Group Writing: Happiness Is a Warm Panettone

 

…At least to some, it is. The traditional Italian Christmas fruited bread is moist, buttery, light, and next to sublime when toasted and slathered in butter. But not to all. And not to one in particular-my brother Larry.

We are a big Italian family with Italian traditions at holiday time. Our traditional dinner for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter was always homemade ravioli, braciola, sausage, and meatballs. Turkey and ham were served later in the evening, at the second supper which was just for sandwiches and pickings. Homemade wine and Italian pastries were served alongside the generous number of pies and cakes.

Despite the distinct Italian flavor to our celebrations, I don’t ever remember encountering a panettone at our holiday celebrations when I was young or seeing one at all until at least my late teens. But some time in the early ’80s, when gourmet Italian food was going mainstream, panettone seemed to pop up everywhere, not just in the Italian specialty stores. Also at this time, they started to appear reliably at our house at Christmas, as someone invariably gave one, or two or four, as gifts to my family. My father loved them but my brothers and I did not. Perhaps the first ones we had were poor quality or stale. I eventually came around when I discovered that they are quite delicious, and that toasting them took them to an entirely different level. But my brother Larry would not be moved. The very sight of that iconic rhomboid box annoyed the heck out of him and he would go into a rant about how they were worse than fruitcake.

So naturally, one year when we were trying to figure out what to get Larry for Christmas, we decided we should get him his very own panettone. He looked at the shape of the wrapped box and said “Oh no. It better not be a panettone!” His reaction was exactly what we were looking for, so the next year, we decided to put his gift inside of a panettone box so he would think he was getting another panettone. Then the year after that, we used a vice to flatten the panettone and put it in a box about two inches high so he wouldn’t think he was getting a panettone. But he was! The year after that, we put a cherry bomb in a panettone with the fuse sticking out and labeled the box “Acme Panettone Company”. Unfortunately, the anticipated explosion fizzled-too much moisture in the panettone.

And thus a new holiday tradition was born. It is now 2020 and for the last 35 years, we have managed an uninterrupted string of panettone-themed Christmas gifts. He has gotten panettone themed clothing (a handcrafted tie and a beautiful panettone fez), artwork (an authentic Andy Warhol panettone treatment), crafts ( an elegant ceramic panettone platter that I personally painted myself at the do-it-yourself pottery place), a wall clock, mini-panettone Christmas ornaments, a lamp, a heartfelt poem “Ode to a Panettone”, a jack in the box made out of a panettone box, etc. I’ve shellacked many a panettone in my basement over the years.

My brother is a person of many dislikes, so sometimes we got in a double whammy by combining panettone with some other item that particularly irked him. For example, he dislikes inflatable Christmas lawn ornaments, so naturally one year we created a giant inflatable panettone. To our disappointment, he never allowed it to festoon his lawn, although he did take a picture of it though which he has hanging in his living room. In fact, he has so many pictures of our panettone creations around his house that his mother-in-law figured he loved them and started giving him one at Christmas until she was let in on the joke. We were absolutely delighted-the gift that keeps on giving.

Sometimes the gags were simple and thought up at the last moment, and some were quite elaborate. Some of my favorites:

-The Panettone Log: We filmed a panettone burning on the fire and made a DVD of it with Christmas carols playing

– “Pass the Panettone”: a fun-filled board game where you accumulated various gifts over the Christmas season worth points. The more undesirable the gift, the higher the points (fruitcakes and panettone were worth the most), and whoever had the least points at the end won. It’s been played a couple of times and it is actually not bad.

-“The Panettone”: a horror film classic based on the Night Gallery episode “The Doll”, wherein an evil panettone is sent to my brother and it destroys all the other Christmas pastries and finally him as well.

-And…, the 2016 “Trumpattone”: We set out to “Make panettone great again”. Unfortunately, I seem to have spent more time making the gifts than photographing the results, but one of the panels that I designed for the Trumpattone is pictured here.

Alas, this year like many people I found myself in a Christmas funk come December and did not spare a passing thought to panettone until it was almost too late. But then, inspiration struck and I came up with the perfect panettone gift for 2020. The exclusive, limited edition Panettone face mask. Order yours today!

Buon Natale a tutti!

Published in Group Writing
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  1. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    That is hysterical! What fun! Don’t you just love Christmas traditions–especially when they aggravate a sibling?! Well done, GC. Thank you for making me smile. 

    • #1
  2. Nohaaj Coolidge
    Nohaaj
    @Nohaaj

    They sell that exact boxed Panettone at Aldi’s too! 

    • #2
  3. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat
    @GossamerCat

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    That is hysterical! What fun! Don’t you just love Christmas traditions–especially when they aggravate a sibling?! Well done, GC. Thank you for making me smile.

    Thanks Susan! Sometimes we think we’ve had enough or run out of ideas but then we just keep going.

    • #3
  4. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat
    @GossamerCat

    Nohaaj (View Comment):

    They sell that exact boxed Panettone at Aldi’s too!

    I hope you have had an opportunity to try it!

    • #4
  5. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    My husband is half Irish, half Italian. The Italian side of him is always laughing at the so-serious Irish side. :-) 

    My Italian mother-in-law would have been sympathetic to Larry’s aversion to panettone. 

    My mother-in-law taught me how to cook. I’ve always thought that the Italians are to food what Mozart was to music–they just “get it.” They understand ingredients differently and better than any other nationality, at least in my humble opinion. :-) 

    The Italians in my mother-in-law’s family would love this story of long-running Christmas panettone jokes. :-) 

    • #5
  6. Rōnin Coolidge
    Rōnin
    @Ronin

    We just finished our two boxes we got for Christmas last night. Looks like a trip to Aldi.

    • #6
  7. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    We’ve had panettone for every Christmas growing up, and yet I’ve never seen anybody actually eat it. It stays out on the table and slowly it disappears as people evidently cut off small sections, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone actually eat it. Hmm.

    • #7
  8. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Flicker (View Comment):

    We’ve had panettone for every Christmas growing up, and yet I’ve never seen anybody actually eat it. It stays out on the table and slowly it disappears as people evidently cut off small sections, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone actually eat it. Hmm.

    My mother-in-law used to make a platter of stuffed artichokes for Easter and Christmas. She would leave it on the counter next to the stove ostensibly to keep them warm. All afternoon, I’d notice people standing in that corner for long periods of time. I never saw anyone actually sit down with an artichoke and eat it. But they would disappear. :-) 

    • #8
  9. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):

    We’ve had panettone for every Christmas growing up, and yet I’ve never seen anybody actually eat it. It stays out on the table and slowly it disappears as people evidently cut off small sections, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone actually eat it. Hmm.

    My mother-in-law used to make a platter of stuffed artichokes for Easter and Christmas. She would leave it on the counter next to the stove ostensibly to keep them warm. All afternoon, I’d notice people standing in that corner for long periods of time. I never saw anyone actually sit down with an artichoke and eat it. But they would disappear. :-)

    Mmm. Stuffed artichokes. With the leaves on? They are a ritual with me.

    • #9
  10. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat
    @GossamerCat

    Flicker (View Comment):

    We’ve had panettone for every Christmas growing up, and yet I’ve never seen anybody actually eat it. It stays out on the table and slowly it disappears as people evidently cut off small sections, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone actually eat it. Hmm.

    Hmmm indeed. They are somewhat of a conundrum-neither bread nor cake.

    • #10
  11. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Gossamer Cat (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):

    We’ve had panettone for every Christmas growing up, and yet I’ve never seen anybody actually eat it. It stays out on the table and slowly it disappears as people evidently cut off small sections, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone actually eat it. Hmm.

    Hmmm indeed. They are somewhat of a conundrum-neither bread nor cake.

    I suppose I have a confession to make. I never really liked panettone, or cassata or even cannolli. My mother loved cannoli, but I just never got it. Then one day in Palermo, I ordered a cannolo for desert, just as an homage sort of. And my head almost hit my plate. I’ve never tasted anything so good. I developed a ritual of buying two every evening, one for before bed and one for a morning snack. Live and learn.

    • #11
  12. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    As a fellow Italian-American I can relate to much of this. We don’t do gags like that but we do panettone! In fact on my kitchen counter right now is the very one in the image at the top of your post. I had to do a double take when I saw it here. We didn’t get to cut into it for Christmas. I guess we’ll have it for New Year. Hard to believe anyone doesn’t like panettone Out of curiosity, what part of the country do you live Gossamer?

    • #12
  13. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    Flicker (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):

    We’ve had panettone for every Christmas growing up, and yet I’ve never seen anybody actually eat it. It stays out on the table and slowly it disappears as people evidently cut off small sections, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone actually eat it. Hmm.

    My mother-in-law used to make a platter of stuffed artichokes for Easter and Christmas. She would leave it on the counter next to the stove ostensibly to keep them warm. All afternoon, I’d notice people standing in that corner for long periods of time. I never saw anyone actually sit down with an artichoke and eat it. But they would disappear. :-)

    Mmm. Stuffed artichokes. With the leaves on? They are a ritual with me.

    My mother makes a super stuffed artichoke soup. I haven’t had it in a while. 

    • #13
  14. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    Flicker (View Comment):

    We’ve had panettone for every Christmas growing up, and yet I’ve never seen anybody actually eat it. It stays out on the table and slowly it disappears as people evidently cut off small sections, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone actually eat it. Hmm.

    Oh we eat it…lol. Problem is that at an Italian holiday feast, there is so much food that by the time you get to the panettone everyone is stuffed. But I always have room if there’s espresso on the stovetop. 

    • #14
  15. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    MarciN (View Comment):

    My husband is half Irish, half Italian. The Italian side of him is always laughing at the so-serious Irish side. :-)

    My Italian mother-in-law would have been sympathetic to Larry’s aversion to panettone.

    My mother-in-law taught me how to cook. I’ve always thought that the Italians are to food what Mozart was to music–they just “get it.” They understand ingredients differently and better than any other nationality, at least in my humble opinion. :-)

    The Italians in my mother-in-law’s family would love this story of long-running Christmas panettone jokes. :-)

    Many years ago I said, Italians were put on earth to teach humanity how to cook. ;)

    • #15
  16. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat
    @GossamerCat

    Manny (View Comment):

    As a fellow Italian-American I can relate to much of this. We don’t do gags like that but we do panettone! In fact on my kitchen counter right now is the very one in the image at the top of your post. I had to do a double take when I saw it here. We didn’t get to cut into it for Christmas. I guess we’ll have it for New Year. Hard to believe anyone doesn’t like panettone Out of curiosity, what part of the country do you live Gossamer?

    I’ve lived in California for many years but my family and my heart are in NY.

    • #16
  17. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat
    @GossamerCat

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Gossamer Cat (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):

    We’ve had panettone for every Christmas growing up, and yet I’ve never seen anybody actually eat it. It stays out on the table and slowly it disappears as people evidently cut off small sections, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone actually eat it. Hmm.

    Hmmm indeed. They are somewhat of a conundrum-neither bread nor cake.

    I suppose I have a confession to make. I never really liked panettone, or cassata or even cannolli. My mother loved cannoli, but I just never got it. Then one day in Palermo, I ordered a cannolo for desert, just as an homage sort of. And my head almost hit my plate. I’ve never tasted anything so good. I developed a ritual of buying two every evening, one for before bed and one for a morning snack. Live and learn.

    That’s how I was with panettone, and truth be told, cannoli too. Didn’t like either growing up. Now I can’t figure out what was wrong with me. 

    • #17
  18. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat
    @GossamerCat

    Manny (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):

    We’ve had panettone for every Christmas growing up, and yet I’ve never seen anybody actually eat it. It stays out on the table and slowly it disappears as people evidently cut off small sections, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone actually eat it. Hmm.

    My mother-in-law used to make a platter of stuffed artichokes for Easter and Christmas. She would leave it on the counter next to the stove ostensibly to keep them warm. All afternoon, I’d notice people standing in that corner for long periods of time. I never saw anyone actually sit down with an artichoke and eat it. But they would disappear. :-)

    Mmm. Stuffed artichokes. With the leaves on? They are a ritual with me.

    My mother makes a super stuffed artichoke soup. I haven’t had it in a while.

    Yum!

    • #18
  19. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Manny (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):

    We’ve had panettone for every Christmas growing up, and yet I’ve never seen anybody actually eat it. It stays out on the table and slowly it disappears as people evidently cut off small sections, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone actually eat it. Hmm.

    My mother-in-law used to make a platter of stuffed artichokes for Easter and Christmas. She would leave it on the counter next to the stove ostensibly to keep them warm. All afternoon, I’d notice people standing in that corner for long periods of time. I never saw anyone actually sit down with an artichoke and eat it. But they would disappear. :-)

    Mmm. Stuffed artichokes. With the leaves on? They are a ritual with me.

    My mother makes a super stuffed artichoke soup. I haven’t had it in a while.

    So what day is she making it? :)

    • #19
  20. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Manny (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):

    We’ve had panettone for every Christmas growing up, and yet I’ve never seen anybody actually eat it. It stays out on the table and slowly it disappears as people evidently cut off small sections, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone actually eat it. Hmm.

    Oh we eat it…lol. Problem is that at an Italian holiday feast, there is so much food that by the time you get to the panettone everyone is stuffed. But I always have room if there’s espresso on the stovetop.

    I could have filled up on the antipasti and then eaten enough lasagna for two. But they never let me fill up on the antipasti, so I ate the artichokes instead. Good food and good times.

    • #20
  21. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Gossamer Cat (View Comment):

    Manny (View Comment):

    As a fellow Italian-American I can relate to much of this. We don’t do gags like that but we do panettone! In fact on my kitchen counter right now is the very one in the image at the top of your post. I had to do a double take when I saw it here. We didn’t get to cut into it for Christmas. I guess we’ll have it for New Year. Hard to believe anyone doesn’t like panettone Out of curiosity, what part of the country do you live Gossamer?

    I’ve lived in California for many years but my family and my heart are in NY.

    I still get moist-eyed when my name is pronounced with a NY accent.

    • #21
  22. Cow Girl Thatcher
    Cow Girl
    @CowGirl

    That is a fantastic story! It’s just funny on its own, but then when you think about the time and energy you have put into maintaining this tradition for all of these years, it is worthy of the Smithsonian! Seriously…your family’s endurance is remarkable and delightful! I laughed so much, my husband begged to find out what was going on. Thank you!!

    • #22
  23. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    Gossamer Cat (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Gossamer Cat (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):

    We’ve had panettone for every Christmas growing up, and yet I’ve never seen anybody actually eat it. It stays out on the table and slowly it disappears as people evidently cut off small sections, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone actually eat it. Hmm.

    Hmmm indeed. They are somewhat of a conundrum-neither bread nor cake.

    I suppose I have a confession to make. I never really liked panettone, or cassata or even cannolli. My mother loved cannoli, but I just never got it. Then one day in Palermo, I ordered a cannolo for desert, just as an homage sort of. And my head almost hit my plate. I’ve never tasted anything so good. I developed a ritual of buying two every evening, one for before bed and one for a morning snack. Live and learn.

    That’s how I was with panettone, and truth be told, cannoli too. Didn’t like either growing up. Now I can’t figure out what was wrong with me.

    There has never been a moment in my life I have never not liked cannolis…lol. Or panettone. Or St. Joseph pastries. Or Italian pastries in general! Every time I happen to be in Little Italy – thee Little Italy in Manhattan – I have to go to some pastry shop and get an Italian pastry and an espresso. 

    • #23
  24. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Manny (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):

    We’ve had panettone for every Christmas growing up, and yet I’ve never seen anybody actually eat it. It stays out on the table and slowly it disappears as people evidently cut off small sections, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone actually eat it. Hmm.

    My mother-in-law used to make a platter of stuffed artichokes for Easter and Christmas. She would leave it on the counter next to the stove ostensibly to keep them warm. All afternoon, I’d notice people standing in that corner for long periods of time. I never saw anyone actually sit down with an artichoke and eat it. But they would disappear. :-)

    Mmm. Stuffed artichokes. With the leaves on? They are a ritual with me.

    My mother makes a super stuffed artichoke soup. I haven’t had it in a while.

    So what day is she making it? :)

    Whenever she happens to find them at the supermarket. I don’t think they’re in season right now. And she insists on the small artichokes. Small are supposed to be tastier. 

    • #24
  25. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat
    @GossamerCat

    Cow Girl (View Comment):

    That is a fantastic story! It’s just funny on its own, but then when you think about the time and energy you have put into maintaining this tradition for all of these years, it is worthy of the Smithsonian! Seriously…your family’s endurance is remarkable and delightful! I laughed so much, my husband begged to find out what was going on. Thank you!!

    I’m so glad you liked it. Yes, when you think back on it, we might have gone much farther in life if we had devoted all the time and energy we spent on panettone gag gifts to some loftier pursuit. But that wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun.

    • #25
  26. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    This post is part of our Group Writing Series under the December 2020 Group Writing Theme: “’Tis the Season.” We still have plenty of open days. You can do better than disco, I’m sure, and Ricochet will thank you. Stop by soon, our schedule and sign-up sheet awaits.

    Interested in Group Writing topics that came before? See the handy compendium of monthly themes. Check out links in the Group Writing Group. You can also join the group to get a notification when a new monthly theme is posted.

    • #26
  27. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat
    @GossamerCat

    MarciN (View Comment):
    The Italians in my mother-in-law’s family would love this story of long-running Christmas panettone jokes. :-) 

    That’s good because I was afraid some might be a just a little peeved at our disrespect of an Italian Christmas delicacy.

    • #27
  28. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Manny (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Manny (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):

    We’ve had panettone for every Christmas growing up, and yet I’ve never seen anybody actually eat it. It stays out on the table and slowly it disappears as people evidently cut off small sections, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone actually eat it. Hmm.

    My mother-in-law used to make a platter of stuffed artichokes for Easter and Christmas. She would leave it on the counter next to the stove ostensibly to keep them warm. All afternoon, I’d notice people standing in that corner for long periods of time. I never saw anyone actually sit down with an artichoke and eat it. But they would disappear. :-)

    Mmm. Stuffed artichokes. With the leaves on? They are a ritual with me.

    My mother makes a super stuffed artichoke soup. I haven’t had it in a while.

    So what day is she making it? :)

    Whenever she happens to find them at the supermarket. I don’t think they’re in season right now. And she insists on the small artichokes. Small are supposed to be tastier.

    Yes. And they have to be tight, without leaves spreading out, apparently. This is a sign of freshness.

    • #28
  29. Shauna Hunt Coolidge
    Shauna Hunt
    @ShaunaHunt

    I have always loved Italian food. When I served my mission in Western New York, I gained a true appreciation for it! Homemade lasagna with fresh pasta, meatballs the size of your head, learning to eat pasta properly, etc. I miss New York food. Now I’m hungry again.

    Thank you for such a great post! I will need to read it to my family. 

    • #29