Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Great Figolli Fight - part 3 - Margaret Ullrich

continued from part 2

     For my family, Easter was a simple celebration with lots of traditional foods.  There weren't any problems until the year my mother's brother Charlie married an American girl.  Ma invited Charlie and Liz for Easter.  Liz wanted to learn more about Maltese customs.  Aunt Demi, Pop's oldest sister, heard that we had invited Charlie and Liz.  Aunt Demi worried that our branch of the family was becoming too American.  So, Aunt Demi decided that she would come to dinner to make sure that Ma kept everything kosher. 

     Then Aunt Dina, one of my Sicilian Aunts, heard that we were inviting company for Easter.  Aunt Dina always took things personally.  She was insulted.  Why hadn't she been invited, too?  Ma invited Aunt Dina, Uncle George and their children.  We had enough folding tables and chairs to seat everyone in the yard.  As long as it didn't rain, Ma thought it would be a nice family dinner.

     Easter Sunday morning the sun was shining and the lamb was roasting on a spit in our yard.  The tables had been set.  Liz was taking notes and learning recipes.  She had brought cross buns and a jello mold.  The only thing missing was the centerpiece.  Demi had told Ma that she would bring a proper figolli.  

     It was the biggest figolli I'd ever seen.  The icing was three inches thick.  While Aunt Demi was placing the Easter egg on her Queen of the Sea, Aunt Dina marched in and pulled a Colomba di Pasqua out of her tote bag.  The Colomba had a three foot wingspan.  There was barely room enough for one centerpiece.  

     Fish or fowl, which would we use?

     After forty days of fasting and scrubbing, Demi and Dina were lean, clean and mean Easter tradition machines.  They glared at each other.

     "What the hell is that?"  Demi spat.
     "It's a dove, a symbol of peace, you idiot," Dina shot back.  
     "It's Easter.  We don't need a damn dove."
     "Throw that fish back in the sea."  
     "The figolli is part of our tradition."
     "Since when did Jesus swim with the fishes?"
     Waving a knife, Demi lunged.  "Give me that bread.  I'll cut it up for sandwiches."
     "Over my dead body."

     Liz was fascinated by her new in-laws.  She wrote down everything the Aunts said.  Maybe she thought the fight was part of our ethnic holiday tradition.  I stayed close to Liz in case she didn't have sense enough to duck.

     Ma went back to the kitchen.  She knew she couldn't reason with her sisters-in-law.  Her plan was to hide in the kitchen until the smoke cleared.  If they killed each other it would leave more food for the others.

     "Netta, get out here," Demi yelled.
     "I went to all this trouble," Dina whined.
     Ma came out.  The Uncles had wandered away.  Liz was still taking notes.  
     Demi barked, "Tell this idiot we are using the figolli."
     "It took me forever to make this damn bird," Dina whined again.
     Ma tried to be a good hostess.  "They're so big.  We could put them on chairs near the table."
     No luck.  The Aunts wanted her to choose one.
     Demi announced.  "We are having a traditional Maltese Easter.  With a traditional Figolli."
     "Do you think Our Blessed Mother baked a mermaid?" Dina demanded.  

     Ma sighed.  The lamb was ready.  If this dragged on much longer we'd be eating a lump of coal. 

     Ma said, "I don't care if the Blessed Mother made hot dogs and beans.  I'm tired of the whole damn holiday.  I'm tired of cleaning.  I'm tired of baking.  And I'm tired of bread.  A few days ago I gave a figolli to a friend who lives down the street.  Yesterday she came over and gave us a loaf of hallah.  So I have another loaf of traditional holiday bread from Mrs. Cohen... Mrs. Cohen.  That's it!!" 

     Without saying another word Ma turned and went back to the kitchen.  In a few minutes she returned with the glossy braided hallah on the platter.  

     "Our Blessed Mother was a Jew.  She would've made a hallah.  And that's what we're having for Easter.  It's traditional.  Shut up, sit down and eat."

     And so saying, Ma started our traditional Easter Dinner.  


  1. Thanks for the great story, Marg. Hilarious!

  2. Hi, Pamela, Glad you liked the story. Wishing you a Happy Easter without a Figolli Fight!


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