Sweet breads bring back memories

By Anita Doberman: Columnist

“Panettone” and “Pandoro” are traditional sweet Italian breads, usually popular around Christmas. I try to get these specialties every year. It’s easy to find Panettone, but almost impossible to find Pandoro. For Christmas, I must have my Pandoro and it has to be a Bauli brand Pandoro. If I don’t, it doesn’t feel like an authentic Christmas.

Pandoro reminds me of my childhood, and I don’t willingly part from it.
When I was growing up, we always had these treats on Christmas Day. We had to buy several because there were so many of us, close to 30 with all the aunts, uncles and cousins.

We started the day by eating lots of food and ended by eating even more food. We talked and laughed and told funny stories. My uncle and my dad said some silly and debatably appropriate jokes, and we all pretended to be shocked. We also played games, and children showed each other the presents we had received the night before.

When we ate Pandoro, we quieted down a bit. Perhaps because it was toward the latter part of the day and we were worn down, but the flavor, the smell and the way this sweet bread felt in my hands are unforgettable.

I remember sitting near my grandmother, “Nonna Dela,” and commenting on how we liked the Pandoro much better than the Panettone. Oftentimes, my relatives pretended to argue about which one of the sweet breads was better, the Panettone or the Pandoro, and we would take votes, filled with comically exaggerated passion, as if we were debating peace in the Middle East. I felt happy and surrounded by love – OK, it was partly a sugar high, but I still remember the feeling.

This year I feared I wouldn’t be able to get a Pandoro. My mom told me she couldn’t bring it on the plane because her suitcase was full of presents for the kids. I certainly couldn’t say, “Forget the kids — bring me the Pandoro.” So I told her that it wasn’t a big deal, maybe she could send it to me by mail when she returned home.

The day she arrived was full of warm hugs and fun – and there was no mention of the Pandoro.

When I woke up the next morning and went into the kitchen, I saw my favorite Pandoro on the table. I was excited to share it with my own children. I told them how much I liked it, but when they tried it, they didn’t seem to be so impressed. My daughter Eva, who is 3, said that she liked the “pantony” better. I guess, I thought they would instantly absorb my traditional love for this food from home.

As I looked around and saw my parents and my children talking and sharing some Panettone together, I realized that whether they like Panettone or Pandoro doesn’t really matter; what counts is the tradition we are creating by spending time with loved ones. Panettone has taken over our Christmas this year, but I have two children who are too young to eat these breads.

There is still hope for my Pandoro legacy.