Grandma took great pride in her cooking. Even though Grandpa worked at the pastry shop with his family, Grandma created delicacies that were just for her children and grandchildren. One of her prize creations consisted of paper-thin fried dough sprinkled with powdered sugar, wandi, traditionally shaped like wands. However, Grandma fashioned hers into angels’ wings for a combined celebration of July birthdays. Making them was time consuming and often took her a full day. These were handled with reverence.
Then, on an afternoon in my sister’s new Volkswagen Beetle, the wandi story changed forever.
When I young and living at their Water House, I would sit and watch Grandma mixing the batter of eggs, sugar, flour, baking powder and butter. She would then break the dough into sections and knead it. After letting me help roll the dough paper thin, Grandma carefully cut strips with a pastry wheel. Next she fashioned them into wings and took them to her kitchen treasure, the black frying pan with boiling oil. She fried them for just about a minute on each side, before scooping them up with a slotted spatula and placing them onto long sheets of brown pastry paper for draining.
On the day of the ladies’ afternoon birthday party at our parents’ home in a suburb about 15 minutes from the Water House, my sister Lois, proud to show off her new white Beetle, decided she would drive to pick up Grandma and her delicacies. In recalling the incident she said, “What was I thinking? Did I really expect Grandma would love my bug as much as Dad’s station wagon?” The challenge was space. Grandma was just over 4 feet tall and about as wide.
When Lois arrived at Grandma’s, our younger sister, Debbie, who had been sitting in the front seat, got up, diligently placed the wandi on the back seat, and then helped Grandma settle in front. Next, she had to squeeze behind Grandma and maneuver her way into that tiny space behind Grandma. Finally in, she flopped herself down.
Lois said, “All I could hear was a scream and a crunch.” Debbie had landed on the angel wings.
Grandma was even more crushed than her cookies. Throughout the party, she kept repeating, “Can you believe that Debbie sat on my wandi?”
As soon as Grandpa came home that evening, Grandma practically wept as she told him the story — even before he had a minute to take off his suit jacket. Remembering her often repeated words of wisdom, “Never go to bed angry. Always end the day with a smile,” Grandpa listened patiently. Then suddenly he took hold of her and kissed her madly.
Uncle Albert captured the moment.
— Rita Esposito Watson, a Providence Journal columnist, is writing “Italian Kisses: Gram’s Wisdom.”