A movie set could not have created a richer more endearing atmosphere than that which tradition turned out in Brooklyn on the weekend. Italians came from all over the city, many returning to their old neighbourhood, to reenact a fourth century pageant involving 150 men lifting a four tonne tower – the Giglio – a task amplified by simultaneously shouldering the band, whose music they dance to as they lift. What a feat! This is a tradition of 125 years and doubles with the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel to create a joyous and genuine celebration. The festivities last for 10 days, and on Saturday night it was a classic New York experience with families and food and a lot of fun.
Channeling Sinatra, Sal, the MC for the evening, insisted that everyone have a good time, after they paid their respects at the Church! Consecutive masses in English, Italian, Polish, Spanish and Creole meant there were no excuses, and as people streamed out post-penitent, they fell in step with ‘the best is yet to come’. Some lit up a cigar, or indulged in irresistible sausage – or both – while the children tried their luck bursting balloons with darts, or trying to throw ping pong balls into illusive bowls. One success would win one small fish and six of these would equal one whopper. All those prayers must have worked, because there were a lot of children carrying plastic bags bursting with goldfish.
By choosing Saturday night over Sunday I missed the lift of the Giglio, but I couldn’t possibly have missed the making – or the taste – of the zeppoles. The muscle of their mixing was matched only by the enthusiasm of their making, and the final shake of sugar really was the icing on the cake. Like a doughnut but denser and best eaten fresh out of the fryer, zeppoles taste like childhood and summer holidays rolled into one. And of course on a hot Saturday night, with the sound of Frankie crooning in the background, and God and the Goodfellas at one with the world, there really is no doubt these were Dee best…!