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October 18, 2013

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Page 4 POST-GAZETTE, OCTOBER 18, 2013 L'Anno Bello: A Year in Italian Folklore Cooking Up Fall by Ally Di Censo Symynkywicz Most outsiders to Italian culture, my husband Noah included, first fall in love with the cuisine. While there are many other aspects of Italian traditions to admire, as I have written about abundantly in this column, one has to admit that the food is pretty spectacular. Not only does it contain plenty of complex, delicious tastes, all emanating from the simplest and freshest of ingredients, but Italian cui- sine remains inextricably tied to the cultural year. Ital- ians define holidays and feast days by the customary, food served; in turn, those dishes reflect the symbolic values of those celebrations in the Italian mindset. What is an Italian Christmas with- out struffoli and torrone, a Carnival without fritters, a St. Joseph's Day without zeppole, an Easter without ricotta pies? Italian food holds the tantalizing power of uniting family and friends in joyous festivities. Though I love cuisine all year round, I especially start thinking about the art of food around fall. I am a baker more than a cook and the fruits of autumn seem espe- cially adept for being baked into extraordinary pies, tarts and cakes. Furthermore, the dark nights and crisp air call me back to the kitchen, sur- rounded by the honeyed glow of the lights and the warmth wafting from the oven. Cold autumn evenings encourage families and friends to gather within the security of one's home and what better way to facilitate these gather- ings than with food? Finally, autumn is the start of the holiday season, as Hal- loween, Thanksgiving and Christmas are all around the corner, some of the major food feasts of the year. So I apologize if I am hlak- ing my readers hungry, but I feel compelled to list my favorite autumn ingredients and their Italian roots: Apples: Though we think of apples as a quintes- sentially New England food (which, of course, they are), Italy also stands as one of the major apple-producing countries of the world. Way up in the valleys of the Trentino, that mountainous Italian region that borders with Austria, gnarled apple orchards dot the countryside. There, apples, known as mele in Italian, form the basis of many German-inspired des- serts such as strudel. They may also be paired with savory dishes such as pork, a combination my husband loves. Back home, some of my strongest apple memo- ries involve my father simply baking them in the oven with a sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar -- a warm, simple, delicious treat. I adore using apples in a variety of baked goods, though I am especially par- tial to moist apple breads and cakes. Pumpkin: Since Hallow- een still remains one of my favorite holidays, I fall into a deep pumpkin frenzy every time October rolls around. I crave pumpkin in my hot chocolate, pumpkin in home- made scones, breads, and cakes, and even fake pump- kins to decorate the house! I always associated pumpkin with sweet treats until I learned that in Italy, pump- kin, known as zucca is most traditionally paired with sa- vory items. I have since grown fond of pumpkin ravioli and I have now made it my tradition to make pumpkin gnocchi on St. Martin's Day, an Italian harvest celebra- tion occurring on Novem- ber 114. I even made pump- kin enchiladas the other day, which were so delicious they barely lasted twenty-four hours. Chestnuts: Like many things in life, my love of chestnuts goes back to my father. A huge deal in Italy, where autumn remains syn- onymous with chestnuts (castagne), I know that fall has officially arrived when my father brings home a bag of these woodsy delights. I do not cook with chest- nuts, preferring them sim- ply roasted in the oven. To me, the humble chestnut perfectly encapsulates the Italian philosophy of enjoy: ing food straight from the Earth, in all its unadorned glory. Spices: Because fall days brim with chilliness in the air, I crave the warmth of spices in my baked goods -- cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg are my favor- ites. I make gingersnaps on St. Michael's Day to honor that holiday's medieval roots, and you can bet that one of the aforementioned condiments always plays a role whenever I cook with apples or pumpkin or pears. Italians adore spice cookies, and a certain kind known as favi di morti are traditional on All Souls' Day, two days after Halloween. Spooky and delicious! These ingredients and their Italian variations, signify autumn in all its colorful, harvest glory. They remind me of family gather- ings and warm nights barri- caded against the cold, dark air; of holidays and spirits of my ancestors. So enough reading about food -- let's get cooking! Ally Di Censo Symynkywicz is a Graduate Student in History at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She appreciates any comments and suggestions about Italian holidays and folklore at adicenso89@gmail, com. CHELSEA SOLDIER'S HOME vs. NORTH END VFW POST 144 by Commander Ralph d. Masciulli, VFW POST 144, On a beautiful late sum- mer day at the North End Park Bocce Courts, several members from the Chelsea Soldier's Home and VFW POST 144 from the North End, assisted by the Italian American War Veterans (ITAM) POST 8, Medford and Friends of the North End (FONE) all participated in a Bocce/Barbeque tournament. Since 1969 FOR ALL YOUR INSURANCE NEEDS AUTO * HOMEOWNERS * TENANTS COMMERCIAL Experience makes the difference 209 BROADWAY, REVERE, MA 02151 Tel. 781.284.1100 Fax 781.284.2200 Free Parking Adjacent to Building North End, Boston Peter Bertolami from (Post 144) did an outstanding job as Master Chef. Upon ar- rival, the Veterans from the Soldier's Home were greeted with coffee and donuts. Lunch consisted of sausages, peppers, onions, mushrooms, hotdogs, hamburgers, potato salad, watermelon and d flcs. Victor Passacantilli and Nick Savino are to be commended for setting up schedules and making sure that the games proceeded smoothly. The win- ners were presented with baseball caps. Four members from Post 144 participated and coordi- nated activities; namely, Peter Bertolami, Paul Scola, Fran Voss and Ralph Masciulli. With the grace of God and by the request of the Chelsea Soldier's Home we will have a repeat perfor- mance next summer. This is the second year Post 144 sponsored this event. by Sal Giarratani ,/ "% Some Times You Shouldn't Go Home Again Everybody loves to quote Thomas Wolfe who once said, "You can't go home again." I grew up in a tough urban neighborhood known as St. Philip's Parish to us Catholic kids. We had a tough State Rep. Charlie Iannello who served the neighborhood for 19 years. He never got defeated -- not even from a jail cell over on Charles Street outside the district. He was the man you went to if you were looking for an apartment on Harrison Avenue at the housing project or if you needed a job at the shoe fac- tory nearby. If you didn't have enough money to buy a pair of shoes for your kids, he had them upstairs in his house. All you needed to do was give him the shoe size and preferred shoe color. Once when I passed him sit~ ting on his doorway stoop, he gave me a puppy without me even asking for it. Appar- ently someone gave him a puppy and he was trying to farm it off on the first per- son passing by him,. I was the lucky kid. My father wasn't that happy but we kept the puppy. However, my dad did tell Charlie no more animals for Salvy. I loved the old neighbor- hood and my family didn't move out until I was almost 19 years old. Even if I wanted to go home most of it has been razed and the place only lives on in the memo- ries of all who once lived there. I thought of all this as I rode behind a bus whose rear-end stated, "The jour- ney is as important as the destination." I might have added that the destination all stems back to where you began the trip. When folks ask me where I was born, I always say at Boston City Hospital next to my mother. A few years ago they knocked down the old maternity building at Boston Medical Center. I asked a construction worker to give me a brick from the build- ing, he did. It is mine now. Something real that says where I started my life's journey. Today, I live in East Bos- ton but along the way to Eastie I stopped off in many places like North Wey, mouth and East Braintree. I have called Quincy, Charles- town, Dorchester and Roslin- dale home too. I think the Giarratani coat of arms must have a moving truck on it. I love the journey I have been riding. It has been a great adventure which is what life should be. I have a few good mottos that I hold on to. One is "Never say never." Another is "Do right and be nice." Finally, "Always know where you can find empty boxers in a rush." Oh yeah, " Never take a puppy without asking your parents first." Fully Insured Lic #017936 xechaMca] Heating & Air Conditioning Sales, Service & Installation Ken Shallow 617.593.6211 kenskjs @ W RISTORANTE & BAR Traditional Italian Cuisine 415 Hanover Street, Boston 617.367.2353 11 MountVernon Street, Winchester 781.729.0515 P, iv t, Fu.cho. i oom, for.., Occosio. C eisleninc] B d.I SkoW : BoI , 9 [ e.e.vement, Etc. Donato Frattaroli donato @ wwwluciaristrante'cm