Sunday, June 29, 2014
A Taste of the Festa di San Pietro di Castello, A Taste of Times Past
Some of my fondest memories of childhood are of the church festivals at which my grandmother and her sister used to cook the pasta and sauce (or sugu, as my Sicilian-born grandmother and great-aunt called it). They would do it together at the parish to which my grandmother belonged, then at the one to which my great-aunt belonged.
I don't know that such church festivals continue in America--certainly not in the places we've lived. And the single day festivals I used to attend as a child--whose highlights were the cakewalk, the dunk tank, and the booth where one fished for toys--were nowhere near as large, long, nor as amplified as the Festa di San Pietro. In fact, it occurs to me that in terms of community spirit and the range of ages participating, the closest thing I've recently experienced in America to the San Pietro festa is the summer Shindig on the Green events in Asheville, North Carolina--which I'd highly recommend, even if, like me, you think you have little or no interest in bluegrass music (http://www.folkheritage.org/shindigonthegreen.htm).
Last night here in Venice I saw the older woman (above and below) working over the steaming spaghetti cooker and tasting the pasta, saw the other woman arrive to taste it for herself, and found myself transported back to California's San Joaquin Valley in the 1970s: to an ethnic culture now completely gone, to a place now completely unrecognizable, to loved ones long dead. It's strange to sense at times like this how the only way my own son can experience anything similar to the world in which I grew up is in this place so far away from where I grew up, and so very different in most ways.