Monday, July 27, 2009

Italians of a certain age might remember festivals during the summer. These events were a combination holy day and block party. They involved the entire community. I remember the Feast of St. Anthony. Aunt Catherine and Aunt Mary, my grandmother's sisters, both had houses on the parade route. The combination of location and love ensured a day of family, fun, and food.

My father would pile all of us into the car early in the morning so we wouldn't miss a minute of the festivities. First there was mass, and afterwards, men of the parish carried statues of the saints and the Blessed Virgin out of the church and up the hill to St. Anthony's Lodge. The statues were draped in sashes, and on the parade route, people pinned bills to the statue of choice. To my young eyes, it looked like a saintly beauty pageant. I thought the number of bills showed which statue was the most popular or most powerful. 

Everyone followed the pageant to the lodge. The grounds were transformed into a carnival with rows upon rows of stands, each featuring a different game of chance or type of food. My favorite was the balloon game, where for a quarter, anyone could shoot five darts. If you hit a balloon, you won a plastic necklace. If there was a ticket inside the balloon, you won money. I wouldn't know about the money part, but my neck was heavy from all the cheap trinkets I won. Even though my father only gave each of us a dollar, his uncles and their sons made sure we had enough money to keep us entertained all day.

Then there was the food. The wives of lodge members were the best cooks ever. They made cakes and cookies and pies. But even as a kid, I knew the dolci were mere fluff compared to the sandwiches. And the king of the sandwiches was the veal scaloppini. I'm still searching for the perfect recipe that melds tender veal, green peppers, sweet onion, fresh mushrooms, and tomato gravy into the perfect filling for the perfect roll, crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, with just enough oomph to keep the precious veal from tumbling to the ground. If you have a recipe for veal scaloppini that you are willing to share, please post it. 

In the meantime, you can find me testing sandwiches at the shore.

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