Our valiant emissary to the Dark Side

In May 2008 my family and I proudly attended my graduation with a Doctoral degree in Health Policy and Management from Columbia University in a beautiful ceremony held at the main New York campus. One of the guests of honor was a short black man in his sixties with a goatee that exuded the patrician flair of a privileged upbringing and had an halo of unquestioned authority. He was Kofi Annan, the first black elected as General Secretary of the United Nations for two consecutive five years-term starting in 1997 and Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2001.

Africa’s foremost diplomat presided over the transformation of our world from a socio-political stage for the Cold War to its Globalization and the rise of Fundamentalism. He was recruited form the civil corps of the UN bureaucracy, after many years of service. He was a tireless diplomat that sought to find compromise between warring enemies in order to spare the civilian population from the consequences of famine, sickness and destitution. He had the guts to meet some of the most despicable tyrants and engage them in a much needed dialogue; he was severely criticized for sharing a cigar with Saddam Hussein in his quest to avoid war.

He renovated the peacekeeping forces of the United Nations by giving them much more resources and training of the personnel in the vagaries of non-conventional warfare. Sadly his biggest failures were the genocides of Rwanda and Bosnia, which were really the inevitable outcome of naively putting “soft Europeans” to confront the hardened warriors. If the defenseless refugees of Srebrenica would have been defended from the rogue Serbs by a platoon of American Marines or an elite battalion of the Indian Army, the story might have been different; at the very least they would have stood their ground and fought fiercely for the safe heaven.

He was born on April 8, 1938, in an aristocratic family of the city of Kumasi in what was then called the Gold Coast, which would later become the country of Ghana; he had a degree in Economics from Ghana and later also studied at Macalester College in Geneva and at the Sloan School of Management in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His first United Nations appointment was in the World Health Organization of Geneva in 1962 and he worked the rest of his life in different organizations of the institution. In 1990 UN secretary general Boutros Ghali appointed him first as his deputy and then as head of the peacekeeping operations. With the blessing of the suspicious American delegation to the UN, he was finally appointed as it secretary general on January 1, 1997.

After leaving the UN, he continued working for world peace from his position of head of the “Kofi Annan Foundation” based in Geneva, Switzerland. He had just returned from a trip to Zimbabwe last week when he fell ill and passed away on August 18th, 2018 in a Bern hospital.

He had the courage and determination to seek peace, even with the flimsiest of chances.

He had the stamina and patience to deal with the most abject members of Humankind.

He worked until his death to promote world peace, a necessary legacy for a sound future for our children.

Thank you very much Kofi for your priceless public service in the UN.

May God Almighty receive you in his Grace as a dedicated son of Africa.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

The visionary of Trinidad

I remembered that moment as if it had happened yesterday. It was a late Sunday evening in the first week of March 1966. The next day my brother and I were supposed to go back to school after the summer recess. But instead of the joy to return to a familiar place with  my buddies since kindergarten, I was starting in a strange school. I was sad. Very.

In 1965 my mother and her two children left our centrally located apartment to settle momentarily in our grandmother’s spacious home in Colon to take some needed refuge. My father had been arbitrarily  jailed by a judge for some unpaid personal loans; there was no bankruptcy legislation in Uruguay at the time, which exposed the debtors and their families to great financial strain and emotional suffering. Even though he was assigned to a detention center in the Police headquarters where he shared his short stay with educated and friendly inmates, it was still an imprisonment. Our dear mother Gladys had a nervous breakdown and Yolanda, her mother, offered to take care of us all.

Instead of slumping in an emotional void, we decided to take the challenge in earnest. Yolanda, all wrapped up in a woolen poncho, accompanied us early at dawn in those freezing mornings to wait for the bus 411 in a deserted stop. We boarded it for 45 minutes trip to the “Lycée Francais.” When the noon break came, we boarded the bus again to have lunch in Colon (as we could not afford the mess hall every day) and then go back to our school to be on time for the 2 PM bell. At 5 PM we left the school for our return trip home. We arrived at dusk to have a café-au-lait and do our homework load; around 8 PM we had dinner and went to bed promptly afterwards. No TV or radio.

In spite (or perhaps because) of this humongous sacrifice, I got a perfect score in my fifth grade of Primary School to rank first in my class and winning a much-needed full scholarship for sixth grade. Alas, our joy was short-lived. One day my father came back home and told us that the school director stripped me of my scholarship to give it to a politician’s son. We were so astounded and hurt that its memory still sears our minds.

My father quickly prepared a forceful letter to Mr. Chambord, the cultural attaché of the French Embassy at the time. He summoned my father to his office; he told him that they would give me the scholarship back, on the condition that he had to withdraw his letter of protest. “Absolutely not. Our dignity forbids it,” he rebuked him. Then my father filled the application to attend sixth grade in the “Escuela Jose Pedro Varela”, a public school just a  short distance form the French school. When he told me I agreed in silence. My dislike of the French (not the French culture) and politicians started right there.

When my mother and brother were fast asleep, I jumped out of bed and went to the kitchen to chat with my father. He embraced me warmly and patted my head. “Don’t worry…You’re a tiger…You’ll do well, wherever you go,” he said with a forceful tone.    We stayed together in silence in the darkness, forging a stronger father-child bond.

Mario Laplume Salguero was born on August 14, 1933 in Trinidad, Province of Flores, Uruguay and passed away on July 22, 2012 in Montevideo, Uruguay; he married Gladys Garbarino in 1953 and had two sons by that marriage: my brother Gustavo and myself. In 1967 he divorced her and married Isabel Mardaras with whom they had a son: Marcel. When he was a teenager he entered as a mail room clerk in the Swift meat processing plant located in “El Cerro”, across Montevideo bay. He was molded for life by the daily contact with those Post-World War II Americans that had a strong work ethic and a commitment to quality standards in the workplace. He could not go to High School due to his work schedule, but he attended English, French and German language classes after work. He started to read an collect a magnificent array of books that the has given aa a legacy to his three sons. One of my earliest memories of childhood is to watch him in awe as he meticulously took a book out of the shelf to pass a hand held-feather-duster on its cover and then open it parsimoniously to peruse a few pages. If he noticed me, he would ask me to sit down by. He taught me all the basics about World Literature, including all the classics in French and English.

He was a lifelong Socialist and union organizer in the bankers’ union (he worked in a private bank after the Swift company closed and pulled out of Uruguay); if he hadn’t had that financial mishap, he would have joined the armed insurrection against the military government. When I became a political militant, he understood my choice and, aware of the physical risks, he backed my decision. When the military government closed the Medical School and the police started to round up the die-hard militants, he convinced me to travel to Argentina to continue my studies in La Plata, sparing me a certain demise. If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be here writing this article today.

He always wanted to study Medicine as he considered that it was one of the noblest professions of humankind; he supported me emotionally and financially during my medical studies and he was very proud when I graduated from Medical School in 1981. He got one of his cherished dreams. He instilled in us the virtue of honesty and the value of a given promise to become a good man. Even though I questioned several of his progressive convictions as I grew older, he never lost his calm demeanor in discussing politics and economy; he never relinquished his core beliefs. From today’s perspective, I now fully agree that a life without a generous mission is not worth living.

Imbued by the strong work ethic of the Americans he had met in the Swift plant, he always admired the United States of America and he studied its politics and history in earnest; he became an expert in the Civil War, enjoying all the books, magazines and material I regularly brought him home. He enjoyed meticulously reading every section of the Sunday edition of “The New York Times.” He did not have to set a foot in this country to know how the system worked and did not too. He continually admonished us: “the USA is a land of chiaro-oscuri…But the brightness prevails. It will last 500 more years.”

As I am jotting down these lines on my laptop, my son Gian Luca, a born buff of everything cinematic, is watching a 1986 cult film called “My brother’s wedding” by Charles Burnett. Have you ever heard of it? I doubt it. Me neither. How does he know it exist? He inherited a gift… I still remember that in a small closet right next to the toilet in Montevideo, there was a tall pile of a French film magazine called “Les cahiers du cinema”; I always picked one to start reading it. Next to it there was another pile of the “Boxing” magazine, which hooked me to that “politically incorrect” sport for life.

When I told my father that Noel Marie, his first grandchild, was not pursuing a legal career, as we initially hoped, in order to become a video producer, he paused for a long second and then said: “Mmm…That little one will do whatever she wants in life.”

He was absolutely right. He is the family’s unique visionary that showed us the way.

Gracias Papa!

 

 

 

The Mystery Blogger Award

Dear readers and fellow bloggers:

Occasionally in life (very occasionally I must add) you meet someone with whom you have a strong spiritual communion, which does not mean you agree on every issue. It means that you are emotionally attuned to what the other person has to say or feels plus you eventually develop such a strong mind bonding that you can transmit by telepathy. Usually that person is the “significant other” that you marry and share your life with. But a few of us get so lucky that we find an additional partner without even a single touch.

For several months I have such in quasi-constant communication with such a person. Harbans Khajuria, a fellow blogger from New Delhi, has dazzled us with his clear, straight yet comprehensive discussions of the major spiritual challenges of modern times. He is a well versed intellectual that has worked in the Indian Civil service and now is in the private sphere; as I rightfully guessed by enjoying his writings, he comes from a long tradition of Brahmin teachers of Hindu culture, the only ancient civilization that has come almost unscathed by the ravages of war and conquest to our times.  He dubbed me “Dr. Sahib” , a sign of respect for the learned in India, and I corresponded by calling him “Il Chiaro”, a moniker of a statesman from the powerful Medici family of Florence.

Thank you my dearest “Il Chiaro” for nominating my humble blog for this great award. Please allow me to shamelessly copy out the requirements from your own page.

(https://harbansinnerthoughts.com/2018/07/01/the-mystery-bloggers-award/)

HERE ARE THE RULES:

  • Put the award logo/image on your blog.
    List the rules.
    Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
    Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well.
    Tell your readers three things about yourself.
    You have to nominate 10-20 people.
    Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog.
    Ask your nominees any five questions of your choice; with one weird or funny question (specify)
    Share a link to your best post

Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well.

Okoto Enigma ( https://www.okotoenigmasblog.com/my-greatest-creation-yet/ )

My LINK: (https://drmolaplume.com/)

What is the Mystery Blogger Award?

It’s an award for inspiring bloggers with wonderful posts. Their blog possesses magnetism which not only captivates; it also add to the knowledge. They are one of the best out there, and they deserve the recognition that they get. This award is also for bloggers who get inner satisfaction when fellow bloggers comment on those posts. -Okoto Enigma (https://www.okotoenigmasblog.com/my-greatest-creation-yet/

I -Three things about myself

Why did I start my web page and blog?

Initially I started writing articles in order to raise my profile as a marketing tool to start promoting my first book, “Madame D.C.- Three voyages”, published in the Kindle Direct store. In order to organize my work better in a sustained long-term endeavor I decided to chose three major areas of interest: Emotional Frustration, Wellness and Health Care Justice; moreover they constituted the necessary scaffolding to study and write about issues that I will eventually tackle in separate books. The Emotional Frustration series has been enormously successful and has elicited plenty of interesting, challenging commentaries from the educated, concerned feminine public, for which I have decided to start writing my second book called “Emotional Frustration-the Hushed Plague.”  Once you start communicating with readers and bloggers, your mind necessarily opens up to new perspectives and sources of inspiration with their questioning and contributions. Thank you for supporting my writings and grabbing my hand in the journey through the barren desert of the stultifying “modern culture” in order to demand more substance. As many of my readers, I refuse to meekly accept the banality, vulgarity and stupidity of the contents poured over the majority of mass media as a pestilent and sickening sludge. We deserve better. Much better. And we must fight for the mental sanity of our children.

After almost 40 years of uninterrupted medical practice I believe I have the necessary expertise and experience to discuss many pressing Medical and Public Health issues. I believe that the direct communication with readers is a healthy bypass to surmount the mendacious messages of many commercial interests that do not put the patients first. Moreover the daily interaction with so many people from all walks of life has sharpened my sensitivity to their daily difficulties to access equitable and affordable Health Care.

In order to properly address the multi-faceted ailments of our patients, physicians have to learn basic tenets of Sociology, Economics, Psychology, Literature and even Theatre. As the great Spanish physician Gregorio Maranon sagely said in the nineteenth century:

“El que solo de Medicina sabe, ni de Medicina sabe.”

(Whomever only knows about Medicine, not even Medicine knows)

What is the most important asset of a meaningful, attractive blog?

Federico Garcia Lorca, the tragically prolific Andalusian writer assassinated during the Spanish Civil war, was a firm believer in the concept of “duende”, a rising soulfulness that exudes a spontaneous, profound and earthy emotional vitality. Before plunging into literature, Garcia Lorca tried to compose music, preparing arrangements for piano and voice for the Andalusian folk songs and even performing with Manuel de Falla. He conserved his “good ear” for music, which certainly helped to inspire many writings. Some experts have said that in order to write well, you must first try to pay attention to the “inner music” humming in your mind in order to efficiently translate it in words.

Every morning I sit down early in the morning at my desk, in front of my computer, after finishing my basic toilet, prepping my loyal companion since my medical student days- the “mate amargo” and praying to God Almighty for several minutes with special thanks to my grandparents, parents and children. Then I gently lay my hands on the keyboard. A tender muse caresses my face, whispers softly in my left ear and frees the “duende.”  Slowly, stealthily troves of childhood, adolescence and adulthood memories show up; they inundate my mind and offer me the necessary life-saver to stay readily afloat. Many of the characters in my novel and the protagonists in my blogs have been partially modeled on them. One blogger recently asked me if the examples in “Emotional Frustration” are real patients I have seen in my medical office. Well…Yes. And no. A few are real, some others are composites of several individuals. And some are pure fiction. What do you want me to say? I’m a novelist. A liar by birth and craft. Specially to women.

Women. In our modern times, the major battleground for socio-economic causes is not the factory or the street but the bodies of our dear women and the LGBT community. Following the instructions of the greatest intellectual mentor I ever had, my father Mario (who was a proud heterosexual) I read authors like Gracia Lorca, Henry James, Oscar Wilde and Tennessee Williams in my adolescence, sitting by the great library he had collected in our Montevideo apartment. He told me that the homosexual writers were the best appraisers of the suffering of women trapped by the retrograde social conventions. I duly followed his advice and I struggled with those authors. But I got a good head-start.

“Gracias Papa por el ejemplo de honestidad intelectual luminoso que nos transmitiste.”

(Thank you Dad for the brilliant example of intellectual honesty that you gave us)

Why is it so critical for bloggers to contribute to initiatives like this award?

Save for a few exceptions, the majority of writers start producing interesting work after living at least thirty or forty years in order to accumulate experience and knowledge. The tragic trifecta constituted by the inexorable passing of time, lost loves that broke our hearts and their painful remembrances in our present is the great motor of Literature. The closer we are to our inevitable demise as a physical entity in this valley of tears, the better and more focused writers we often become. We crave to transcend our mortality.

Garcia Lorca knew that the proximity of Death prods us to produce writings in earnest. In a conference he gave to a rapturous audience in Buenos Aires, Argentina, he said: “the ‘duende’ does not come at all unless he sees that death is possible. The ‘duende’ must know beforehand that he can serenade death’s house…The ‘duende’ wounds. In the healing of that wound, which never closes lie the strange, invented qualities of a man’s work..The ‘duende’ loves the rim of the wound.”

In the Middle Ages ( my favorite period of History) the population of Europe was sharply divided in multiple ethnic and cultural communities that shared two civic features:

1 – Strong religious beliefs and clear understanding of our societal commitments.

2 – Aggregation in professional-artisanal groups with a shared identity called “guilds.”

Our ancestors knew that individuals had little traction in a long-term fight to achieve respected social status and fend off powerful interests, including the Royalty and Church. They united in ever bigger local groups that had a common work-related feature and a civic mission in their communities; eventually they fostered the emergence of the educated, entrepreneurial and dynamic middle classes that extended worldwide. We believe that bloggers must give up the dangerous delusion that they can stay solely on their own, if they want to bring long-lasting contributions to their places of residence.

G.K. Chesterton was the first blogger in the Anglo-Saxon world, for which we dedicated him a respectful blog as an admirer of his numerous articles with simple common sense. Given that he wrote profusely, without much revision, on several seemingly unrelated topics in journals and magazines, he was initially dismissed as a “not so serious writer.” Just like many mandarins of the establishment summarily dismiss us bloggers nowadays. We must support all the noble web initiatives like this “Mystery Blogger Award.” Let’s join forces at the city, county, state, country levels to forge a common identity and fiat; we will surely encounter a lot of resistance and even some ill-gotten discrimination. But our right for unfettered access for our unique voices in the social media and our firm determination to pass it on to our descendants demand some sacrifice. C’est parti!

For the love of my children, Noel Marie and Gian Luca.

“Once you love somebody, the world becomes your foe.” 

Giles Keith Chesterton

II – My nominees are:

  1. Harbans – https://harbansinnerthoughts.com/
  2. Bojana – https://bloggingwithbojana.com/
  3. Brandewulf – https://brandewijnwords.com/
  4. Paola – https://vitadamuseo.wordpress.com/
  5. Antionette – http://ablakeenterprises.com/
  6. Da-Al – https://happinessbetweentails.com/
  7. Geo – https://justreadingmybooks.wordpress.com/
  8. Anita – https://maltanita.com/
  9. Willeke – https://irelandms.com
  10. Nor – https://noorshrfawi.wordpress.com/

III – My questions to my nominees are:

  1. What is the main mission of your blog?
  2. What is the main attraction of your blog?
  3. What is the main limitation of your blog?
  4. What do you like best in mine?
  5. What do you dislike the most in mine?

IV – My favorite blog is the following:

Sorry. I can’t possibly chose because I like each and every one of them. Why? Because my blood, my sweat is enmeshed in each and every word I have written in my page. Please take your pick by perusing with a gourmand’s eye my list of contents. Bon apetit!

 

Thank you very much for your kindness and patience in reading this rather long article.

 

 

Aporophobia

Every day there is a newspaper or web article, a video footage in TV or the streaming services or a live conference that deals with the dramatic issue of refugees crossing national frontiers due to war, ethnic persecution or famine. The tightening of border controls in the European Community did not stop the flow of migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa or Syria ready to cross the Mediterranean Sea; they are just lingering on in Libya, exposed to big harm.

We are becoming inured to their plight and oftentimes we do not want to see or hear any more tragic news as if the problem would go magically away. In our modern societies we have developed a subconscious yet powerful fear of the poor, of the disadvantaged, of the relegated to the fringes of economies. It’s natural to fear poverty but another different thing to fear its victims. The worldwide poor do not register in our minds. The picture above shows Syrian children in a refugee camp in Lebanon but they could as well be Venezuelans in a Colombian border town, fleeing their country’s debacle. We look at these pictures but we do not actually “see what they represent” any more.

Almost twenty years ago, Adela Cortina, a Spanish philosopher that teaches an Ethics course at the Universitat de València, had the occurrence to create a new word to refer to the increasingly common dejection of the poor in the public discourse and social media. She consulted a Greek dictionary and made the fusion of two terms: áporos (the resourceless one) and phobia. She started using it in her writings because she believed that our rejection of the refugees—often referred as “xenophobia” and “racism” in the media—is not produced by their status of undocumented migrants but by their dire poverty.

She said that ”I believe that it’s necessary to show the existence of this phenomenon, giving it a name. I find it noteworthy that we put a name to storms like hurricanes so people will take preventive measures in their presence. Therefore the rejection of the poor, which socially relegates them, should be prevented in the same way, because it is contrary to the human dignity and a challenge to democratic institutions. It’s unacceptable that a part of the population despises another one and considers it as inferior.”

The “Fundación del Español Urgente”, sponsored by the EFE news agency and the Banco Bilbao Vizcaya (BBVA), designated it “the word of 2017.”

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

 

The seer of Seattle

A few days ago, I was nonchalantly watching a rather lame Norwegian thriller in the Amazon Prime streaming service late in the evening when the screen started to display some flaky images, as if their perennial snow had percolated into my living room. Yawning, I gave up, turned the TV off and went to get some rejuvenating sleep.

But someone was surreptitiously watching. The all-seeing entrepreneur. Jeff Bezos.

One or two days later I received an e-mail from Amazon Prime apologizing for the inconvenience and offering a refund on the streaming fee, which surprised me in more than one way; according to their message the refund not only applied to their US clients but also the ones in Switzerland and Lichtenstein that had purchased the same rental movie.  First of all, I would have never bothered to complain about this minor incident and waste my spare time on a phone call for a refund. If the company is so attentive to such a minor service problem, I must applaud their outstanding customer service.

However, this degree of attentiveness means that the company has a lot of information about their clients (even a little bit too much) which they skillfully use to offer us savvy, practical solutions to many personal needs we might have right now and some others that we can’t even fathom at present. Amazon supposedly can foretell what we’ll need. A recent article in the Washington Post—owned by Jeff Bezos—questioned the validity of becoming a Prime member by paying U$ 100 per year, which I had gladly done. As the time of renewing my membership came, I started to have second thoughts. Do I need it?

Still dithering about whether to pay that seemingly medieval exaction, I went to bed.

In the wee hours of the morning, a thick mist started to drift into the bedroom and a raucous voice thundered: “Get up….Right now.” Startled, I blindly worked my way up to the door and opened it. The three bubbles-greenhouse of Amazon’s headquarters stood a few feet away. Trembling I managed to come up to the front door and meekly knocked on it. A maiden beautifully clad in white from head to toe opened the door and smiled.

– “Good morning, mystic wanderer…The Master is waiting for you—come.”

I quietly followed her through a maze of cubicles and offices decorated with exotic, lush vegetation until we arrived in front of  a huge steel bolted door. She gently knocked on it. The same authoritarian voice that summoned me from my bed resonated: “Come in!”  We entered into a dark, humid chamber where a humongous Australian livestock tank filled with neatly tilled, dark fertile soil took pride of place. The seer’s sleeping quarters.

In a corner stood a tall figure, cloaked in a green robe,pacing up and down. He stopped, turned his face with tightly shut eyes towards me and pointed his right index finger.

– “How dare you trouble my rest in the wet earth?” the seer said. “What do you want?”

– “Er…just wanted to know if my novel will eventually get its due attention.”

– “When the Big Apple’s novice puffs his first Cohiba, you’ve finally arrived.”

-” A novice? Arrive where?”

– “When the time comes, you’ll understand…Why didn’t you pay the Prime fee?”

– “I don’t know…”

– “I gave your writings the big chance in Kindle…And this is how you repay me? By denying me the funds I need to keep this soothsaying operation running? If you don’t dish out the hundred bucks first thing in the morning, I won’t be able to pay my water bill…You’re the most disgusting refusenik I’ve known…. Shame on you, Escribidor!’

– “Sorry Master…Forgive my ungratefulness. I’ll pay up promptly…Got to go now.”

I skedaddled out of the chamber and ran as fast as I could to the front door.

When I woke up, drenched in a cold sweat, I picked up my phone to contact my bank.

What do you want me to say? Whatever your opinion of this guy might be, you must reckon that he has extraordinary powers that no mere mortal can ignore with impunity…

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

 

 

 

 

La Befana

On this Christmas Eve millions of children in the Italian peninsula are (like their parents and grandparents once were too) waiting eagerly for a special character to show up late at night and deliver their gifts. No. It’s not Santa Claus. It’s a creepy old lady called La Befana.

She comes stealthily in every home in the middle of the night to deliver the gifts and then speeds away in her broom; however if the children have been naughty she only leaves  a piece of “coal” as a dire warning to mend their ways for the next Christmas season.

That tradition harks back to the ancient times when the Celts ruled over the “Pianura Padana”, the fertile land encompassed by the flowing Po river in Northern Italy. Every major Celtic settlement had a priestess that prepared a bonfire ritual after the Winter Solstice to implore the Gods for a mild Winter and a plentiful Spring-Summer season. In the Middle Ages that custom degenerated in the burning of “a witch” in the town square.

After the Holidays have passed Italians gather in a desolate part of the neighborhood to  celebrate the Epiphany with family and friends.  All the assistants contribute with a little money to pay for some wine, drinks and snacks. They serve a hot wine called “brule” which contains clover, cinnamon, sugar and in some instances also bits of apple. In the end they lit a bonfire to burn the Befana and watch which way the smoke is drifting to. If it’s the Southwest, it’s a good omen that the year will be good for planting and harvest.

In our traditional Italian culture, which has been nurtured by our mothers in the cozy hearth, the female gender has a double mental representation. On one hand it’s the loving and beautiful image of a young woman that gives us life and protects us all along. On the other hand it’s the disgusting image of an old witch that can take all that away. Personally I believe that our mothers sagely trained us from the cradle to be kind and affectionate with women in general so as not to awaken their hideous hidden self.

What will happen tonight at home? Will the Befana bring me a nice gift or a piece of coal? Hey, I’ve been such a good boy all year long… Don’t you agree, ladies?

As an exception we are posting this article on a Sunday to wish all our Christian friends, and those that are not but like the festivity, a very Merry Christmas with your loved ones.

Buon Natale!

 

 

Il Panettone

The leavened cake made with a base of water, flour, butter, eggs plus the addition of dried fruits and nuts is a traditional staple in the Italian—and by extension the Italian-American—tables during the Christmas season. We have all watched our dear grandmothers and mothers bake it at home or in modern times accompany them to our favorite bakery to buy them.

What is the origin of this simple yet delicious accoutrement of festivities? There are two major legends and both arise from Milano in the Middle Ages.

The first legend says that the cooks preparing a big banquet hosted by Ludovico il Moro, the powerful duke of the city, had forgotten to take out the dessert from the oven, which ended up as pure carbon. A humble kitchen helper called Toni prepared an impromptu cake with the kitchen leftovers. The head cook was reluctant to present that novelty in the master’s table but he finally agreed, hiding behind a curtain to peek at the guests’ reaction. Everybody loved it including Ludovico who inquired who had prepared it. The cook came out of hiding, saying: “L’è ‘l pan del Toni”, i.e. il panettone.

The second one tells the passionate love that a young nobleman called Ulivo degli Atellani de Futi, a.k.a Toni, had for Algissa, the gorgeous daughter of a baker from the quarter of Contrada delle Grazie. Observing that the girl was permanently courted by many aspiring lovers that she invariably rejected, he devised a novel plan to seduce her. Camouflaging himself as a humble man, he was hired by her father to tend the wood oven in the early dawn, One day he mixed the best flour he could find with eggs, butter, honey and sultanina grapes and he clandestinely prepared the dough; then he baked it in the oven. When his boss came to check on his work, he was very impressed by it; he put it for sale in his stalls, becoming an instant success for the establishment.

When Algissa found out what he had done, she became infatuated with him. Except for the occasional gold-digger only interested in material goods, most women would appreciate that noble, original gesture inspired by his strong affection for her.

As the great playwright Jean Baptiste de Poquelin (Molière) sagely told us: “La grande ambition des femmes c’est d’inspirer l’amour.”

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.