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Friday, 20 December 2013

The Difference Between Family Recipes and Folk Tales by Adrianna Dane

An odd title perhaps, but I couldn’t help making the comparison because when we talk about recipes around this time of year in many cases were talking about family traditions, which then goes hand in hand with storytelling, and moving briskly along,  into folk tales handed down generation to generation.

Which brings me to my recipe, for the sweet treat my Italian grandmother used to make, handed down from her mother who came to this country through Ellis Island from a town near Rome, Italy, back around 1892, and so on, and so on. Tales handed down, as I said.

The dish, well, it’s called “Fried Things.” Yup, that’s the title I grew up with. Fried dough strips sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar. I spent quite a bit of time trying to discover a proper name for these “fried things.” (It’s like the quiche my grandmother made at Easter, just called, “ham and egg pie,” but that’s for another time.)

I recall when I was in my teens, we stopped at an Italian grocery store in Schenectady, New York, on Saturday, and what did I see? A boxed desert that looked just like what my grandmother made. Written on the square box was the word,  “Eyuans.” At last! I’d found a name. I was so excited.

So here I am today, with a recipe I make every year, handed down through generations of my mother’s family, and as a writer who lives for research, I decided to look up once again to confirm the name of this family favorite. So here’s what I found.

There are, as with folk tales, a number of variations on a theme. Names I discovered: Fried things (yes, someone else really does use that same name and Googling the term actually worked), E Yuans, E Wands, Guanti, Wandi, Nocatelle, and, yes, fried dough.. (see, http://www.lindasitaliantable.com/tag/italian-fried-dough/). Now, a little hint here, a lot of these other recipes call for...liquor. Now, why didn’t my grandmother ever tell me about that lovely little ingredient? A little wine here, a splash of Anisette there. You decide. Yum. Now I really could have enjoyed that added embellishment.

But my family recipe is a simpler dish, likely altered through the years before leaving the homeland region of Italy. So this is the dish I thought I’d share it with you for this holiday season. The photo, accompanying this recipe came from this year’s batch currently sitting on my festive kitchen table. Enjoy!

“Fried Things”

12 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons vegetable shortening (unmelted Crisco)
salt (a couple of pinches)
Flour (lots of flour - I guesstimate around 6+ cups). A cup at a time until you get a good consistency to start kneading (no, I don’t use machines, just elbow power) on a floured surface until it stops sticking to your fingers and nice and smooth.

Roll out on a floured board. (I do this in sections.) Leave on the table for a while. Do not fry right away. Cut with a pastry cutter or pizza cutter into strips. Fry a few at a time. After cooled, sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.

Sorry, that’s what you get with a family recipe, shady on the exact amounts of anything. My first batch many, many years ago was a dismal failure. Since then I learned, family recipes consist of making, tasting, looking, enjoying. Try, try, again...don’t quit. Just like writing come to think of it. :-)

Okay, so enjoy. If this recipe doesn’t work for you, perhaps try the version at http://www.lindasitaliantable.com/tag/italian-fried-dough/. I’m off to check the grocery list to make sure I have all I need for the baked ziti on Christmas Eve (mmm, I can already smell the garlic bread and taste the hot sausage), and the strawberry omelets for Christmas morning.

Buon Natale, everybody!


1 comment:

  1. Dang, girlfriend, you are making me hungry and dinner was over just a wee bit ago. I am so not a cook, really. But I hear about some of these yummy traditional things and really wish I was! I do have a neat Irish recipe for my favorite different fruitcake; it is super easy, too!! I had better put it up over on my blog. Thanks for sharing!!