Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Italian Traditions

Italian Traditions
Traditions are very unique to each family and individual, especially at Christmas. One of my favorite traditions we have in our family is a trip to DeVitis Italian Store. From as far back as I can remember, all the female aunts and cousins would get together on a morning before Christmas and my Nonna Antonucci would take us to DeVitis. The store is always crowded with many loud, Italians who are standing around talking with their hands. Most of the people in there knew each other, or at the very least, knew someone's uncle. There would always be that time we'd be standing around, constantly moving our cart to let people through, while Nonna talked to someone she's known forever. After the chatting, we'd make our way to the meat counter, where you would take a number. Of course, that number always seemed so far away from the current number they were shouting. 

Once we got to the counter, Nonna always ordered the same thing. Pounds and pounds of Prosciutto, Hard Salami, Provolone Cheese, Antipasto Salad, Olive Salad (with extra juice), Bocconcino Salad (fresh mozzarella balls and tomatoes), and always for me, my favorite, the Cheese Salad. Once we ordered from the counter, we made our way to the bread aisle, where yes, we had to stand there till they brought out the freshest bread and it could not have seeds. As the man is trying to stock the shelves, we are grabbing loaf after loaf from his hands. With our cart full, we would make our way to the checkout. The checkout is very small, always with brown paper bags and Nonna would always grab some sweet goodie on the way out. 

Once we had all the goodies, we'd go to someone's house and eat. It was usually my Aunt Cristine’s house and everyone just seemed to all show up at the same time, as if they could smell DeVitis wherever they were and knew we were back. Once we were all there, we'd unpack the fresh Prosciutto which is always wrapped in a white butcher’s paper. The bread would be cut, the salads put out on the counter and conversation in full bloom about who they saw, what they were doing now, how they grew up to look like so and so. For hours we'd sit around, eat and talk.

My other favorite tradition is the annual New Year’s Day Wedding Soup. Again, very similar to the DeVitis trip, we would all gather at my Aunt Cristine's to make soup. Over the years, so many people have been involved in the soup making. I can remember many different friends from school coming over and helping out with cooking. Our particular Antonucci wedding soup is completely homemade. Of course, first, we eat the leftover DeVitis and then we start working. We roll every single little meatball with our hands, all 8-10 lbs of meat. The meat balls cannot be any bigger than pencil eraser, and yes, my mother or aunts do come around and check. If they are too big, they will throw them back in your bowl to do again. We all have our plate, sit in a big circle talking as we roll meatballs. After the meatballs are finished about 4 to 5 hours later, depending on how many people are involved, we move on to croutons. Every crouton is individually rolled out on a cookie sheet, baked, and then sliced. After a few hours of slicing, your fingers feel like they cannot move from cutting so much. On a different day, the eggs and gizzards chopped and broth made.  
On New Year’s Day we all gather together and start the New Year off with a big bowl of Wedding Soup, made with love. 

These have been our two traditions for as long as I can remember. My Nonna who started each tradition is no longer alive physically, but her memory lives on each year as we continue honoring her through our trip to DeVitis and each meatball we roll. I cherish those two events. I look forward to the hustle and bustle of DeVitis at Christmas. I can sit here now and taste the familiar smells and feel the love from my Grandma. Traditions should be cherished, they make your particular family unique. What are some of your favorite traditions?

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