Nonna’s Wine Taralli In a tiny house surrounded by a forest of fig trees in Rende, Cosenza, Calabria, my great great grandmother taught her little granddaughter how to make “Nonna’s Wine Taralli. ” That little girl would eventually become my grandmother and she would also teach me the art of wine taralli-making. Two cups of my grandfather’s homemade white wine, fourteen ounces of canola oil and sugar, two teaspoons of baking powder, an envelope of “Lievito Bartolino,” three and a half pounds of flour and “un po’ di aranzi,” as my Italian grandmother says, which are the licorice-flavoured seeds of the nise.
These ingredients combine to make “Nonna’s Wine Taralli” – a cookie-textured, ring shaped and slightly sweetened version of the traditional Italian taralli, whose recipe has been passed on for generations by the women in my southern-Italian family. Come fall and spring, a grandmother makes an abundance of wine taralli in the presence of daughters and granddaughters who watch intently and help accordingly.
According to Searle’s Taxonomy, the making of “Nonna’s Wine Taralli” is regarded as ritualistic behavior as it is collective, formal, performance and formative, trengthens existing social statuses and relationships, and exudes ultimate goals. To begin, the making of “Nonna’s Wine Taralli” is consistent with Searle’s Taxonomy as it is collective, meaning there are at least two people (Searle 19) as well as formal since it calls for conformity, cannot be improvised and is not spontaneous (20). The activity is collective. It involves at least two and at most three women: a grandmother, her daughter and her granddaughter in any which combination.
The activity is formal. Each and every ingredient is essential. There is not much, if any, room for improvisation. The flavour is entirely dependent on each and every ingredient. If certain ingredients are missing, sacrificed or substituted, the wine taralli will not taste as they are expected to taste and should taste. There is not only an expected taste, but also an expected and fixed order of events. The beating of the oil, sugar and white wine come first, followed by the sifting of the flour, baking powder, “Lievito Bartolino” and “aranzi,” then the kneading of the dough, the cutting of the strips and finally, the formation of the rings.
Furthermore, the activity is performance. It can be seen as performance as it is bodily and demands its participants submit to a particular role (22). The activity involves the beating and sifting of the essential ingredients and the kneading of the dough through folding, pressing, and stretching, which require steady hand and wrist movements. It also involves roles which are quite fixed and unchanging. I recall standing on top of a chair in order to reach the counter of my grandmother’s kitchen at the young age of five.
I watched her perform er role which involved kneading the dough with her strong hands as I waited anxiously for my role to come, which consisted of rolling the soft dough into strips and then forming them into the taralli’s distinct ring-like shape. Throughout the years, the roles between my grandmother and I have remained the same. Finally, the making of wine taralli is formative and strengthens existing relationships and social statuses (24). An abundance are made to last several months since we gather only twice a year to make them.
Since so many ot them are being produced at one time, he participants, especially young granddaughters like myself, have the opportunity to develop the ability to create and perfect the art of taralli-making. It also allows participants to strengthen existing familial and cultural bonds and social statuses. The familial bond between grandmothers, mothers and daughters and the familial status of being a member of this particular family are present and strengthened. The cultural bond that is shared in being members of the Italian heritage is strengthened by the practicing of an age old cultural tradition.
The bond of womanhood is trengthened in that the participants are exclusively Italian women from the same family. These bonds are present while not explicitly stated. While there is only a small group of participants, the bonds and social statuses that are shared amongst them are strong and meaningful. A popular Italian saying that is spoken by my grandmother when making wine taralli is, “one can resolve any argument over a glass of wine and a handful of taralli. ” As I get older, it becomes more clear to me what the ultimate goals of this ritual are and how they are achieved.