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November 23, 2012     Post-Gazette
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POST-GAZETTE, NOVEMBER 23, 2012 Page 13 00N'anna 00Babb00nonno by ]ohn Christoforo A Nostalgic Remembrance It's Thanksgiving again and we will celebrate this traditional American holi- day with my cousin Ralph Pepe and his family. Our son Michael will be coming home for the weekend and will be with us. Our son John lives in Switzerland and the last Thursday in November isn't a holiday there so he won't be coming home. His lady friend who lives in New York has gone over for a visit which makes me feel that he won't be lonely this week. Usually'@'hed to ut' cousin Ralph's home in Wilmington but Ralph's wife has been under the weather lately and their youngest son Ken and his wife Sharon will host the annual get to- gether. It's getting to the point where my cousin and I are the old timers who just oversee the operations of a holiday and let the younger folks run things. I know my wife is waiting for the day when our sons are married and we have grandchildren to dote on at holiday time but that seems to be way in the future. Both boys have very lovely young ladies they are attached to but careers seem to stand in the way of settling down at this point. John is in finance and Michael is in show business. I remember asking Nanna a question when I was in short pants. She and Morn were getting things ready for Thanksgiving and I asked why she went all out for an American holiday like Thanksgiving, because it had nothing to do with being Italian. She answered by saying, "Babbononno and I give thanks to America. In the Old Country we could never have the life for our- selves, our children and grandchildren that we have here. We don't give thanks just for the food on the table but to the good Lord for ev- erything we have in this country. This may be hard to explain. We are Italian and are proud of it, but we are also American. We worked hard to become American and we give thanks once a year as Americans for the opportunities we have had in America, but we give thanks, Italian-style." In the process of getting things ready, they had to go shopping and I dressed to tag along. We walked down the Eutaw Street hill to Merid- ian Street and caught the trolley to Maverick Scluare, one of the main squares in East Boston. Both Nanna and Mom were carrying pocketbooks and in each was a black oil cloth shopping bag to carry home the ne- cessities for Thanksgiving. When we got off the trolley, we headed to Lewis Street and the arbitoire that ex- isted there. That is a fancy French term they used to use for a slaughterhouse and this one was kosher, but the Italians who wanted flesh chickens also bought there. During Thanksgiving week, you could pick out a turkey and they would slaughter it and dress it for you. Once the bird was wrapped in wax paper and placed in Nanna's oil cloth shopping bag, we would head to Central Square, about a ten minute walk from Mav- erick Square, heading north on Meridian Street. Nanna would head to the pushcarts that dotted the distance from the square to the entrance of the Sumner Tunnel. There was a butcher shop that was owned by Sal Lombardo of Lombardo's fame. His father was a friend of Babbononno and fresh meats were often bought there. Nanna would next look at the fruit and veg- etables sold from the push- carts by the vendors and more often than not would whisper to my mother in Ital- ian, "Esperiamo, voglio videre le cose a Sr. Bruno." ("Let's wait. I want to see the things at Mr. Bruno's.") Bruno's, a green grocer at the corner of Brooks and Trenton Streets, was the store where she usually bought the fruits and veg- etables for the family. From the pushcart area, we headed onto Bennington Street and stopped at Kennedy's Butter and Egg Store. A pound of butter and a couple of dozen of eggs later, we would walk along Bennington until we arrived at Tilly's Market. Looking at the latest imports from the old country, Nanna or Morn would pick out Torrone or chocolates. Tilly would wait on them, speaking Italian to my grandmother. Years later I found out that Tilly was Jewish but, having lived in East Boston all her life, she learned Italian well enough to converse with her customers. As we arrived at Brooks Street, we would head up the hill and stop at Faber's Fish Market. The fish would be for the Friday after Thanks- giving, as back then; Catho- lics couldn't eat meat on Friday. At the next corner, Saratoga and Brooks, was Umana's Bakery. They made fresh Italian bread and Nanna and Mom would pick out a couple of loaves that would grace the table on Thanksgiving. The store was owned by Guy Umana, the brother of Senator Umana, and he always had a tray of Sicilian pizza on the counter. A couple of slices would be- come my lunch. When we reached Mr. Bruno's, Nanna would pick out the fruits and vegetables, argue over the prices, come to an agree- ment with Mr. Bruno and they would be bagged and placed in the second oil cloth shopping bag. From there we would head to Staffier's corner store at Eutaw and Brooks. Nanna would buy the fixings to make pasta dough and ricotta for ravioli filling. Before we left there, she would include a bottle of Brioschi for Babbononno, just in case he got heart- burn after Thanksgiving dinner. The next morning was Thanksgiving. Mom and Nanna would begin to pre- pare the food for the dinner right after their morning coffee. In the meantime, Dad had brought Babbononno to Zi' Antonio's house to buy homemade wine. Zi' Antonio Was Nanna's oldest brother and Babbononno's best friend and, according to my grand- father, he was the best wine- maker in the world. Later in the day, my uncles and their families would arrive, each bringing something to grace the Thanksgiving table. A few minutes after their arrival, the kitchen table would be covered with Italian cold cuts, cheeses, olives, marinated mush- rooms, artichoke hearts, hot peppers, sliced bread and bottles of good cheer, includ- ing one of the gallons of my great uncle's best red wine. At around noon or one o'clock, someone would yell, "Siamo pronto a mangare." "We are ready to eat." Each of us would have an assigned seat at the table and we would await the coming feast. Dad placed the turkey in the center of the table and the first course, escarole soup with pastina and tiny meatballs would be served. At this point, Babbononno would give thanks in Italian and English. From that point on it was time to eat. After the soup came the homemade ravioli accompa- nied by Nanna's meatballs, sausages and chunks of gravy meat. This was fol- lowed by stuffed artichokes, saut6ed mushrooms, as- sorted vegetables and salad at the end. Dessert would include fruits and nuts. The pastries would come later with both Italian and Ameri- can coffee. After dinner, the men would head for the liv- ing room, light up cigars and most would fall asleep before the cigars were half smoked. Most wouldn't awaken until the coffee was ready: Oh, the turkey. It could have been made out of plas- tic and no one would have known the difference. This was an American holiday but we were Italian. The turkey was an ornament. GOD BLESS AMERICA e 617 22 8929 Ice Safety Tips from DCR With the colder weather approaching, Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) offi- cials are urging outdoor enthusiasts to use caution on the ice. Walking, ice fish- ing or other activities on one of DCR's frozen ponds is a great way to get out and enjoy the fresh air during winter. For those partici- pating in recreational ac- tivities on the ice, DCR offi- cials urge common sense and ask that you follow these recommended safety tips from the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA): Never go onto the ice alone. Always keep your pets on a leash. If a pet falls through the ice, do not attempt a res- cue -- go for help. Beware of ice covered with snow. Snow can insu- late ice and keep it strong, but it also can insulate the ice and keep it from freez- ing. Snow also can hide cracks as well as weak and open ice. Ice formed over flowing water (including springs un- der the surface) is generally weaker than ice over still water. Ice seldom freezes or thaws at a uniform rate. It can be a foot thick in one spot or an inch thick in another. If a companion falls through the ice and you are unable to reach that person from shore, throw something to them (a rope, tree branch, even jumper cables from the car, etc.). If this doesn't work, go or phone for help before you also become a vic- tim. Get medical assistance for the victim immediately. If you fall in, try not to panic. Turn toward the di- rection you came from. Place your hands and arms on the unbroken surface, working forward by kicking your feet. Once the ice is solid enough to hold you, and you can pull yourself out, remain lying on the ice (do not stand; lying down spreads your weight across a wider area, lessening the weight on any one spot) and roll away from the hole. Crawl back the way you came, keeping your weight distrib- uted, until you return to solid ice or ground. As the season progresses, plan accordingly and use caution, as the condition of older ice greatly varies and is subject to rapidly chang- ing conditions. For further tips, including information on hypothermia and cold water dangers, please visit the featured section, "Stay safe, keep warm in extreme weather" at www.mass.gov/dfwele/ dfw / recreation/ safety / ice safety.htm, which also offers additional ice safety tips. Several DCR properties of- fer guided outdoor skating programs in season, please visit the website for details. For contact information for these parks, as well as in- formation about additional winter recreation opportuni- ties in Massachusetts state parks, visit DCR's website: www.mass.gov / dcr. Leave the D E LIVE RY to us, With a Gift Subscription to the Post-Gazette, your generosity will be remembered every week of the year. Christmas G Subscription 0 We'll send the recipient an announcement of your gift. Their subscription will begin with the current issue and continue for one year. 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