“Our people don’t make good desserts,” proclaimed my brother as he bit into the Italian biscotti. “Hey, these are tasty!” He reached for another off the platter of assorted biscotti I had set upon the dining room table.
“I picked up a kilo or two at Mamagiorgio’s Pasticceria. With the funeral wake this afternoon, I didn’t have time to bake,” I explained, handing him another biscotti. “When Cugina Mimi called to tell me the Detroit, Cincinnati, and Chicago relatives were coming to my house before going to the wake, I dashed over to the Pasticceria toute suite!”
He and I surveyed the platters of sliced salami, cappicola, prosciutto, mortadella, provolone, and mozzarella. A basket lined with linen napkins held crusty, freshly baked slices of Italian bread. Yeast and I are not friends; consequently, I learned long ago to purchase Italian bread throughout the year, even Easter bread. I have no luck with yeast. Crystal bowls held roasted red peppers, Calamata olives, Sicilian green olives, and artichoke hearts. Since this was a mid-afternoon into the evening wake, and the relatives who were arriving at my house had driven long distances, we served a refreshing iced tea my daughter excelled at making [thank you, Barefoot Contessa, for the recipe]. Naturally, vino bianco and vino rosso were available for the family, and they were offered to them. However, the 85-degree heat of late May, the joy of being together coupled with the sadness of a family funeral, caused most of the family to opt for the iced tea. They knew full well the vino would be waiting for them at my house whenever they wanted to wash down Italian grinders and biscotti.
Replenishing the platters with Italian meats, cheese, and sides for family and friends is an infinitely satisfying feeling. Or so it is in my family. Weddings, christenings, anniversaries, and funerals, no matter the occasion, we convene over Italian food, wine and biscotti [We are not the tiramisu or die crowd]. We celebrate life and death, for both are flip sides of the coin.
“Teddy, is there any more biscotti?” asked my fitness-obsessed brother as he all but licked his fingers of crumbs.
Smiling, I handed him another platter of biscotti to set on the table.
“Mangia!” I ordered.
Our blue eyes locked. He gave me a wink as he plucked another biscotti.
Ciao for now.