Recipe: Wandi, Guanti, Farfatelle, Etc…

2 09 2009

I decided a little more research was necessary on Wandi. My Google search, it turns out, yielded very little in the way of information, but I did learn that Wandi is an Americanized Italian form of the word Guanti (there is no “w” in the Italian language), which translates to gloves. According to this helpful description/recipe, the cookies were popular at celebrations, from marriages to random festivals. Indeed, another search uncovered this article, about 100 dozen (that’s right 100 dozen) Wandi being made as part of a Sicilian festival in Iowa (if for nothing else, check out the article for the photo).

That, believe it or not, was nearly the extent of what I managed to dig up on these elusive cookies. I did find this: scroll about halfway down and there is a rather poignant (and coincidental) note from a granddaughter who cannot get the recipe from her grandmother, who happens to have Alzheimer’s. The answer here, however, is that the cookies are something altogether different, called Farfallette, though also referred to as Lovers’ Knots and “Bow Ties” and the recipe is relatively similar.

A hunt for Farfallette then unearthed the tradition of St. Joseph’s Table, the same St. Joseph’s Day (March 19, the feast of St. Joseph. In America it’s overshadowed by the beloved patron saint of green beer, but Sicilians feast and recreate the Holy Family) tradition described in the above Iowa article, meaning that bow ties or Farfatelle or Wandi or gloves or whatever else is all one in the same. And, it seems it’s a tradition that needs to little umph from the next generation. And so, in that spirit, The Russo Wandi recipe, as passed down from my father, and from his mother:

Bow Cookies

1-1/2 Cups sifted flour

1-1/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 tblsp sugar

3 tblsp Crisco

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1 Cup powdered sugar

Oil for deep frying

Sift flour, salt, baking powder and sugar into a bowl. Cut in Crisco until well blended. Stir in eggs and mix thoroughly. Knead on floured board until pliable. Let dough rest for at least one hour.

Divide dough and roll out to an 8×10 rectangle, 1/8″ thick. Cut into strips, 8″ long x 3/4″ wide. Tie into loose knots and drop into hot oil until golden brown.

Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel. Then sprinkle with powdered sugar. (This last, incidentally, was always my favorite part, perhaps because Grandma Russo never re-sprinkled.)

***I add, at this time, that while this blog is usually about the ties of females, and while this recipe was handed down from my grandmother, the bulk of my nostalgia for it should be credited to my father, who spent countless patient hours teaching me this and other recipes. And who never once refolded my bow ties.

cookies

These aren't Wandi, but another Italian cookie, so the sentiment is there...





Thoughts on Origins

31 08 2009

In the past on this blog, I’ve  credited much of my obsession with travel and cultures to my maternal grandmother, Gaga. But, while Gaga did speak seven languages and travel extensively, it’s not entirely fair not to give some of the credit to my Grandma Russo, my paternal grandmother, and the grandmother I actually knew.

For my whole life, Grandma Russo was a little old Italian lady (my mother tells me that, even long before I was born, and perhaps for her whole life, Grandma Russo was a little old Italian lady—and I’m inclined to believe her). She spouted crazy old adages like, “You eat mushrooms when your body craves wood” and was constantly “God willing” she would be around to see whatever event was coming up in a year, month or even a day. In a sense, she may have been Gaga’s polar opposite.

And yet, though she didn’t move to the U.S. on her own at age 22 or throw crazy 48-hour parties, Grandma Russo was fascinating in her own right, a real window into another time and another world. Not only was she a traditional New England woman but a representative of the “Old Country,” carrying on the traditions of Italy and passing them on to her children and grandchildren.

Unfortunately, Grandma Russo was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when I was young, and by the time I was old enough to really appreciate and want to hear all her stories about Italy and Rhode Island, she wasn’t all there to tell them. But I still managed to retain a lot from her, including an obsession with our culture, through the songs and the food and the little sayings. All this came back this past week when I walked into Trattoria del’ Arte to have dinner with a friend, and there by the host stand were long strips of powdered cookie, curled and bubbled in the frying process, a cookie that I used to make with my grandmother. We called them Wandi but the host at the restaurant called them Guanti (I’ve since learned that the words are somewhat interchangeable and translate to something like “gloves.”

This brought back memories of visits to Grandma’s house, visits characterized by what might be everyone’s (Italian or not) stereotype of the Italian grandmother: little old lady rushing around whipping out a feast, all while saying she had nothing to serve you. But more importantly it brought back memories of cooking with Grandma, and with my father: pizza, pasta and, of course various types of cookies, including Wandi.  Our family’s English word for them was “bows,” because after cutting the very thin batter into strips and we tied them into knots before frying them and sprinkling the powdered sugar. Whenever I’d make them with Grandma, she would re-tie all my bows, to the ever-increasing anger of my father.

This never bothered me, though. For me it was all about the process of making cookies with my grandmother, and today it’s all about the inspiration that experience instilled in me: a love of my heritage, which has translated into a love (and desire to explore all aspects) of Italy.

 Grandma Russo and her legacy

Grandma Russo and her legacy