Being 7 and the idea of a pizza frit the size of your head is a reasonable feat. When you're 23, and the size is so massive it's not only bigger than your head, but spilling over the plate, it's nearly unfathomable how you will ever finish every bite. But God help you, you're going to try.
This weekend was the St. Ann's Feast in Norwalk. My grandmother, for I'm not sure how many years, or even decades, was apart of the St. Ann's Club, and the fair was my most anticipated part of my summer. I remember rides, cotton candy, and massive puffy flats of fried dough drowning in sauce.
The smell of the raw dough as it touches the vats of hot oil makes me think of my grandmother in the back. Rolling out dough from a batch that took up the entire row of long tables, carefully frying it up, or saucing it. I'd get so excited when I saw her, waving enthusiastically and calling "Grandma! Grandma!" as she worked with ladies her age who looked familiar, but nameless. Nothing would tear me from that fried dough. Not cotton candy, not rides, not even the promise of going on a ride with my siblings, would make me give up that oily, incredibly messy sauced bread.
Fresh out of the fryer, it would be put on a plate and sent to the table across from it, where it would be powder sugared or sauced to order. Then it would be covered in parm if sauced and brought still screaming hot to my tiny 7 year old hands.
They were always so big. I was amazed at the size they would be able to roll them. It made me dream of my future as a baker.
We'd find a seat at the tables set up under tents, with the plastic table coverings. Almost always we'd find an uncle or two milling about with their own fried dough. By the time you sat down, the smell of fried dough and hot oil had been following you into the parking lot, into the grounds, on line, and now, in your hands.
If you weren't hungry when you parked, you were hungry now.
Eating a pizza frit is somewhat of an acquired act. There's no right or wrong way, really, as any method results in requiring a dozen napkins. But no knives and forks allowed. No way. The method I've picked up over time is ripping out the crispy edges (The eye in a rib-eye, if you will), and dipping it in the cheesy sauce. You work your way around, ripping bigger and bigger portions to keep up with the soggy cooling dough. Until you have a cooled center you can fold like a slice of pizza and stuff in your mouth whole.
But by the time you reach the saucy center, which by now is most likely soggy and cool, your stomach tells you "I am STUFFED!". And your brain tells you "I don't think so. Keep eating."
You push the limits of your stomach with pizza frits. Too much is never enough. As good as it is burning hot and crispy, it is equally appreciated in its cool sog. No second thoughts. No "Jeeze, gotta hit the gym tomorrow" It's a yearly indulgence.
This year I am sorry to report that I could not finish my pizza frit. Matthew, who was the least Italian at our table, finished his before anyone. I feel like I barely qualify as Italian as it is, being only 1/4.
I feel like an intruder in my own dead Grandmother's Italian fair. But all cultures eat and are loud, so naturally I must belong. We eat, we drink, we talk, and we eat. A tradition of every culture I am apart of. From my grandpa's southern roots (and pulled pork; a food stuff I can eat in every way imaginable), to my grandmother's Italian ones; where it's really quite impossible to cook pasta sauce for four people or less.
But hearing all the familiar noises, the familiar tents selling Sausage and Peppers, pizza frits, ziti, pastries, and beer. And the tents selling a lot of chotzy stuff with Italian colors and stuff that screams " HEY YOU! I'M ITALIAN!!!", made me feel at home and reminded me of my Grandmother. I probably have just enough Italian blood in me to pass as one at my local fair.
After we ate and sat with my uncle and his wife, my sister was wondering if the pastry stand had Italian ice, and if I had cash on me. We were in luck, because I did.
My sister, Matthew and I made our way through the hustle and bustle to the pastry stand. They were a simple set up, a drink case filled with pastries, and a large Pepsi display tub filled with Italian Ice. An old man, an old lady, and possibly a grandson, no older than 13 were running the stall.
The boy filled the lemon Italian ice in small paper cups, stuffing it as full as he could, compressing the ice crystals. The tiny waxy paper cup was heavy with ice.
I began to lick at mine, squeezing the cup gently to break up the crystals after each taste. And the effect of the flavor and temperature was instantaneous. It was tart, cold, sweet and deeply refreshing. There were bits of lemon peel and one or two seeds. It was the faintest tint of yellow.
So many foods make up summer for me. Things I truly need to have to feel like I'm experiencing summer. Shaved Italian Ice at my grandmother's old Women's club festival is standard.
Foods like this make me nostalgic. I miss being young. I miss being young and on the rides. I miss eating a pizza frit and not worrying about it. I think above all, I miss being young and with my grandmother, back when she was younger, active, and the best pizza frit fryer the fair had.
Since the years I began this blog, I like to think I've grown a bit. I've gone through the C.I.A and got a job.......At what I now refer to as "The Pie Shop of Horrors". A few years and one more job later, I'm at a new place with people who are really cool. With great food, a great vibe and I still feel like the place is too cool for me.
So now I'm embarking on a new part of my life that is happier and going in a direction! It's really refreshing.
I was married May 19th, 2012 to a great guy I met at the C.I.A and we're go excited to embark on a life together. He has as culinary degree to match my baking and pastry degree. It's going to be a Good life.
I hope you enjoy my thoughts on food and cooking. I am but a humble baker, who happens to love cooking and embraces the joy of food.