Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Traditions by Barbara Quinn

There are so many traditions that surround my family at this time of year. Since I was a child, I’ve been making an Italian pastry we affectionately call Ceci, otherwise known as Strufoli, a small fried doughnut doused in honey, but it’s not like any regular doughnut. Ceci translates as garbanzo bean and this pastry is small and round, the same shape as garbanzo beans, though unlike them it is fried and doused in honey. It’s a simple recipe, notable for its appearance in Italian bakeries at this time of year, mounded high on platters and doused in colored sprinkles.

Much of the joy of this treat is in its creation. I still use the recipe I wrote out when I was 8 or 9 years old. My mother smiled at me with my notebook watching her every move and putting it into my child’s scrawl. I wanted to remember it, wanted to remember to make it the way I saw her easily making it each year since I was born. The year I wrote out the recipe, she had to stop to measure the ingredients. She didn’t normally measure. Like most of her dishes, she’d learned to make the treat from her mother, and neither of them used any sort of measuring cup or spoon. But I stopped her each step of the way and she tolerated my inquisitiveness. I helped her make a well in the flour on a wooden board, and put in the egg, milk, oil, sugar, vanilla, then blended it all together with my hands, enjoying the squishy feeling as the dough formed. Once it was kneaded and shiny, we broke off pieces and rolled the dough into long snakes that we cut up. My father manned the kettle with its two inches of oil and soon the strufoli were golden and ready to be coated with honey.

After that year, my mother used my measurements. We hauled out the piece of paper and followed them. I still measure the ingredients with that recipe. My husband man's the kettle. The result is sublime.

And with the first bite, I taste childhood again.

The joy, the anticipation of the holiday. It’s all there in a bowl of freshly fried and honeyed strufoli.

For that I am grateful.

Have a merry…..


Anonymous said...

Family receipes make traditions complete. My wife did the same thing with my mom and grandmom. Our boys love it.

Kathryn Magendie said...

Oh, I wonder if those are like what I tasted last night? Someone had these little ball-ish (kind of bean shaped) dough kind of things, but they were crunchyish and tasted almost like a toffee or carmalized sugar on the outside....someone said, "these are the DEBIL!" laughing...

I love traditions.

Angie Ledbetter said...

I love all kitchen traditions. My daugter spent yesterday making the Italian bread loaves with my dad. I've made strufoli once with a lady friend who has her own cookbook. Delish, but a lot of work. :)

Patresa Hartman said...

that sounds delicious!

so much tradition in food -- such a powerful link. nothing screams my grandmother to me more than date pinwheel cookies and sticky green candy "wreaths" with red hots.

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