Saturday, April 17, 2004

Easter lambs and pasqua nonna

Pasqua is past. How did it come and go so quickly?! My family and I ate Easter supper around Grandma's 3D lamb cake centerpiece. It's tradition - each year she bakes the two halves of the kneeling lamb cake then frosts them together with tufts of coconut wool and a little black jelly bean nose. Sunny skies, a cool breeze, an hallelujah chorus stuck in my head from church that morning, and all of us tucked around the table overflowing with food...una bellissima pasqua.

We have our lamb cake tradition and with each Easter I'm reminded of the traditions our friends shared on our first Italian pasqua. Our friend Elisabetta drove Erin and I to her family's country house early that bright Pasqua morning. Still under construction, the frame of the house was bare, with bags of cement mix and piles of tiles in the breezy future kitchen. The interim dining room was a long set of cardtables shoved together under a rainbow mix of tablecloths inside a tin barn next to rows of apple trees and grape vines.

Nonna (Elisabetta's grandmother) sat in the shade of the barn's entrance. Elisabetta introduced her friends, le americane, and Nonna growled, "Ho fame. Quando mangiamo?" (I'm hungry. When do we eat?) Her gnarled hands and rolled back had produced so many previous Pasqua pranze. It was her turn to be served. She knew it and she'd earned it. We sat down quickly.

Elisabetta's mother and sister brought course after course to the table, each plate containing some ingredient harvested or butchered from the land right outside that wide barn door. Her whole family asked questions about America and American Easter between their demands that we eat, take seconds, drink, take thirds. By the end of the meal, we all resembled Nonna a little: tired, crumpled over, leaning a bit to the left...but happy.

After a walk through the family's lands and around the little village, we came back to find Nonna already in the car. "Ho sonno. Quando andiamo via?" (I'm tired. When do we leave?) It was time for a nap. She knew it and we'd earned it.

I don't remember much about the drive back to our apartment in Macerata, but a deep nap that afternoon was filled with dreams of grumbling nonnas, homemade pasta, and green rolling hills sprinkled with coconut lambs.

Buona (belated) Pasqua!


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