“In a quaint caravan, there’s a lady they call the Gypsy,” the song says.
In South Brooklyn at autumn’s end, the quaint caravan isn’t a brightly colored, circus trailer set up for temporary living. It’s a storefront. Any vacant storefront on an avenue can become home to the lady and her family — the Gypsies.
Heavy red and […]
The nonnas cook using “a dash of this, a spoonful of that, and a pinch of whatever.” So on a rainy spring afternoon, it is surprising when they sit at the kitchen table and talk about recipes — American recipes — their daughters clip from newspapers and magazines.
“I don’t like the ones that use butter, not olive oil,” a nonna says. The […]
South Brooklyn, 1947, Palm Sunday afternoon. Palm fronds cover a kitchen table where the nonnas sit weaving strands into sculptures. Each twists and braids and ties the green- edged leaves into crucifixes, wreaths, and miniature crosses. They glance at one another’s creations admiring the braiding technique, but never saying so.
“Now we finish these,” one […]
There are no flowery fields of clover in Brooklyn. So on hot summer nights, streets and sidewalks become living rooms and tiny backyards become campgrounds.
The nonnas’ grandsons gather their supplies for their campfire feast: a rickety four-legged metal burner that should hold a can of Sterno, twigs and newspapers to place on the burner, […]
It is a Friday afternoon and the nonnas are cleaning the church. The door opens, letting in a burst of winter air, a late arrival enters. Under her heavy coat, she wears an outfit much like that of the others — black dress, a colorful front apron. But she has accessorized her costume with a necklace. No […]
One of the nonnas’ greatest joys on Thanksgiving morning is to dress the grandchildren in ragamuffin outfits for their run around the neighborhood begging for coins, candy, crayons, or “anything for Thanksgiving.” The nonnas take the old custom seriously, and try to outdo one another in providing the children with clothing that makes them look as […]
Today, the nonnas are honoring Our Lady. They bring up the rear of a processon following grade-school girls dressed […]
On a rainy afternoon, the nonnas are having coffee in the kitchen. In the next room, separated only by a doorway, their grandchildren are turning the pages of old photo albums and rifling through loose black-and-whites. A grandson rushes in and waves a photo at a nonna.
“Who’s this?” the child asks.
“He’s great grandma’s brother,” she […]
The nonnas from both sides are visiting their newly married granddaughter’s house for the first time. The bride has to entertain the elders by preparing a first-rate dinner for them.
The bride is an acomplished hostess: friends love her cooking, enjoy her hospitality, and always eagerly look forward to visiting. But the nonnas are not her friends; they are her evaluators.
It doesn’t matter where the nonnas were born. On Christmas Eve, they serve the same dishes in South Brooklyn as their families served in Naples or Sicily or Calabria. The mouthwatering aroma of fish anointed with garlic and olive oil, capers, raisins, and crispy, crunchy crust fills whole neighborhoods, as the nonnas and their families prepare […]