When Father’s Day rolled around, Mama used to bake a cake. She and I would then create a “cut up cake”. Mama had saved up enough coupons to purchase a Betty Crocker Cut Up Cake book. The Festa di papa cake for Daddy entailed baking the cake in a 9” x 13” pan, and after it had cooled, cutting one-third of the cake off in order to cut out four square pieces. These squares adorned the top of the remaining two-thirds of the cake. We frosted the cake, arranging the four squares at angles across the top. Finally, we spelled the word in colored icing, writing one letter in each square: K I N G. My sentiments included writing Il re in the squares, but my brother preferred the Anglicized version. In spite of squelching my linguistic ardor, Mama assured me there were plenty of other cakes upon which to write Italian phrases. We decorated the Fest del papa cake with slices of gumdrops and bright little edible silver balls, swirls of colored icing piped around the cake as an outline. While one would imagine us to dine on only tiramisu for dessert, Mama had taken cake-decorating lessons from a French woman; henceforth, all birthday cakes, and other family event cakes were as breathtakingly beautiful as they were delicious.
Naturally, our Festa del papa included pasta, meatballs, salad, olives, roasted peppers, and crusty bread. A bottle of olive oil and a decorative bottle of crushed red pepper were placed next to Daddy’s wine glass.
“Va bene,” Daddy proclaimed. “Avete fatto bene! Mangia!”
He really was our KING, our Fearless Leader, our Beloved Papa.
Ciao for now.