So I never told you about the big party.
As I said, we use the boy's birthday as an excuse to throw a big family party. We have a big one, there's 50 of us in all on my dad's side, and believe it or not, we see each other fairly often. It seems as though this party has fast become a family favorite, and is one of the few occasions where everyone is in attendance.
Every year we have a theme, and it is kept a surprise until the invitation is sent. We get harrassed all year to reveal it which keeps everyone guessing (and truth be told, gives us good
ideas for future parties). This year we decided to revive a tradition from our youth.
The Italian Feast.
No, not feast as in Big Night, or something you'd eat at Babbo. I'm talking good old church parking lot kind feast. "Casino games" in the rectory kind of feast. Pin a dollar on the saint
before it gets carried down the street kind of feast. Think San Gennaro. Get it?
If you've never lived in or near an urban city, particularly with an italian neighborhood, you may not know what I'm talking about, and unfortunately I'm not a good enough writer to describe it all to you. But I have the fondest memories of spending summer nights at my
cousin's house on the nights "the Feast" was going on. My aunt and uncle were active in their church so we were allowed to roam the place at will, a few dollars in our pockets for the games. My uncle worked the Sausage and Peppers booth, so we always split one for dinner. A big bag of zeppoles for the way home. As we got older, we ignored the games and food and set our sights on all the boys. I can close my eyes and remember clearly the sights and smells of those warm nights, giggling over the silliest stuff, following the boys without being too obvious (and
steering clear of the sausage and pepper booth) and staying up way too late (waiting for the
midnight mass of course). One year, the house next to my aunt was knocked down and they built a parking lot adjacent to a small church that was on the street behind. That year the feast was right next door! My cousin and I would beg for permission to go every night, with the excuse that we were just going to buy zeppoles to bring home to share. My cousin and I still
talk about the times we jumped the fence and lied about how long the lines were just so we could stay longer.
So we tried to bring a little of that to my backyard. Here's what we did:
This is the invite. We made it in photoshop and made it into a postcard as if it were really a feast advertisement (rsvp info on the back). The faces have been smudged to protect the innocent, but my husband was photoshopped into the first picture, I'm the nun making zep
poles with my aforementioned aunt in the background, and my dad is on the accordion. Obviously, my monkey is the one holding the pizza. My son's name was in place of the usual patron saint (funny enough August 29th is the day of another saint who shares the same name as my mom).
We had someone make us a huge banner (as a favor, free!) and we made tinsel decorations like you typically see in the streets at the feasts:
We strung red white and green flag banners (think used car lot) across the yard crisscrossed with strings of christmas lights and put gaudy decorations everywhere we could.
We cooked and baked for two and half days straight. I hand rolled over 100 meatballs and my husband must have cut up 40 peppers. Authentic signage.
This is a samping of the cookie tray I made. Clockwise from left are Sesame Seed cookies, Italian Wedding Cookies, Lemon "S" cookies, Apricot biscotti and Florentines. Not pictured are the rainbow cookies. I made about 3 dozen of each and they ate every. last. one.
Of course it's not a feast without Zeppoles. My dad was in charge and there were crowds 3 people deep around him waiting for them. We put a few in paper bags with powdered sugar and gave them out.
All my son was interested in was playing with everyone until the cake came out. He is currently in a complete obsession with Toy Story. Every present he got had Buzz or Woody on it. So naturally, I had to make him a Toy Story cake. He loved it to death and kept asking to see it in the refrigerator all day. And yes he is wearing a "guinea tee" or the more crass "wife beater" shirt - my brother thought that was a requirement at this kind of party. Ah stereotypes...
Friday, September 25, 2009