti] ful dance of quaint customs, and sweet pale green grapes, or velvety purple fruit, frequently sat on our kitchen table. Several relatives of mine grow grapes at home, the gnarled vines and wild leaves creeping over back- yard trellises like a labyrinth. Back in Italy, the same vine- yards that adorn postcards and posters are humming with activity for the September ven- demmia. Skilled farmers know the precise temperature and weather that make for the best picking conditions and will produce the optimal grapes,and wine. Nowadays, many people adapt technological methods to la vendemmia, using the latest gadgets to test the acidity of the grapes. However, tradition still careful food preparatiOn, and reigns supreme in many parts long-term planning for the cold of Italy, where the whole vii- months ahead. Observing~tal- . 1age assembles to pick grapes, ian vendemmia customs reveals from the grandmothers in ker- much about the power of the chiefs to the hip young people member's homes to be stocked with bottles of wine, glowing an eerie shade of white and purple in the dim light, aged to perfection and ready to be brought out to greet the arrival of a guest. Actually, wine is such a touchstone of Italian society that numerous super- stitions protect its reputation and warn of dire consequences to anyone who mistreats wine. A superstition that hearkens back to Roman times states that a person who spills wine must dab a little behind each ear to ward off any bad luck that comes from the waste of the precious drink. However, Italians do consider it good luck to spill wine on new clothes or a tablecloth. Perhaps this is a way for the wine to transfer its inherent positivity to the new garments. Miscellaneous wine superstitions further include never toasting with water, but rather always with wine; avoid- ing serving wine "backhanded," or with the back of the hand facing guests; and, for women, refraining from drinking the last drops of wine in a bottle at the risk of remaining unmarried (this superstition, of course, is from olden days when society dictated that women must get married). I do not drink wine myself, but I appreciate the wisdom and customs of my ancestors behind its malting. I believe that one of the most by Sal Giarratani :3J Celebrate Summer of Love and The Boston City Paper The August/September issue of AARP The Maga- zine came out with a great cover by artist Peter Max celebrating the Summer of Love's 50th anniversary. I kinda remember what it was like to be 19 years old in 1967. I graduated English High School the summer before and enlisted in the United States Air Force. I still remember being amazed that on Thanksgiving Day I was exercising with my U.S.A.F. flight group out on the field at Lackland AFB outside San Antonio, TX, and the temperature was a balmy 92 degrees. What kid from Boston thought it would ever be 92 degrees on Turkey Day when usually I was freezing while watching the English-Latin football game over at Harvard Stadium with usual temps around 35 degrees if we were lucky? That year was packed with history, as 1968 would also be but 1968 is a topic for another commentary. The War in Vietnam was starting to go from bad to worse as the American body count in Nam escalated. I can still remember watching CBS News with Walter Cronkite and seeing that bloody war only get worse. I was actually really lucky never to have gone over to the battlefields, spending my time in the Air Force stateside. A big song back then was ~harn, Turn, Turn" by The Byrds: Two weeks ago, I attended a funeral Mass for a good friend of mine at St. Mary's in Charlestown and one of the readings was a passage : from the Bible that The Byrds turned into a hit record about a time for this and a time for that. To me, that was the only explanation harvest as a way of respecting on break from coltege. One the Earthand thelure 0ftradi= can sense the Bacchanalian tions, even in modern Italy. revels of old in these communal Indeed, the sight of vine= gatherings. yards perched on rolling hills, La vendemmia is so vital in with dappled sunlight shining Italy precisely because much through the gemlike green of these harvested grapes will leaves and violet grapes, has be used in one of Italy's most become an indelible symbol of iconic products, wine. Wine, or Italy, often being the first image v/no, holds a significant spot that enters people's minds when in Italian culture and society, they think of the Italian coun- finding a place on every dinner tryside. Italian immigrants to table as the foundation of Ital- the United States brought over Jan hospitality. their love for the all-important Wine is also imbued with a grape when they crossed the religious connotation, serv- ocean, making it a staple of ing a prominent place in the Italian-American culture. Eucharistic ritual of bread and Grapes were my father's favorite wine. It is not unusual for the fruit, and a bowl of translucent basements in some of my family \ CATERING Authentic, delicious cuisine! Full Service Catering to your needs All Occasions Weddings Showers Birthday Parties Christenings Corporate/Social Events We will come to you[ Wait staff available upon request. 282 Spinelli's Catering Bennington Street, East Boston, MA 02128 617.567.1992 # important lessons to be gleamed : that could show what 1967 meant to so many living through it. from la vendemmia is patience. Farmers rlaust wait a long'time for the grapes to be just fight for picking; gathering the crop any sooner or later impacts that taste of the fruit and the even- tual wine. Later, winemakers" similarly ready themselves for the grapes to be distilled and the must to turn to wine. The tra- ditional day in Italy for tasting new wine is actually St. Martin's Day, or/a Festa di San Martino, which falls on November 11th -- two months after the bulk of the grape harvest has taken place. Afterwards, though, the -wine becomes a crucial part of the Italian holiday season and beyond. As we enter the fall, with its new rhythms and its return to school and work, we 'can all learn lessons from la vendemmia. We can set many goals for professional and per- sonal improvement, but we should realize that they will take patience, dedication, and hard work in order to manifest. Once they do, however, they will be as beautiful and well-earned as the finest Italian wine, which once started from the lowliest, barest vine. Just as Italians gather grapes this September, let us gather our own hopes, dreams, and challenges and work to make them come into fruition this autumn and all year long. Ally Di Censo Symynkywicz is a Graduate Student in History at the University of Massachu- setts Boston. She appreciates any comments and suggestions about Italian holidays and folk- lore at The year brought lots of good things and bad, births and deaths, horrors and hapl~iness. American cities vcere b~ed to thelgro~d over that long hot summer of violence. Then there was Expo '67 up in Montreal. We can't forget that here in Boston we were burning up with Red Sox fever as our ImpossibleDream took the lowly Red Sox into that year's World Series. Finally, there was the birth of the City Paper in 1967, when publisher Paul Feeney helped create a newspaper of record out of a shopper's newspaper. Over these last 50 years, the Boston City Newspaper has grown into a must-read for many Boston neigh- borhoods that need information not likely to appear in our daily newspapers or on the TV news. Feeney is still at it and I have been by his side helping to turn out this little paper week after week, year after year, and decade after decade. Many others, too, along the way became part of a newspaper that would change the way we follow neighborhood news too little for the big papers to cover. When I first met Feeney, he had a little storefront down across from a little coffee shop long since gone on Dorchester Avenue. The staff crammed into the closet-sized office and started some great Dorchester history and the paper expanded over the years to cover the news from more and more neighborhoods. Back 50 years ago, Killer Kowalski was the man in the wrestling ring, you went out dancing every weekend at the original Boston Tea Party club in the South End, and Kevin H. White took on Louise Day Hicks for mayor. Through it all, the Boston City Paper covered it all and contin- ues to do so to this very day. America has gone from Presi- dent Lyndon B. Johnson to President Donald J. Trump and the news media in Washington, DC, continues to pump out fake news. I was young and full of life, looking to the future with great hope despite bad things being witnessed. Today, except for being not so young, everything else stays the same. Congrats to Paul Feeney and the Boston City, long may they both reign[ :: call 61%227-8929::