CAKES AND CELEBRATIONS
Estratto dallo scampolo di ricordi N.13 di Angelo Giorgio Mutinati
First of all I must explain that the notion of going to the pastry shop to buy some cakes did not even exist back then: cakes were prepared at home. Among the most common and frequently prepared ones there were the taralli; the biscotti; the paste secche made with almonds; the pasta reale, a sort of baked marzipan (shaped like balls, plain, or – what a treat – filled with pear jam); the cannuoli; the “f’cazze frac’t’ “ – focacce fradice: the plain unsweetened dough of the taralli rolled out to form a sheet from which discs are cut out with the help of a cup; the jam, a walnut kernel and some lemon zest are placed on one half of the disc, it is then folded over pressing down the edges and baked in the oven -.
Liqueurs were home-made as well; they were called rosolio and made with the help of extracts like Strega, Alchermes, aniseed, etc. Due to the extremely high cost of pure alcohol, the rosolio was served in tiny glasses at the view of which we cannot help but smile today. Back then, I couldn’t care less about liqueurs. But I did care about cakes. Unfortunately, cakes were prepared only on some special occasions: some celebration or anniversary. The celebrations I remember are the baptisms of my sister Rosanna and, even more, of little Elio.
The guests were all invited into the parlour (maximum 5 x 5 metres); they sat down on the chairs (in addition to those of the house there were those borrowed from the neighbours). The godparents and notables could sit on the sofa, inste – ad; the chairs were arranged, as there was no other possibility, along the walls of the parlour, sometimes even in a double or triple row.
Once the celebration began, mum, grandma, and some of the closest friends started shuttling back and forth between the ground and the first floor to pay “i cumpl’mint’ “ – the compliments, namely to offer the cakes and sweets -. Some more insolent lady kept her bag on her knees to let some of the cakes just disap – pear in it … of which she had ‘inadvertently’ picked two pieces instead of one…. First the ladies of the house went around with the cake tray, then with the liqueur tray, and so on; at the end, they distributed a handful of sugar-coated almonds. And that was the end of the party. Cakes, obviously in smaller amoun – ts and not so many varieties, were prepared also before some special holiday; still, the main purpose was always the same: “San Rocco is getting closer, if people come to visit, how embarrassing if we can’t offer anything!”. I can still hear that refrain. When they had served their main purpose, mum would always set aside a few of those dainties to serve them at the meals on the following days, while some others she hid somewhere: because “c’ s’acchie v’nenn nguiuun’, nang’ putim’ fè brutta fiur’ ” – if someone happens to drop by, we mustn’t cut a poor figure -.