Sunday, December 9, 2012
stories & food
I learned to make zeppole the night Charlie died. I was sixteen years old, my boyfriend Donny was coming to take me to Christmas Eve midnight services, and Charlie was my canary. I'd named him after a cute 1950s TV singer, Charlie Applewhite. I couldn't take my canary for a walk on our New York City sidewalks, but he warbled cheerfully from his cage every day, making us all feel happy for a brief time.
My mother baked Neopolitan sweets every holiday. It had been a long day of baking. Tables held plates of cookies and pretty pyramids of Struffoli and Zeppoli dripping with honey, decorated with candy sprinkles. Heavy frying pans were cooling on the stove when Charlie escaped from his cage. Not used to free flying, he landed in a pan of still-hot Crisco oil. We cleaned him off with tea towels, but he succumbed.
Then Donny arrived. Through tears I told him that I'd left the cage door open and now Charlie was dead. Perplexed momentarily, Donny finally understood, provided sympathy all around and took me away. My mother cleaned the kitchen and my father disposed of the body. Returning home with Christmas magic and adolescent love in our eyes, Donny and I found hot tea and Zeppole waiting for us. They were delicious.