Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Buon Natale, tooBy
Christmas this year (so far) has been the most subdued I’ve ever seen. It’s not the spirit that is lacking, but the fundage. I don’t need to remind you that yes, we have no money.
Christmas lights no longer festoon via Garibaldi, though a few indomitable individuals have put up some illumination. I salute them. They obviously have nothing to fear from the energy companies.
And speaking of indomitable, I wouldn’t have thought it possible, but the neighborhood pastry-wizard has outdone himself in widening the space between size and price in his festive offerings. An ingenious little creation (note the use of the word “little”) of chocolate shavings and lumps of torrone, representing an Alpine village — the sort of thing which usually adorns a liquor-and-mascarpone-sodden cake — is now being offered without the cake. For the same inflated price. If I were to want to spend 30 euros ($40) for a plate of chocolate fragments, I would…. No, I wouldn’t, actually. If I had 30 euros to spend on a present, I’d give somebody a batch of bees via the Heifer Project. At least that way the gift would propagate. No propagation powers yet discovered in the world of ostentatious confections. End of sermon.
Day before yesterday, feeling the onset of the big day, we had a party at our rowing club. It was great. Because the tornado last June destroyed our clubhouse, we now cling to the edge of the lagoon with our boats parked under two big tents, with a container serving as locker room, kitchen, and bathroom. The kind of container they give to earthquake survivors. It works, but it’s not a long-term plan.
It was a modest, Bob-Cratchity sort of celebration but the most important elements were there: Fizzy wine (not the usual prosecco, but somebody’s home-bottled lambrusco), panettone and pandoro (my favorite, as is anything involving extra sugar), and smiling people. The frigid foggy wind was thrown in at no extra cost.
Another bonus was having time to hang around with some of the old guys and hear them geeze about the old days. I pick up unexpected bits of lore this way. This time I learned why gondoliers hate the nickname “pasta e oca” (pasta and goose).
Lino (whose grandfather was a gondolier, as is his son) says that they ate pasta and goose because they’ve always been “grandoni” — that is, tending toward the grandiose. Someone added, however, that in his opinion they hated being called this nickname because the dish (which I’ve never tried) is a sort of viscid, mucilaginous preparation which is so revolting it makes you want to barf. As it was told to me.
In any case, the preferred rejoinder to “Hey, pasta e oca!'” is “And yo’ mama gets the neck!”
Christmas spirit comes in all shapes and sizes, and I liked our standing-around-outside-in-the-freezing-soggy-air version. There weren’t very many of us, but it didn’t matter. This would be the only point on which I might agree with the pastry-shark. When it comes to a festa, it’s not about quantity.
So auguri (ow-GOOR-ee), as we say here. Technically, “good auguries.” We no longer practice divination by studying the liver of sacrificial animals, or the flight of birds, so I’ll translate this as “Good wishes!”