What a year 2020 has been – We have all faced many challenges together this year and while it may have been a more difficult one, I have tried to focus on the more positive side of life as a way of getting through it. I am without a doubt thankful for the extra time I got to spend home with my family, for the excitement of leaving an old career behind and starting a new adventure with this blog and for celebrating all of our holidays at home with our usual traditions when it might have been just as easy to put them on hold for the year because of the current situation. Whatever holidays you celebrate and however you had to celebrate them this year, I hope they were happy, healthy and filled with all of your favorite traditions. I wish for everyone a better 2021!
Speaking of holiday traditions, an old one that hasn’t been done in my family in many years popped into my head this week. This is one of the many traditions that reminds me of my Grandma Angie and Aunt Rose because they carried it out each year. It came from their parents no doubt and they shared it with the next generation, and the one after that and I feel a certain sense of responsibility for bringing it to the next one, starting with my son.
So this year I will be doing just that – a simple, but fun memory… making Zeppole on New Year’s Eve! If you haven’t heard of them or had one before, they are simply a fried dough tossed in powdered sugar. I have many memories of these doughnut like Italian pastries from when I was growing up – perhaps the most memorable ones are of walking along one of the boardwalks on the Jersey shore where the dozens of pizza places would sell their version using pizza dough.
A trip to the shore always had to include a bag of Zeppole to snack on as you walked the boards – we’d often save enough for the ride home and it was always the mark of a good night when you would arrive home with powdered sugar all over your clothes and the car!
We grew up in the house right next to where my grandma and aunt lived, so we were always close by when they would fry up the holiday batch. They would make the more familiar sweet version, but on New Year’s Eve they would also make a traditional savory version which had no sugar on it and was fried with an anchovy inside the dough. I would always reach for the sweet ones – I think anchovies are an acquired taste!
I did a little browsing online yesterday to see if there was a specific meaning behind this tradition and while I did not find one yet, I did find many articles referencing making them with anchovies on New Year’s Eve. I do have a vague memory of my grandma and aunt talking about the anchovy bringing good luck for the new year and that is a reasonable explanation because Italians have many traditions and ideas about ways to bring luck in the new year! If anyone has ever heard of another reason, please share it in the comments – I’d love to hear about it!
Making them couldn’t be easier – whip up a batch of your favorite pizza dough or basic bread dough, or even easier, take a shortcut… Your local grocery store may sell refrigerated or frozen pizza dough – pick up a bag, cut the dough into pieces about 2 or 3 inches in size, fry them up in a pan and then throw them in a paper bag with powdered sugar and shake it up to coat them! If you happen to be an anchovy fan, by all means give the savory version a try – just press a piece of anchovy into the dough before you fry it up and skip the powdered sugar.
My grandma and aunt lived to be 94 and 97 respectively and while I still miss them to this day, traditions and memories like these always bring me close them and make me smile. As I sit here writing my last words for 2020, my thoughts are with them… and with eating the Zeppole in the picture!! On that note, I’m off to get covered in powdered sugar….
Happy New Year to you all!