Just because my kids want a little snack after school and besides my usual something fast and easy with ripe bananas or apples, I decided to go a little different. Let's face it, my kids never turn down freshly whipped cream. I really don't know anyone that turns it down!
In Italy, merenda time is such an important part of the day. The merenda is the snack that you have in between your very large lunch in the afternoon and the dinner that usually happens very late in the evening. In the summertime, dinner sometimes happens around 9PM. If I'm home and back on my schedule, that's when I'd like everyone to be already asleep (even in the summertime). So that in between lunch and dinner time is when everyone has some sort of a merenda. Usually it's something savory. Occasionally my mother-in-law will have a freshly baked cake or sweet and the kids will enjoy a little bit of that.
But most of the times, the merenda is some fabulous bread that Teresa just baked and some freshly sliced mortadella or prosciutto (crudo or cotto)and that will hold off the gang until dinner is finally ready. When we first get back to Italy in the summer time, it takes a week or so for my stomach to adjust to the new schedule again. I normally don't eat quite a large meal when I'm alone at home. And I really don't ever eat right before bed. But you get used to it and you walk so much more than you do back at home, so it all works out.
There are also meals that are not rushed and last over an hour. I had one of those the other day with my in-laws who are visiting us from Italy. I was at lunch with them and one of our friends from Calabria. They are all grandparents (and Calabrian) and they have all seen it all. The conversation somehow switched from talking about making homemade Calabrian sausages to the topic of some cousins that have died. My mother-in-law started in with the story of her cousin's husband that was taken away too suddenly by a nasty cancer and it then proceeded to how the last person that left the wake was another cousin. He arrived home that evening to his mamma's house, went to bed, had a heart attack in his sleep, and died. It was all very morbid and our friend Aldo had some stories to match these recent deaths in my mother-in-law's family. A part of me wanted to get up and leave the three of them discussing sausages and sudden deaths in Calabria, and the more wise part of me decided to not be rude and to learn something from the moment.
You can't always rush lunch. Sometimes you have to sit even for a full hour or more and savor every thing you are eating, and not just when you are in Italy. The other thing is you won't always be privy to light conversations and you may have to just sit back and listen and witness your elders sharing history and hope that one day you will have people sharing your stories.
Some notes on the recipe:
This cake was something I put together pretty quickly with ingredients I had here and it was decadent enough with the whipped cream for the kids to think we were celebrating something. Make your own whipped cream. It takes minutes to do and there is nothing strange added to it. You could flavor the whipped cream as you like it. I only added a touch of vanilla, but you could add more if you like a stronger flavor.