PERSONALS

All posts in the PERSONALS category

EASTER TRADITIONS

Published March 30, 2013 by Tony

MEMORIES OF A TIME
THE CASATIELLO

Easter time.
In addition to doing my best wishes to you all, I take this opportunity to tell you some memories that in these days come to my mind.
At that time I was a toddler and often on Friday our grandmother picked me up to let me spend a few days at her home.
The grandmother “mmaculatina“, as people called her (Immaculate, God rest her soul), in those days did not go to work, and aware I liked being with her, came to our house to take me, and sometimes took my sister too. She loved her grandchildren, and on that time I was the youngest grandson, and although she was living with our grandfather, between work and commitments she spent little time at home. It had been years that the granddad was already retired, having made the postman became sick with bronchitis and arthritis, and alone spent all his days at home. He had his own bed with a bedside table on which a glass of wine and his radio never had to be missing. A man of few words who spent his days walking slowly in the house, sitting on the bed, sipping wine, smoking and listening to 1920: My grandma when youngopera on the radio.

It was an old building where, on different floors, a long balcony gave access to homes, inside the building those balconies turned all around the perimeter of the apartment blocks. The houses were not very large, entering directly to the first room, usually the living room, where the granddad had created his personal corner. On the right there was a small kitchen with a small window that looked out on the perimetral balcony, and where there was a very small bathroom formed simply from toilet and a sink. Beyond the living room was my grandma’s bedroom, that had a small balcony overlooking the street below. We slept in the same double-bed with grandma and I still remember her laughter when she told relatives how I sometimes fell asleep touching her breast and resting my head on his chest. I loved my grandmother and it was only the need in maternal instincts of a kid who, like me, had evidently not received enough cuddles from his mum. The grandma “Immacolatina” was good, cheerful and friendly, as well as a holy woman and had dedicated her life to work in the factory where she had become the “teacher,” as called her there, to wit the supervisor. Her relationship with the granddad were not excellent, having been from long more a nurse than a wife, and she was glad to have us at home to chat and pass the time.

As usual, Friday is the day when all Neapolitans dedicated to the preparation of the “casatiello“, also called “tortano“, the typical Neapolitan rustic pie (Neapolitan Lard Bread). And the grandma prepared it Friday afternoon to let it rise all day and then in the night took it at the bakery for baking. In those years it was customary to let casatiello bake by bakers because not everyone had a powerful ovens as bakeries where the cooking was done in an optimal way. There was no area or neighborhood that did not have some baker nearby. Anyone who would have walked in the alleys of Naples, during Friday and Holy Saturday, felt the almost stagnant scent of “casatielli” which were cooked at homes or by bakers. How can we forget that smell?
Odor that became all one with those feast days Grandma & Iand represented them as well. For this in Naples, even today, Easter is to say casatiello and vice versa.

At that time, due to the enormous work to be done between Thursday and Saturday, bakers worked continuously day and night. For this you could go to one of them at any time of the day or night, and deliver your casatiello or withdraw it.
The baker from whom my grandma went, was a few blocks from the house, the huge old wooden front door was always open for the occasion, placed on the ground and stacked up one above the other, hundreds of aluminum “ruoto” (round baking pan). They were the casatielli waiting for bakery.
Truly spectacular!
At that time, not everybody had the pan with the hole in the middle, which gives casatiello the classic donut shape, and so, most of the containers had a wineglass or a cup (glass or metal) at the center, around which the pasta was then grown encasing it.

Crossed the entrance hall, people arrived at the courtyard where on both the sides were stacked firewood for the ovens, shovels, sacks, buckets and other objects. In addition to the smell of casatielli, so strong here to become pungent, you also felt the scent of flour that you found everywhere, on the ground, on walls, on objects, everything was whitewashed with a pinch of flour!
Entered in the furnaces room, the heat became almost unbearable. Everywhere there were shelves made by long wooden boards, one above the other, on which side by side the casatielli already cooked were placed.
Here, the casatiello was not more as white as those encountered at the entrance, but the color of the rind of bread in its various gold shades.  A variety of sizes and shapes, those with the eggs above visible under two small strips of pasta in the shape of X, those without eggs or those where the eggs were just popping out below the golden crust. You could not but be enchanted to see those scenes, and especially for a kid like me.

People came and went, with those who were giving their casatiello and those who were going to pick up it, and all workers each with its own task. On that occasion there were more people at work and one of them went to the grandma and after taking two plates of aluminum from a huge basket, gave one to her and attacked the other with thin wire to the container’s handle. The baker asked if the casatiello had already risen and then placed it onto the others waiting for cooking. Probably, somewhere else there were those which were in need of further rise before being baked.

On those aluminum plates was imprinted a number which from then on would have marked our “casatiello.” After cooking the casatielli were placed on those planks in a coarse numerical order, according to the number that had been tied close, so to trace it when the owner would come back for it. In fact, to take the casatiello you had to give back your plate, and the baker began to turn around the wooden shelves to look for it. Hundreds and hundreds casatielli. You paid, wrapped the container in a cloth, and went back home happy with your casatiello ready to be eaten.
Things of other times, when everything was simpler and folksy!

casatiello

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BLOGGING

Published February 9, 2013 by Tony

Why do so many people write a personal blog?

Good question!
Years ago, following the guidelines of what a BLOG is, and to be in harmony with the true meaning of this new term, coined in 1997, “Web-log”, that is to say a personal “online diary“, I built my first personal page on the then popular “Windows Live Space “. It was a personal blog, with no obligation, but with a sentimental  quality, seeking to capture a moment in time and talk about everyday life. Speaking of this and that, I realized that in time my pages received many visits, unexpected though welcome. 200 visits a day, for a personal blog were many, perhaps too many, and no need to make so public my personal facts, photos and things about me and my family. Therefore I decided to give a new look to my blog, from an “online diary” to a “microblog” by genre, erasing all previous posts about personal and family stuff. With the closure of MSN space my blog moved on WordPress, where a few years ago I also decided to create this new space in English. Currently, among the Italian blog and this one, I achieve an average of 700 visits per day, and this in addition to being a satisfaction, leads to a different commitment.

But which answer can we do to the original question?

Yea, it’s a way to share, but not to share thoughts and feelings instantaneously, as it happens emailing or writing on Twitter or Facebook.
There, we are more in touch with our friends, while blogging is a way, perhaps, to make new friends? To convey our thoughts to people who do not know, to communicate our views and, if necessary, to find consensus.
Whatever the main reason, at the base, I think, there is a need to communicate, and we prefer to do it yourself while sitting behind the computer. Posting an article with the hope that it will be read by as many people as possible, and excited by this possibility.
Just a basic contradiction!
Not so much for us that we belong to an earlier generation, but from the day when computers and cell phones have become essential technological objects, present in every home, we cannot do without.
A different way of communicating, indirect, seeking contacts while conscious of being alone.
It remains to check whether it worth the trouble, if energy and time devoted to this activity then meet our expectations.
Although we don’t find this on personal blogs, each reader should realize that it is as if in every post virtually is written, in large letters:


PLEASE,
SHARE! …. FOLLOW ME! …. COMMENT! …. CONTACT ME!

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FLYING NANNY

Published February 6, 2013 by Tony

AU PAIR PARENTS


The idea of students staying for few weeks with host families in different countries of the world, has been successful because it is one of the easiest, practical and economical way for boys/girls to stay in a foreign country and learn traditions, customs and language. Recently also is spreading the new idea, to take advantage of older people, parents or grandparents in fact, who wish to visit another country, and staying with families that do need someone, in their absence, as babysitter and to take care of their home.
Flying Nanny is a form of child care independent of time and place.
I’m thinking of the opposite thing instead, where it is not the student to move, but a parent that does it.

The idea that I’d like to develop is similar to “au pair” students but with different assumptions, namely that the host family is looking for “flying nanny” not by their absence, but on the contrary, for people from other countries to stay together and able to teach to their kids a new language – or perfect it – sharing customs and traditions. It would, indeed, a mutual exchange, with grandparents perfecting local language and culture, and the host family that does the same, with regard to the language and customs of the country from which the “flying nanny” comes from. A sort of foreign “au pair parents” that in exchange for spending time with the kid, teaching their language and taking care of them, in case of a short absence of parents, receive room and board. An interesting and inexpensive way to have both what they are looking for and for free. 

The organization I’m thinking about and that would like to pursue, should create a database of Italian intended parents and the country in which they would like to stay, with the one of families who are looking for an Italian parent for themselves of for their kids. Combining data and, where both requirements are met, then put people in touch with each other.
Simple and easy.

In this regard I would like to know who is interested in this idea and want to share it seriously.

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EXISTENTIAL CRISIS

Published February 5, 2013 by Tony

ANXIETY, DEPRESSION, NIHILISM

I know that the human race can be divided into optimists and pessimists, like saying good-natured and disheartened, trusting and suspicious.
But who of you have never had periods of total demolition, abandonment and despair?!
Now, and for a long time, this is for me one of those moments that many would call of existential crisis, depression.
Apathy, indifference, anxiety and despair become problems to be reckoned with at all times. They are the ones that bring you down during the day and pull you out of bed at night.
Those old questions that no one has yet found an answer – and probably never will find – become a boulder on the shoulders, hamletic doubts, a source of anger and resentment.
Nihilism takes slowly and inexorably foot.
That little bit of faith you’ve conquered over the years falters, hesitates, requires clarity.
Strange, even so, I’d like to be a Tibetan Monaco who lives alone on a remote mountain in close contact with nature.
You become more introspective, and even if the dialogue makes little sense – and seems to become a better listener – you start to questioning on the meaning of every little thing.
Then suddenly fear fills yourself, haunt you, stop you.
The world may also end for you now….. on the other side, what fucking meaning has it, this remains uncertain.
Mind begins to take into account the strangest statistics, as well as how many moments of happiness or sorrow – in hours – we have in our lives.
Since joy or happiness for themselves are feelings much more unstable and less durable of sadness and pain, then unnecessary to compute: our life is made up of more suffering than joy, for sure!
Sad realization!
I wonder if at the time of the Celts and Greeks existed depression or anxiety and if they too were asking themselves our same questions.
What do you say, I really need Prozac?
Hmmmm …… maybe it would take a severe treatment……

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MY GRANDAM’s BELIEFS

Published February 4, 2013 by Tony

ANCIENT BELIEFS

OLD SPELLS


I want to tell you a real story that happened to me when I was a child. At that time it was quite common for children to suffer from  “tapeworm”, but before I go ahead let me explain, to those who do not know,  what is the taeniasis.

Taenia is the name of a multicellular parasite belonging to the family of the Platyhelminthes (flatworms). This parasite, commonly known as tapeworms  lives in the intestines of animals, including humans, where it can reach a length of eight meters. The tapeworm is devoid of digestive system, since it directly absorbs the nutrients present in the host’s intestine. This worm has a ribbon-like appearance, with a head (scolex) characterized by the presence of hooks and suckers, that allow it to adhere to the intestinal walls. The rest of the body is divided into many small segments, clearly distinguishable, long about 1 to 1.5 cm. called proglotidi (shape and color are reminiscent of those typical of “egg pasta” ). During defecation a person or animal that has a tapeworm in his gut with the bowel movement also eliminates parasite eggs, and they go to settle on herbs and plants. Some animals that feed on these plants are so infested by the larval form, which goes to cling in their muscles. At this point, a healthy human being who eats meat derived from this infected exemplar, will have a high probability of being in turn infested by tapeworms, having the so-called taeniasis. The tapeworm is particularly long-lived and if not treated surgically or pharmacologically can live many years. In industrialized countries, the incidence of infestation by tapeworm is now much lower than that of the poorest countries, where health and hygiene standards are lower. Initially taeniasis is asymptomatic and only after a few months the tapeworm may show signs of self. The persons affected by the tapeworm has often hungry and feel weak and tired.

After so many years I can’t remember how and why my family realized that I had taeniasis, and probably I also had to take some purgative or other medicines, and for this I had to poo in the potty to see if the tapeworm was eliminated. At that time I was 5-6 years and although time passed, the treatment had no effect. Apparently my mom had to talk to my grandmother who, My grandmotherone morning, came home and told me that she would try to cure me. She asked me to put my pants down and to lie on the bed. I did so, intimidated and curious about what she would do, and as usual she reassured me tickling and making me laugh. Then she told me to sit still, and her fingers began to draw crosses on my belly, from belly button to the groin, and in a low voice kept babbling some phrases which I don’t remember a single word. It was probably a short prayer, which repeated dozens of times resembled a lament.
The operation lasted 3-4 minutes, after which she kissed and caressed me saying that she had done.
The thing, wonderful or miraculous, was that after a few days, doing poo in the potty, I noticed that the worm had come out. Incredible, it was like an eel long 20 in. standing there still in the poop. Happy and scared at the same time, I called my mother to let her see what had come out of my gut. It all ended there and I nevermore had more that disease.

My grandmother was not a witch, and never had been, but although a fervent Christian believer, she gave credit to jinx and spell. I do not know if she already knew that kind of spell, probably handed down by her ancestors, or whether she had asked some people more “expert” how to do it.
The fact is that, accidental or not, it worked to me.
My grandmother was the type of person who threw grains of salt out of the window during a thunderstorm with fearful lightning, invoking Saint Lucia. Or throwing it on our car when we had to left for a trip, albeit short.
When we were children she made very little fabric bags in which she put some metal icons of saints, each protector of something, that we could wear around our neck with a necklace, or held by a safety pin on the undershirt.
She was also influenced by old sayings and when my brothers were then young men, she said them, for example, not to go out on a trip on the day of Easter Monday, because it was said (?) that on that day there would always be some accidents.
Other ancient spells or popular beliefs that I remember now are:
break the glass or to overthrow the oil was a bad omen and it was necessary to solve it, as a good omen if inadvertently the wine was poured.
You could not put the loaf of bread upside down on the table as well as must never pick up a pin or a needle found by chance on the ground.
The milk teeth that children lost, had to be hidden in a hole in the wall so that no one would take them, or no animal could eat them. Then the child had to recite:
“Muro, muro vecchio,
damme un dente nuovo
che te ne do uno vecchio”.
[Wall, old wall,
give me a new tooth
that I’ll give you the old one].
This custom can be connected with the cult of the stone and earth radiating energy from its bowels.
Who had sparse teeth will certainly was favored by fortune.
Putting the broom out of the threshold helped to ward off bad luck and witches.
The mother did not have to cut the nails to the newborn with scissors but by her mouth to prevent that the child once adult could become a subject likely to steal.
To disinfect wounds and heal you had to apply above a spider web.
You had not put both hands together above your head (like the way prisoners do) because it bears misfortunes.
Whenever I had the hiccups I was told to drink seven small sips of water while holding the breath until the hiccups disappeared. And I guarantee that this method really works.
Old sayings, ancient beliefs, dark folk magics, all things that have been lost over the centuries.

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INVOLUNTARY GESTURES

Published January 31, 2013 by Tony

UNCONSCIOUS HABITS

Who has not common habits, tics, behavior or gestures among us?
Things that we unconsciously do every day, without even realizing it?!
I wonder why some gestures are so common to many of us, as if genetically encoded, and which everyone no longer pays attention. I am referring to usual gestures, like touching our forehead while we are pensive or doodling while chatting on the phone.
But I’ve noticed that we men have a particular attitudes when in the bathroom to piss.
Standing in front of the WC, while happily freeing our bladder, most of us, depending on the circumstances, are accustomed to:

a – be blankly, as to fully enjoying the act;
b – contemplate casually the wall tiles in front of us;
c – raise the head and look at the part of the ceiling that is above us
, as it happens to me.

I’d like to know if any of you have some different habit, strange, that is not one of those known and usual.

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