Italy in the heart: by our envoy from itBuenosAires.it
Italy, for foreign-born people who live very far away, always remains a dream destination. We think about it, we imagine it, we desire it. We know a lot about Italy and, at the same time, unfortunately, we know nothing. I am sure that all Italo-descendants like me have at least once in their life imagined with their eyes closed to get off the plane (or from the ship!) And touch that land which is also a bit ours, and then off, to explore it, breathe it, taste all those little poems of smells and flavors we have only ever fantasized about. In my case, one of the things that most feeds these fantasies is a small but great delight. An Italian delight that here in Argentina, every time I find it in some shop and I can finally buy and taste it, it leaves me breathless. And with my eyes closed, it makes me dream and think Italian. I’m talking about confetti, that is sugared almonds. A made in Italy product that here in Argentina is considered a real little treasure.
Confetti: the white treasure hidden in grandpa’s kitchen
My adoration for sugared almonds is ancient. To talk about it I must first explain where and how I met them. I think the story started when I was 2 or 3 years old. My grandfather and grandmother had to return to Italy for a long time. Back in Argentina, they had brought a lot of homemade things with them. I was a child, but what struck me the most were some bags of pearls with a strange shape, white and smooth. I still keep some unforgettable details of that first meeting. First, I remember my grandfather who told me to taste one. “White sugared almonds” he called them. I obeyed. And I was overwhelmed. Love at the first bite. And grandfather? He put the precious supplies on top of the cabinet, too high for me to reach alone. In short, safe, just like we have to do with a treasure.
I also remember that for me, confetti were always a little hard to chew, I was struggling. I also ached sometimes. But the reward for that effort was priceless: the sweet first and then of that aroma of Sicily. That full, slightly bitter taste remained in the mouth for a long time, and in the memory, forever.
But the white sugared almonds were not for every day. Woe to you! When we were allowed, grandfather distributed no more than two to each child. And then you had to keep your mouth watering and wait for the next time. Next time it wouldn’t come until seven days later. Because the confetti in my Argentina have always been the treasure of feast day.
We only ate them on the weekend after lunch at the grandparents’ house, or on special occasions with coffee. That rationing of course was also a grandfather strategy to make them last as long as possible. Who knows when they could have returned to Italy to replenish the precious stocks! After all, buying them in Argentina was an almost impossible mission. Untraceable in the shops at the time. Fortunately, from time to time there were some villagers who had just returned from Italy who, on grandfather’s commission, brought the pound bag as a gift. A real cockpit!
Once I grew up, on my first unforgettable trip to Italy, I remember the day I went shopping for the first time and in the small shop in the town, high up, here they were: the white sugared almonds! Packaging files! I did not believe my eyes. I hadn’t even thought they might be available in a common grocery store. It will be childish, but I swear that my heart opened. Again, coincidence, they were lined up on a high shelf. But this time I had grown up (physically, mentally I was just like a child at the moment).
And, of course, I sweeped the shelves under the gaze of the seller, surprised not so much by my gigantic appetite but rather by the happiness that she saw shining in my eyes and in my smile. I remember also I photographed them with my smartphone and immediately sent the photo to my family in Argentina. As if I had met someone famous. Or perhaps even better, as if I had unexpectedly found myself in front of a work of art. A rare event, however. I paid and went away satisfied.
Certainly for an Italian who lives in Italy, sugared almonds, like many other Made in Italy products, are now commonplace. I also learned that they are used to decorate wedding tables, for wedding favors. And in some cases they are even thrown to the spouses together with rice for good luck. Here, it would be a shame for us. A waste that personally would fill my eyes with tears. You must understand that for us residing abroad, in Argentina, Italian confetti are really the rare event I talked you about. Really something to take the phone out of and share awe and happiness with whoever you love. And keep in mind that those wonderful sugared almonds that you Italians have in practically every good shop in the country, do not exist here. We have others, of course, good ones, but the flavor – the original one I met that day with my grandfather as a child – I have never met it here in the city.
So I am waiting for a fabulous new opportunity to return to Italy. I only recently discovered that there is a place called Sulmona where all sorts of confetti that a person could imagine are produced. I don’t know about you, but for me it’s the Eldorado! It is one of the first destinations that I will propose to visit. I hope very soon, really.
Featured image by Patrick Fore on Unsplash (edited)