Today is not Super Tuesday. It’s “Fat Tuesday,” well, it is for anyone living outside the U.S. electoral tunnel.
Although Italians are following the primaries with all the morbid interest of a soap opera — since their own government fell and the goings-on are all too dramatic — they do have festive food in mind right now.
The problem with Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras in modern times is that all of the super-special treats that you’re only supposed to gorge on during Carnival before buttoning up into Lent are readily available anyway.
Sicilian cannoli, for example, once used to only latch on to your thighs (with the chocolate chips ably reproducing themselves in cellulite) during this festive period. Other specialties, many once regional now national, can be found months before hand.
Shortly after Christmas, I spied with alarm a sign in a bakery announcing “early chiacchiere,” which is the way out-of-season produce is hailed in the markets.
Now, I love pastry strips (baked or fried) with powdered sugar (the modern, heart-stopping variant: drizzled in chocolate) as much as the next person, but if I can eat them for more than a week, I’m in trouble.
The Italian food calendar was generous when the country was populated by starving peasants, now it’s punishing. With all the treats crowded together on a calendar, maintaining one’s bella figura is about as easy as keeping an Italian off a cell phone.
Even if one wanted to abide by Lent privations (and with the low number of practicing Catholics, who actually does?) the market is against them.
Farmer’s association Coldiretti estimates that Italians will spend 120 million euros ($177 million) in Carnival sweets this year, that’s 20 tons of apple fritters (frittelle di mele), struffoli, chiacchiere etc.
These fatten-you-up treats tend to be fried, for that same reason they tend to be bought rather than made at home. With this much business, it’s no wonder that after Fat Tuesday, they’ll still be beckoning Italians from bakery windows.
And by the time the colombe cakes and chocolate eggs come along for Easter, there’s a chance that Italians will be patching together a new government then and can start really worrying about the next U.S. president.